A Brookhaven man has been arrested on federal charges he carried out an email “spoofing scheme” that cost a Kansas county $566,000, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas.
George S. James, 48, is charged with one count of wire fraud. An FBI agent’s affidavit alleges that investigators followed an electronic trail that led them to James after Sedgwick County reported the theft of funds that were intended to pay Cornejo & Sons, LLC, for work done on a road project, according to U.S. Attorney Tom Beall.
The criminal complaint alleges that on Sept. 23, 2016, Sedgwick County received an e-mail purporting to be from the CEO of the Cornejo company and with a form attached requesting payments be made electronically to a new account at a Wells Fargo Bank in Georgia. Payment was made on Oct. 7, 2016, after which time the county learned that Cornejo did not receive the payment and did not send the email to the county. James fraudulently received the payment through an account he held at a Georgia bank in the name of Rapid Repairs and Consultants, according to the U.S. Attorney’s complaint.
The criminal complaint alleges the scheme involved providing false information over the internet to the county’s Automated Clearing House. The fraudulent email caused the county to change the information it kept on file for the Cornejo company’s financial institution and bank account.
If convicted, James faces a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $25,000. The FBI, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and the Wichita Police Department investigated.
To date, Sedgwick County says its recovered $22,471.14 of the approximately $566,000 lost, according to a report by KWCH 12 in Kansas.
“Our organization has taken necessary efforts to protect against cyber crimes in today’s highly complex digital world, including tightening internal controls and processes within the Department of Finance,” Sedgwick County Manager Mike Scholes told KWCH.