Niagara Gazette

February 21, 2014

Royalton town officials await word on missing $92K

Michael Canfield
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s been almost three weeks since $367,000 was removed from two separate Town of Royalton bank accounts in wire transfers. While $275,000 of the missing money was returned, officials are still wondering when, or if, the other $92,000 will show up.

“We’re still waiting,” Town Supervisor Jennifer Bieber said.

The money was removed after the town’s computer system was infiltrated by a “worm,” Bieber said, which came from an email the town was sent on the Friday before the money was removed. The town’s computer personnel thought the worm had been removed, but on the next Monday, the money was gone.

“We have up-to-date anti-virus software,” she said. “I talked to the FBI, and it doesn’t matter. A million things you can do, and there are a million and one things to get around.”

Bieber said she was “disappointed” in how Key Bank handled the breach. The bank called the town on the Monday the money went missing to see if the wire transfers had been authorized, and were told no, she said. Despite the call from the bank, the transfers still went through.

“When you call and ask and we say no, that should be the end of it,” she said.

The town wasn’t aware the transfers had gone through until the Wednesday after it happened, when they spoke with Key Bank again, Bieber said.

Therese J. Myers, the vice president and director of public relations for Key Bank, said there isn’t much she can say about the matter, as there are privacy provisions in place.

“All I can say is that we’re working with the FBI,” she said, noting that the FBI would be releasing any information on the case in the future. 

The investigation is ongoing, Bieber said, and the FBI has been out to the town hall.

“They subpoenaed the bank to see where the money went,” she said.

The FBI confirmed that they are still involved in the case, but do not comment on open investigations, an FBI spokesperson said. 

Going forward, Bieber said town personnel will be more vigilant about the emails they open. It’s tough, she said, because it’s hard to tell who an email is from. 

“In the town account, you don’t know if it’s a resident or someone requesting information from the town,” she said.

The situation is still “stressful,” Bieber said, but she has received positive feedback from town residents, who seem to understand the nature of the problem.

“Everyone knows it wasn’t an inside job,” she said. “It’s the things you read about in the paper happening in our own town.”

Bieber said she’d like to say that something like this can be prevented in the future, but the reality of the situation dictates otherwise.

“We’re doing all we can,” she said. “We can’t say it won’t happen again.”

Bieber said at this point she hopes the issue serves as a warning.

“I just don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said. 

Contact reporter Michael Canfield at 439-9222, ext. 6246 or follow him on Twitter @MikeCanfield36.