BOULDER, Colo. – The Boulder Valley School District has tightened up its financial controls after a scammer made off with $851,000.
The theft occurred a year ago.
District spokesman Randy Barber told Denver7 that the money was part of a voter approved bond issue, and that the scammer took advantage of the district’s transparency.
He said after the bond issue, the district posted the specific projects, costs and vendors involved, online.
“Someone along the way caught that news and reached out to us to change the routing information for one of our vendors,” Barber said.
The district instructed the caller to fill out a form, which was then returned with a forged signature of the company’s chief financial officer.
Boulder County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Haverfield told Denver7 that the scammer claimed to be with Adolfson and Peterson Construction Company, which was involved in the construction of Douglass Elementary School.
Barber said the district learned about the scam when the actual vendor called and said, “we haven’t received the payment we’re looking for.”
He said the district discovered the mistake and notified law enforcement.
“We were able to have the (scammer’s) account frozen,” he said, “and a good chunk of the money was returned to the district.”
Haverfield said they recovered $480,800.51 of the district’s money, leaving the total loss at $371,933.32.
Barber said insurance paid $200,000 so the district was only out $172,000.
“In a school district, every dollar matters,” he said. “We want to make sure that it stays in the classroom. Fortunately, we were able to catch it after a few payments.”
Barber said none of the construction or renovation projects were affected by the temporary loss, “because we had enough money in our contingency fund.”
He said they’ve put “best practices” in place to prevent another scam.
“When someone calls us, and wants to change routing information, we don’t rely on email,” he said. “We reach back to the person we have in our file, and we confirm with them that, indeed, this is what they want to do.”
Investigators say the suspect, 37-year old Sherifdeen Mogaji, fled to Nigeria.
“A warrant has been issued for his arrest,” Haverfield said.
She added that detectives are still trying to recover the rest of the district’s money.