Con artist steals over $ 100,000 from Erie County pretending to be construction company owed money
Erie County District Attorney Michael Siragusa has called on local prosecutors to investigate this overt “criminal activity”.
BUFFALO, NY – A person using fake email addresses and inside information was able to fraudulently obtain more than $ 100,000 of taxpayer money into a bank account in Texas by posing as a local construction company to which the Erie County owed money.
According to a letter from Erie County Attorney Michael Siragusa as well as interviews with other key players, the comptroller’s office paid $ 108,014.99 to a “shell entity”, although comptroller Stefan Mychajliw disputes that his office was responsible for due diligence before sending payment. .
Mark Cerrone, Inc. owed the six-figure payment for carrying out work on the Rath Building in downtown Buffalo.
On August 2, someone emailed the county claiming to be the construction company. The messages asked the county to make the payment to another bank. Someone – although it’s not clear who – didn’t understand that the emails were from fraudulent and misspelled email addresses @ markecrrone.com rather than @ markcerrone.com, which is the site Real business web.
Also, no one checked the bank information before sending the money. There are conflicting stories about who failed to ensure payment went to the actual supplier.
George Lodick, chief operating officer of Mark Cerrone, Inc., told 2 On Your Side that his company recently contacted the county asking for payment. It was then that the illegal scheme became clear.
âWe will provide all the information we can to be useful in a criminal investigation,â Lodick said, adding that his business was also a frequent target of crooks. “We hope people get caught.”
Frank LoTempio III, a local lawyer and legal analyst, said the criminal (s) could face hefty prison sentences if caught.
âAt the state level, you are dealing with major theft, which is a class ‘D’ crime,â LoTempio said. “But at the federal level you are dealing with something very serious … you talk about wire transfer crimes and wire fraud at the federal level. It is much, much bigger than at the state level.”
LoTempio predicted that even if the county attorney’s letter – which amounted to a criminal referral – was addressed to Erie County Attorney John Flynn, federal authorities could get involved due to the harsher penalties and resources of the United States. investigation by the FBI and other agencies.
In his letter to the prosecutor, the Siragusa County Prosecutor said, âThere is clearly criminal activity that occurred in this case involving an individual or individuals who knowingly defrauded Erie County. We stand ready to work with you to continue to collect these funds and to hold those responsible for this fraud to account. “
2 On Your Side will be following this story to determine which part of the county government – whether it is the comptroller or an executive agency – has not put in place policies to prevent such a scam.
Comptroller Mychajliw said the county had insurance to cover the loss.