The Miami Beach City Hall’s Sun Trust Bank is in the news for all the wrong reasons. According to reports, malicious cyber-criminals were stealing cash from the bank since the summer of 2016 and the theft remained unnoticed until now. Too late now since the bank has already lost $3.6million.
It is being speculated that somebody was stealing money from the City Hall’s bank accounts through rerouting the automatic transactions, which were actually meant to be received by vendors or being sent to pay government bills. Such payments are made automatically just like you set up your account to pay your utility bills automatically.
It is apparent that the city didn’t implement sufficient and satisfactory fraud controlling measures in its banks. An initial report on the fraud has been released by the City manager Jimmy Morales in which it was revealed that the fraud got noticed for the first time in December. The report was released just days before the first meeting of the City Commissioners after the scandal.
According to Miami Herald, on Monday, a memo was sent to the commissioners in which details of how such a huge fraud occurred were outlined. However, the report provides the initial assessments only and the fraud is currently being investigated by the FBI and the city’s law enforcement department.
In the memo, Morales stated that the bank’s account was targeted by a third party or parties and its routing numbers were obtained after which the information was used to manipulate automatic online payments. The city stopped all transactions immediately when the fraud was discovered, on 19th December 2016, and a new account was opened. Now the payments are being made via this new account. The city has also pushed Sun Trust bank to implement fraud control measures to prevent such attacks from affecting other city accounts.
Reportedly, two finance department managers namely treasury manager Juan Rodriguez and accounts payable director Bryan Scott Wagner had to resign due to the scandal. Rodriguez was serving for the past 14 years in this position while Wagner served for about 10 years in the bank. Currently, these two individuals aren’t being suspected of conducting this scheme but Morales is of the opinion that they should have detected the unauthorized rerouting of the payments.
We have no information whether the investigation authorities believe that any of the bank employees are involved or not but the probability won’t be ruled out at this point since the way this fraud has happened highlights grave negligence if not stealing on the employees’ part.
“While the theft may not have been entirely preventable, the amount could have been mitigated by better performance of the treasury management and account reconciliation process. If the criminal investigation identifies any employee-related issues, those will be addressed as well,” says Morales.
The account that was targeted for theft is a rather sensitive one as it is this account that stores a hefty sum of public money. Sometimes, the daily balance of this account ranges between $46m and $144m. The money is actually the taxes collected from the public such as parking fees, resort taxes, liens/parks/recreation fees and red light camera fines, etc.