Politics & Government

Sedgwick County targeted again by fraud attempt

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Roughly a year after it lost $566,000 to fraud, Sedgwick County was again targeted by an e-mail phishing attempt.

But the attempt was unsuccessful and no funds were lost by the county.

On Sept. 29, Sedgwick County’s Public Works department reported an attempted theft by deception, which had occurred the previous day, to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Somebody e-mailed public works and tried to get them to divert a payment for a project to a different account,” said Lt. Lin Dehning of the Sheriff’s Office.

“And, of course, we’ve learned that lesson,” he added. “So they didn’t do it … It was an attempt only.”

Last October, Sedgwick County announced it had lost $566,088.90 to fraud.

Public records showed a payment never made it to Wichita construction company Cornejo and Sons for a preventative road maintenance project on 53rd Street North between Andale and Maize. A fraudster pretended to be the contractor and asked the county to change payment information in an e-mail, which was obliged by the county’s finance department.

A Georgia man was arrested and charged earlier this year for the scam. George James pleaded guilty to a count of wire fraud, but maintained that someone else sent the fraudulent e-mail and came up with the idea. James’ sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16, according to records.

In the wake of the loss, the county took extra steps to confirm payment updates with its vendors. County public information officer Kate Flavin would not say if those new policies and procedures had a role in stopping last week’s attempt.

“It’s still an investigation by the Sheriff’s Office,” she said.

Dehning would not say how large the attempted fraud was because of the investigation. It’s unclear what project or contractor the fraudster targeted and if the request was through the Automated Clearing House, like the 2016 fraud loss.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker