RTC Washoe explains how it became victim to $1.4 million email fraud
RENO, Nev. (News 4) —
Crooks stole $1.4 million from the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County. The FBI, Secret Service, Wells Fargo Bank and RTC are now investigating exactly how it happened.
RTC's Executive Director Lee Gibson said he found out about the scheme last Friday.
"I was angry, I'm shocked, I was outraged," he said.
Gibson said RTC received emails from what they thought was Granite Construction, which is overhauling the area around Pyramid Highway and McCarran Boulevard.
"You have emails that look like Granite, taste like Granite," Gibson said. "We went through and validated the invoice and then paid it to the bank."
RTC sent a single payment for $1.4 million. It thought it was sending it to Granite, but the money actually went into the criminal's account.
Gibson said the crooks did their research. They knew about local events, RTC, Granite Construction and were very sophisticated. Investigators told Gibson there are other victims and this might be a global scheme.
"This is a unique criminal approach. It's called social engineering. It's my understanding in the quick research I've done, it's one of the most successful criminal approaches to defraud money out of people that exists," Gibson said.
When RTC tried to recover the money, they were told there was only $350,000 remaining in the fraudulent account. Gibson said members of the FBI and U.S. Secret Service are trying to track down the money and find out who is responsible.
The FBI would not comment for this story. Granite Construction did not return News 4's requests for comment.
Gibson said the scheme has not jeopardized the Pyramid/McCarran construction project, nor has it affected RTC's operations.
"I'm an aggressive individual sometimes, and I'm going to pursue all avenues we have through law enforcement and the banking institutions to recover the money," Gibson said.