Hackers Behind $13M Theft from Pa. School District, Some Funds Found – NBC10 Philadelphia

Hackers Behind $13M Theft from Pa. School District, Some Funds Found – NBC10 Philadelphia

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  • August 27, 2022
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Hackers are to blame for some $13 million in state funds that never got to a Delaware County school district last year, authorities say.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimber told NBC10 the hackers were able to access Chester Upland School District’s email system and then emailed the state treasury department to change its bank account number. 

From late 2020 to early 2021, the state pumped money into the bank account — that is, until an $8.5 million transfer was requested, catching the attention of the state. 

It was in February 2021 that the district also realized that the millions of funds owed to it by the state were missing. 

On Friday, Stollsteimber announced the state has recovered $10 million of the funds stolen. 

“Most of that money has been clawed back. So the taxpayers hadn’t lost it because of their great work,” he said. 

No school employees are suspected of having anything to do with the incident, Stollsteimber said, adding that his agency determined the scheme is tied to individuals in Nigeria. 

The hold on the payment was placed just in time, Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity said. 

“Because what they do is they move it from account to account to account and basically wash it off and then it ends up overseas,” she said. 

The money owed to the school district was, in fact, moved overseas through bank transfers and the purchase of cryptocurrency, officials said. 

However, authorities did track down a Florida woman who unknowingly acted as a middle man for the stolen funds. 

The hackers tricked the woman through a romance scam into distributing the cash, officials said. 

“She believed that she was helping someone that she was falling in love with, but that she had never met,” Stollsteimber said. 

The district said it was thankful that some of the cash was returned, and “are hopeful that the additional missing three million dollars that the district was to receive in state funding will be returned to Chester Upland.” 

“Our district faces significant economic challenges, and we are doing our best to allocate as much money as possible to our classrooms to provide adequate and appropriate staffing,” the district added. 

Chester Upland is working with its insurance to recover part of the still-missing funds, it said. 

NBC10 reached out to the state Department of Education to see if the agency will help but have not heard back. 

The Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said the investigation has been turned over to the feds, and any charges will stem from that level.

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