Police in Bakersfield, California tell Evanston Now that they are helping investigate the theft of nearly $50,000 from Evanston Township High School.
Bakersfield Sgt. Robert Pair says the case was referred to them from police in Evanston. The California agency is involved because the stolen money allegedly ended up in an account owned by a Bakersfield resident.
An Evanston police report describes the theft as a “fraudulent wire transfer” that occurred in May 2020.
ETHS spokesperson Takumi Iseda tells Evanston Now that the school “experienced a cybersecurity attack” at that time.
Within a few days, school officials discovered $48,570 was missing, and contacted Evanston police.
News of the theft was first published this week by Evanston Patch.
An EPD report says an email belonging to the ETHS director of alumni services, was “hacked by an unknown person.”
Police say the unknown person then “created a fake invoice,” and, using the alumni director’s email address, sent the bill to another ETHS employee who processed the payment. The money was wired to a bank account later determined to belong to the Bakersfield party. The phony invoice was for alumni development services.
The EPD report says the invoice “did not raise any red flags because ETHS employees work[ed] remotely at the time.”
The insurance carrier for ETHS is covering all of the loss except for a $2,500 deductible.
There is one more aspect to the case. Because it was a cybersecurity breach, other individuals’ information was potentially vulnerable.
Iseda says based on directives from cybersecurity and legal experts, “the district carefully met its legal obligations in the fall of 2020 by notifying law enforcement authorities and mailing letters of notification to any individual (or parent/guardian of a minor) whose information may have been compromised in the breach.”
As for the fraudulent wire transfer and alleged theft of ETHS money, Bakersfield police say it is currently an “open and active” investigation.
No one has yet been charged, and part of the investigation will likely look at whether the bank account holder was even involved in the incident or had any knowledge of it.