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$850,000 stolen from Boulder Valley School District in email scam

BOULDER, Colo. -- The Boulder Valley School District said new safeguards are in place after a scammer stole $850,000 in construction bond money last year.

The district first realized the scam when the contractor, Adolfson and Peterson Construction, asked for payments that already had been made.

The district said a sophisticated email that included a forged signature was sent to its office asking for a form to change routing information.

The district then filled out the form and made three months of payments to a fraudulent account.

Authorities were able to recover about $500,000 by freezing the fraudulent account. The district said insurance covered another $200,000, leaving the district with $172,000 stolen.

The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has identified a suspect and issued an arrest warrant for 36-year-old Sherifdeen Mogaji. Authorities believe he has fled the country and is in Nigeria.

The district believes its transparency is the reason it got scammed.

“We want to make sure our taxpayers, parents, teachers, everyone knows how we’re using our money,” spokesman Randy Barber said. “The danger there is when you post those things (online), it’s very easy for people that might want to take advantage of the system to see the information.”

The district said in the future if it receives an email asking to change payment information, it will call the original person on file to confirm.

And it is moving to paper checks for larger expenditures.