Brighton thwarts theft of $348,000 from water fund

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BRIGHTON, Colo. (KDVR) — The city of Brighton is dealing with more problems connected to its water fund.

The city believes someone tried to steal $348,000 in taxpayer money and they almost pulled off the heist.

“Once again, it’s the nightmare that never ends,” said Brighton Mayor Pro Tem Matt Johnston.

The newest nightmare began Monday when the city approved a $348,000 automated transaction to a vendor requesting payment for a December 2020 water project.

The problem? The legitimate vendor claims it never made that request.

“It was a separate company from the company we were working with,” explained Brighton City Manger Jane Bais DiSessa.

Bais DiSessa says the city believes someone was pretending to be the company or affiliated with the company.

Luckily the bank realized something was suspicious and the money was recovered, but it was a close call.

“They tried to take that money and almost got away with it. Without the FBI and the quick action of city staff it would be gone. Could this be an accident? Maybe. I hope so, but it’s hard to do that as an accident I’ve been told,” said Johnston.

The FBI and Brighton police are now investigating.

Regardless, Brighton residents say it’s a bad case of dejavu.

“I’m sad, but not surprised,” said Linda Jurkas, a Brighton resident.

The city has been plagued by problems with its water fund the past several years after Johnston and others claim residents were overcharged on their water bills.

The city ended up with a $70 million water fund surplus that led to an audit that uncovered multiple issues.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Johnson supported that audit and the changes recommended.

He now wants to know if this new incident was indeed an elaborate phishing scam and who was involved.

“I’m always here discussing an issue that occurred with our water fund. It’s gotten to the point we have to figure out what’s going on, and we have to figure out and make sure we don’t have someone on staff that’s doing anything,” he said.

The city has temporarily hit pause on paying vendors through the automatic clearing house transaction system.

At this point, the vendor involved has not been identified.

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