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Dallas County Says Scammers Stole $2.4M in Fraudulent Wire Transfer

This is the latest in a string of mishaps and technical problems for the county.

Authorities say Dallas County was scammed out of $2.4 million in a fraudulent wire transaction.

The county became aware of the fake payment Nov. 17 and immediately began an investigation, according to a statement by County Administrator Darryl Martin.

The county has since turned over its investigation to the FBI.

“It appears the criminal used a fraudulent business email impersonating one of our partners and engaged in social engineering,” Martin’s statement said.

Martin said the incident isn’t related to an October cyber attack that resulted in hundreds of pages of county information being posted on the dark web.

“Remedial measures” are being taken, he said. When asked for clarity and further explanation, he told The Dallas Morning News he couldn’t comment further.

County commissioners are expected to discuss a security audit for the department who authorizes payments, the auditor’s office, in executive session Tuesday.

The county has been tumbling from one technological woe to another this year, costing taxpayers millions. The county has been grappling with these crises without a director of its information technology department since July.

In January, the county auctioned off thousands of old laptops that still contained personal information, including Dallas County Sheriff’s Department data on criminal cases.

In April, the auditor’s office updated its financial management system, leading to paralysis in many processes throughout the county.

Thousands of employees weren’t paid on time, and some waited months to get accurate information on time and pay accrual and retirement allocations. Child support payments had to be corrected. Thousands of vendors weren’t paid on time for contract work, and invoices continue to be rectified.

David Leininger, who is an independent consultant and former interim president/executive director and chief financial officer for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, called the software rollout “one of the worst that I’ve encountered.”

In May, courts, prosecutors and attorneys got a new criminal case management system, but migration to the new system has been rocky. The local criminal justice system is still suffering. Prosecutors, public defenders and the county probation office have had limited access to the county’s criminal case files. There have been difficulties with processing grand jury referrals and indictments, and authorities have had problems tracking inmates at the county jail.

In October, hackers accessed Dallas County’s network. While the county’s cybersecurity was able to detect and kick out the hackers before they shut down the system, the cyber criminal group known as “Play” was able to steal data — mostly criminal case information accessible through public records requests — and posted it on the dark web.

The office of County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins did not respond to a request for comment.

Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor, said the issues facing the county make him question the county’s management and hiring practices. He said if the county increased its pay scales for IT positions, it might attract more qualified candidates.

“I think there are obvious management shortfalls,” he said. “It looks on some of these issues as if it is a lack of expertise and then a lack of contract negotiation that provides for the training that is inevitably needed.”

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.