Boone County loses $46,000 in apparent fraud scheme

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COLUMBIA - Boone County is more than $46,000 lighter after losing the money in an apparent fraud scheme.

According to documents from the county clerk's office, on October 31, the county treasurer received correspondence requesting an update to banking information from Emery Sapp and Sons, Inc., a Columbia-based construction company. The information turned out to be fraudulent.

On December 4, before the fraud was discovered, the county transferred $46,231.77 to the updated account information to pay for services rendered by Emery Sapp and Sons.  On December 12, the county learned the money had gone to a fraudulent account.

The fraud occurred using an electronic payment system called Automated Clearing House (ACH). 

Boone County Treasurer Tom Darrough said, "The bottom line is any electronic payments that in this case electronic funds transfer anything that isn’t a paper check, anytime we’re using software, automation to make a payment it obviously requires banking information among other things. And so a document came in reporting to be new banking information for Emery Sapp and Sons." 

Later correspondence between county officials indicated "there is no basis for expecting recovery of assets at this time." To compensate for the loss, the county says "funding will need to be transferred from the Emergency Appropriation to Non-Departmental, and we will write-off the loss accordingly."

According to the county, law enforcement are investigating the situation.

Darrough said he has reason to believe the Boone County Sheriff's Department is making significant progress. 

"The conversations I’ve had with investigators are progress is being made, information has been obtained, a lot of it, and at some point maybe that’s all going to be available."

Darrough said the county has already enhanced protection against fraud.

"We’ve enhanced it to how we validate information. It isn’t as simple as one person can just attempt to validate it," said Darrough. "It takes a minimum of two people within this office to validate information...we’re checking and balancing each other and validating information.”

Darrough said tax payers should rest assured taxes will not change because of this fraud. 

"There will absolutely not be a new tax to cover for this money or any enhanced tax or increased tax," he said. "These funds came out of an ‘emergency fund.'"