Colorado town duped out of $1M paid to scammer instead of bridge-building contractor, official says

A small town in Colorado was reportedly defrauded out of more than $1 million in October when officials sent money meant for the contractor of a new bridge to a fake account, town administrator Malcolm Fleming said Monday.

The sum of $1,016,233.80 was transferred to an unknown suspect purporting to be with SEMA Construction, which Erie, Colo., had hired to build the Erie Parkway Bridge.

The suspect allegedly filled out a form on the city’s website, requesting to be paid electronically rather than by check, The Denver Post reported.

City officials verified some of the information in the request but didn't verify with SEMA, Fleming said.

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“Once the payments were in that account, the perpetrators of this fraud sent the money via wire transfer out of the country,” Fleming said.

“Once the payments were in that account, the perpetrators of this fraud sent the money via wire transfer out of the country.”

— Malcolm Fleming, Erie, Colo., town administrator

The town realized the mistake Nov. 5 when the bank contacted it about potential fraud. SEMA confirmed it had not received the money.

Officials paid SEMA by check Nov. 15 with funds from a transportation impact fund that can temporarily cover the debt. The town has an insurance claim pending to cover the lost funds, according to The Post.

The form on the city website to request payment changes has been removed and no electronic funds will be transferred in the future without full verification.

The official who updated the payment information didn’t follow protocol and resigned following the incident, Fleming said.

The bridge was completed in 10 months last year starting in January.

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The FBI is investigating the crime along with Erie Police, The Post reported.