$450K stolen from Gold Bar’s bank accounts

GOLD BAR — Fraudsters apparently hacked into bank accounts belonging to the city of Gold Bar over the past year and stole nearly half a million dollars.

The city has recovered about $230,000 of the $450,000 taken, Mayor Joe Beavers said Monday.

City officials are working with the bank and are hopeful they’ll recover the rest soon, he said.

“We’re working diligently to chase these things down,” he said.

The case is being investigated by the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office near Portland, Ore., as part of a probe into a multi-state financial fraud ring, sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Phillips said. The Special Investigations Unit there is working alongside the FBI and the IRS, in part because the case involves alleged wire fraud.

Federal investigators assigned to both Seattle and Portland offices are involved, Phillips said.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office has been working with city officials to keep them informed, but is not part of the investigation, sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said.

Gold Bar officials first became aware of the problem around November 2011, Beavers said.

At the time, someone was unsuccessfully attempting to pass fake checks made out from city accounts, he said. The city contacted law enforcement and the state Auditor’s Office.

The city closed out that bank account and opened others, but the hackers managed to get into those as well, Beavers said.

“It was a very knowledgeable group of people,” he said. “They really whacked up on us hard.”

Gold Bar has made headlines in recent months for financial problems connected to public records disputes.

The city still is developing its 2013 budget, but it has been making payroll and paying the bills, despite the added strain from the fraud, Beavers said. City officials also have taken measures to bolster Gold Bar’s online security.

At least one suspect in the fraud ring has been arrested recently on an unrelated charge, Phillips said.

The case’s lead investigator was out Monday, so additional information about the crime ring, suspects and other potential arrests wasn’t immediately available.

Earlier this year the city’s former clerk-treasurer resigned after allegedly stealing $395.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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