Local 1298 union chief: ‘Hacker’ stole $438K
HAMDEN >> Local 1298 of the Communications Workers of America allegedly was the victim of a cyber-crime that drained $438,000 from the union’s bank account, the union’s president said Monday.
William Henderson, president of Local 1298, said the personal email account of the union’s secretary-treasurer, Miriam DiNicholas, was compromised by what he termed “a hacker” during a six-week period that started before Thanksgiving and ended Christmas.
The hacker, pretending to be DiNicholas, contacted New England Payroll Services, a Hamden company that handles the issuing of checks for the union, according to Henderson. The hacker, he said, requested that about a dozen payments be made from the union’s account, he said.
Henderson said he was unaware of the cyber theft until he was contacted by Webster Bank, where the union has its accounts.
“We have overdraft protection and the bank called me to say that we had gone through that, as well,” Henderson said. One of the checks was sent to Dubai and another to eastern Europe, he said.
“In the old days, people used to hold up banks with guns,” he said. “Now, it’s all done with computers. I think there needs to be stronger controls on how money leaves the country.”
Hamden police, along with the Connecticut State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Secret Service, are involved in investigating who took the money, Henderson said. Henderson said computer forensics work was done on about 1,000 Google email accounts of union members that are linked to Local 1298’s computer network
Officials with the FBI and the Secret Service were not immediately available for comment Monday.
A Hamden police spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trooper First Class Kelly Grant was attempting to verify on Monday evening whether Connecticut State Police has any involvement in the investigation.
Henderson said the union was able to recover $210,000 from the insurance company that bonds Local 1298’s leadership team.
The bonding of a worker means that an insurance company guarantees the payment of a specific sum as damages in the event one or more employees covered under the bond causes financial loss to the employer.
Union officials are investigating whether they can recover the remaining $228,000 from the insurer that covers New England Payroll Services.
In addition to unionized Frontier workers, Local 1298 represent employees with T-Mobile, AT&T, Frontier Communications, Computers Sciences Corp. and AT&T Mobility, which covers AT&T’s cellphone service. Henderson said Local 1298 represents about 4,000 workers with those companies in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Call Luther Turmelle at 203-680-9388.