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Madison County swindled out of $2.7 million by cybercriminal

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An investigation is underway after Madison County was swindled out of nearly $3 million.

Madison County Board of Supervisors President Gerald Steen on Monday announced that the county was the victim of a cyber scam. Steen said that the scammer was fraudulently posing as a vendor and had received $2.7 million for services that had not been performed.

It has since been confirmed that the scammer was acting under the guise of Jay Hemphill, the CEO of Hemphill Construction — a Richland-based company that is currently being contracted by the county to work on Reunion Parkway.

The scammer initially emailed the county’s purchasing clerk seeking the money. That message was then forwarded to Madison County Comptroller Na’Son White, who is said to have sent the funds to the fraudulent vendor, despite the company’s president and CEO being Richard Rula, not Jay Hemphill.

The Madison County Journal reports that the following three payments were made:

  • Payment one — $128,989.97 — sent on February 20
  • Payment two — $1,073,870.66 — sent on March 5
  • Payment three — $1,538,383.06 — sent on March 12

After the first two payments were delivered, the fraudster’s bank, Citizens Bank, returned the third payment on March 11. The comptroller reached out to the scammer and was given instructions as to how to send the money to a Bank of America account ahead of the third payment.

The fraud was detected on March 19 after Hemphill Construction representatives notified the comptroller that they had not been paid.

County officials noted that the invoices presented to the comptroller by the fraudulent actor looked legitimate and only had one discrepancy. The scammer’s email ended in “.com,” and not Hemphill Construction’s “.us” suffix.

While the county was seemingly swindled out of the cash, Sheriff Randy Tucker is optimistic that a good share of the money will be returned to its rightful possessor.

“We’re confident that we can recover some, if not all the funds, but I’m highly confident that we will recover some of the funds,” Tucker said. “We have confidence that moving forward we won’t have to face this again … It does stretch across the country and possibly internationally.”

The sheriff could not expound further on the national and global impact of this scam since an investigation into the incident is currently taking place. The state’s attorney general and auditor as well as the FBI and Secret Service are assisting with the investigation.

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