SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s government has lost more than $2.6 million by falling for an email phishing scam, a senior official said Wednesday.
The finance director of the island’s Industrial Development Company, Rubén Rivera, said in a complaint filed with police Wednesday that the agency sent the money to a fraudulent account.
Rivera said the government agency transferred the money on Jan. 17 after receiving an email that alleged a change to a banking account tied to remittance payments, according to a police statement.
Manuel Laboy, executive director of the agency, told The Associated Press that officials found out about the incident this week and immediately reported it to the FBI.
“This is a very serious situation, extremely serious,” he said. “We want it to be investigated until the last consequences.”
Laboy declined to say how officials found out about the scam, whether anyone has been dismissed or how the company’s operations have been affected by the missing money. He said an internal investigation is under way to determine whether someone was negligent or did not follow standard procedure, and that government officials are trying to recover the money.
“I cannot speculate about how these things might happen,” he said, responding to heavy criticism from Puerto Ricans who were incredulous upon hearing the news.
Laboy said that his agency takes the management of public funds very seriously. “It’s a big responsibility.”
Police did not return calls for comment.
The situation comes as the U.S. territory remains mired in a 13-year recession that has forced the government to cut back on some services, and still awaits billions of dollars in congressionally approved disaster aid that Trump has snarled in red tape, apparently due to his feuds with Democratic elected Puerto Rican officials.