Majority members stood today to call for an investigation by the State Comptroller and Nassau Inspector General into the Nassau County Comptroller’s Office.
In October of 2019, Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s Office had fallen victim to a phishing scam, resulting in the transfer of $710,000 of public funds to a fraudulent entity. The scammers posed as a vendor who often does business with the county, sending an email to the Comptroller’s Office requesting a change in payment arrangements. In subsequent testimony before the Finance Committee of the Nassau County Legislature, it was admitted that the County Comptroller’s office did not catch the fraud themselves. Instead, a bank employee recognized the unusual activity, froze the stolen money, and contacted the Comptroller’s office.
The Comptroller admitted that no phone call was made to verify and explain the change in payment request, although such a call is a standard safety step recommended by all experts, when faced with a request to change payment instructions. Instead, all arrangements were made via email with the scammer. The comptroller later acknowledged that a simple phone call could have thwarted this attack before it began.
In response to the disturbing information elicited at the Finance Committee hearing, Deputy Presiding Officer Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence) offered the following: “My fellow members of Majority delegation to the Legislature and I have no confidence that taxpayer funds are being properly handled. I join my colleagues in the Majority in calling upon State Comptroller DiNapoli to conduct a formal audit of the financial and payment security and controls within the Office of the Nassau County Comptroller, and to mandate implementation of such changes as will protect taxpayer dollars. We also request that the Nassau County Inspector General exercise her authority to conduct an independent review of the phishing scam on the office of the Nassau County Comptroller to ascertain whether this was an isolated incident, or if there were other such incidents in the past or even ongoing, and not disclosed to the Legislature or other responsible branches of government. We must do everything in our power as legislators to ensure tax dollars are protected.”
Shown in photo above, left to right: Legislator Rose Marie Walker, Deputy Presiding Officer Kopel and Legislator Steve Rhoads.