Nearly $2 Million School Tax Dollars Lost in Money Transfer Fraud Scheme

A Florida man was charged in a federal indictment for emailed the district with his own bank information under a fake name

A money transfer fraud scheme cost the Crowley Independent School District nearly $2 million.

According to court papers, district officials thought the money was going to a contractor in Saginaw, but it went to a suspect in Florida instead.

Donald Howard Conkright, 61, of Big Pine Key, Florida is charged in a federal indictment for emailing the district with his own bank information under the name of Steele & Freeman, Inc.

Fort Worth Attorney Steve Jumes is a former prosecutor who has dealt with fraud cases.

"The strategy happens a lot of filing false invoices, but it is not as common for it to happen to a school district," Jumes said.

Records show Conkright received $1 as a test transfer on Oct. 24 and then two more transfers of $522,588.98 on Nov. 13 and $1,473,126.54 the next day. The total was $1,995,717.52.

Jumes said the suspect might have been led to the scheme by using the district's own public records.

"A lot of school districts and government entities have to file official reports as to who they do business with and how their budgeting works out. I can't say for a fact, but that would have been a likely avenue for this fraudster to find that out," he said.

Jumes said the FBI is likely investigating whether there are other victims.

Crowley taxpayer Morris Daniel has done business with the school district. He said Crowley school officials are generally reputable, but this news is disappointing.

"Every day on the news I see these kind of deals and it just amazes me that people don't thoroughly check out what they are doing to start with," Daniel said. "It's just hard for me to visualize the ineptness of that right there."

Jumes advised caution before making a money transfer.

"My number one advice would be to verify," he said.

Crowley district officials declined an interview request, saying that the investigation is ongoing and they are cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The superintendent issued a statement saying the district discovered the fraud, that finances are still strong and that it hopes to recover the money.

The court records indicate Conkright had already spent the money on an expensive automobile, Rolex watches and jewelry.

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