ASHEVILLE — FBI agents and federal prosecutors recovered more than $1.5 million stolen from Appalachian State University in a billing scam. The U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina announced Thursday that the suspects in the case, who have not been identified publicly, stole nearly $2 million from the Boone university by posing as a construction company working on a new building on the school’s campus. The fraudsters convinced the Appalachian State staff to transfer the company’s payment and then used wire transfers to launder it.
According to a civil complaint, the culprits spread the money across six accounts under several different corporate names, . Federal authorities seized:
- more than $960,000 from a JP Morgan account in the name of Royce Hub Trading,
- more than $450,000 from a Bank of America account in the name of Mornay Logan DBA Holding Properties
- another $39,000 was in a Bank of America account under the name UAV Research and Development and
- $81,000 was in a Woori Bank account under the name Neo Tech and Design.
The university had detected the fraud and notified the FBI. Investigators obtained forfeiture seizure warrants to prevent the thieves from accessing the money. Federal prosecutors then filed a civil forfeiture case and the Department of Justice approved the transfer of the recovered money back to Appalachian State.
The thieves posed as an employee of Rodgers Builders, a Charlotte-based construction firm that was doing work at Appalachian State, and asked university staff to change the account where payments from the university to the company were deposited. The fraudsters used an email address nearly identical to one used by Rodgers Builders employees and posed as the company’s controller in email exchanges with the university’s staff.
The university discovered the fraud when an employee of Rodgers Builders contacted the university to ask about a payment that hadn’t been made.