BRIGANTINE - In the second such incident in Atlantic County this year, online hackers stole as much as $600,000 from the city of Brigantine's bank account using a stolen username and password, police said - and only about $400,000 has been recovered so far.
TD Bank notified city finance officers Tuesday that multiple wire transfers had taken place from city accounts, Lt. James Bennett said in a statement issued Thursday.
"Unknown person(s) had apparently obtained a username and password for the city's main TD Bank account when our finance personnel attempted to log in (through either a fake Web page or an undetectable virus)," Bennett said. "Then several wire transfers were started with amounts ranging from a few thousand to over $300,000, for a total of about $600,000."
TD Bank security officials notified the Atlantic County Comptroller's Office, which immediately contacted City Manager Jim Barber and Police Chief John Stone.
State Police and FBI were contacted and sent a computer forensic team to check city systems.
The most recent update from TD Bank, Bennett said, was that the bank was able to recall about $400,000 in transfers and was working on recalling the remainder. The investigation is being handled by the FBI and State Police, along with the Brigantine Police Department and TD Bank security.
Mayor Phil Guenther said he is confident that the city will recoup its losses, although the specifics of how that will play out are still being determined.
"I believe it will be recovered and/or reimbursed to the city of Brigantine in some manner," Guenther said, adding that the city "will be working with all agencies involved and will adhere to any recommendations in the future."
Guenther said the manner in which the city could be fully reimbursed was still being determined, including whether the city's insurance covers such losses.
"That's being examined through the chief financial officer and city manager to see what processes will take place as a result of this cyber-crime," Guenther said.
City manager Jim Barber said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.
In March, about $100,000 was stolen from an Egg Harbor Township account at Cape Bank in a similar manner - sent out by a computer in increments of less than $10,000.
Egg Harbor Township Mayor James "Sonny" McCullough, speaking via phone from Dublin - which is abuzz with a spate of similar cyber-crimes in England that led to 19 arrests for the theft of $3.5 million - said his township recovered the stolen funds through its insurance policies.
"We feel the responsibility is with the bank," McCullough said. "We don't keep the money in our building. The bank's position is that they hacked into our firewall. But the FBI is still working on that."
State Police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones said the FBI would be the lead agency in any cyber-crime that goes beyond state borders.
"We have a good relationship with the FBI, and our cyber-crimes unit has people who are detached from the Regional Computer Forensics Lab (in Mercer County), which is FBI-funded," Jones said. "We'll be assisting the FBI closely."
Contact Steven Lemongello: