A Georgia woman is accused of diverting more than $700,000 from the University of Connecticut to her banking accounts after posing as a representative of Dell Computers, according to paperwork from Connecticut Superior Court.
UConn police said they were alerted on June 21 that $773,079.35 was stolen from the university and they launched an investigation. That investigation revealed that the University of Connecticut’s routing number was used between April 12 and May 19 and that someone who was not authorized diverted the payments.
Police have identified the suspect as 39-year-old MuthAini Nzuki, a native of Kenya who is a naturalized United States citizen living in Kennesaw, Georgia.
UConn realized something was wrong when Dell Computers contacted the school on May 24 asking for payment on invoices that were past due. UConn told the company that most of the past invoices had been paid and reached out to vendor, the supplier information management company the university uses, which allows UConn and vendors to view the status of invoices and remittances and maintain company information.
According to the arrest warrant application, Nzuki created an account with Payment Works, the vendor company, posing as a Dell employee, and synched up her account and UConn’s account by entering Dell’s federal tax ID and imputing an invoice number and amount owed from any Dell invoice to UConn. Between April 12 and May 19, Nzuki is accused of diverting money from an approved Dell banking account to an account she created 32 separate times.
Nzuki used an assumed name of a person who turned out not to be an actual Dell employee and used a free email service in Germany to create the email she used to open the account.
Records from Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that Nzuki has been a naturalized U.S. citizen as of 2010, has a U.S. passport as well as a Kenyan passport. She traveled from Atlanta to Paris on May 25 and returned to Atlanta from Kenya on Aug. 8.
A judge at Rockville Superior Court signed a warrant for Nzuki on Aug. 16 and UConn police sought help from the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia to help find her. UConn police then transported Nzuki from Georgia on Thursday.
Nzuki has been charged with first-degree larceny and first-degree computer crime and was held on $1 million bond, but it was lowered to $500,000. She is due back in court on Dec. 1 and is being represented by an attorney.
UConn officials said the university and the state will not be responsible to absorb the financial loss and it will be worked out between the vendor who processed the payments and Dell, which was supposed to receive them.
“The University of Connecticut, Dell, and our company were targets of a sophisticated fraud. We are working with the University of Connecticut to resolve this matter and are helping local authorities in their investigation,” a statement from a spokesperson at the company says.
No student or employee data was accessed or compromised, according to UConn.
Dell released a statement, saying Dell has turned over all information on the incident to the FBI and the company is cooperating fully with their investigation.
“While this incident occurred as the result of an email phishing scam, we advise any individual who is suspicious of fraudulent activity to take immediate action, either by deleting emails from addresses they do not recognize or simply hanging up the phone if contacted with offers to fix their computer or request financial and other sensitive information. Unless a Dell customer signs up for our enhanced monitoring and support services, they will never receive an unsolicited call,” Dell said in a statement.
“For those who feel they have been the target of someone claiming to be from Dell who tries to trick them into giving up private information or downloading software, we encourage them to submit all relevant information via Dell’s online form, or call us toll-free at (866) 453-1742 Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. U.S. Central time,” the statement from Dell says.