$2.5 million stolen from state with U tax codes

By Michael McFall, Staff Writer

Texan thieves conned the state of Utah by posing as the U and stealing $2.5 million from the state using university tax codes.

The Utah Office Attorney General issued 13 search warrants Feb. 11 for 12 people and Rift Valley Investors. Among those named in the search warrants are Happiness Kimaro, George Gichana and John Nyariki.

“They’re out of Texas,” said Victoria Schoenfeld, a spokeswoman for the Utah State Department of Administrative Services Division of Finance.

The individuals stole $2.5 million from the state in August, she said. They set up a checking account with a Bank of America branch in Arlington, Texas, where one of them works as a truck driver. The thieves used U Campus Design and Construction’s vendor number and the U’s tax code to ask the state for project money, Schoenfeld said. They also forged the signature of Joseph Harman, director of Campus Design and Construction, to complete the act.

During the first two weeks of August, the state answered the individuals’ requests and sent them the $2.5 million in three separate direct deposits. On Aug. 13, the Bank of America contacted the Utah Division of Finance about some suspiciously large deposits. The bank froze the account, but not before the people had spent $700,000 with checks issued from Rift Valley Investors.

Diane Wagner, spokeswoman for Bank of America, said she had no knowledge of the illegal transactions or the subsequent investigation.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office has sealed the search warrants as long as the investigation continues, said Paul Murphy, spokesman for the office.

U representatives have refused to comment on the incident.

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