DiNapoli will not audit Nassau comptroller after phishing scam

DiNapoli will not audit Nassau comptroller after phishing scam
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli announced he will not conduct an audit of Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman's office. (Photo from the Island Now archives)


New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has rejected a request from the Republican-controlled Nassau County Legislature for an audit of county Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s office, which temporarily lost and recovered $710,000 to a scammer posing as a county vendor.  

“Municipalities across Long Island and the nation are constantly targeted by cyber attackers,” Schnirman, a Democrat, said in an email statement. “As part of our ongoing efforts to protect tax dollars, the Comptroller’s Office has been systemically updating and improving our controls since we took office and reaching out to a variety of experts as it pertains to cybersecurity. The Comptroller’s Office welcomes assistance from all who are working in good faith to protect Nassau County’s taxpayers and residents.”

These efforts follow a phishing scam in which someone impersonated a county vendor by filling out paperwork and documentation necessary to make the comptroller’s office believe the vendor was credible.

According to Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, the comptroller’s office did the necessary due diligence in making sure that the vendor was credible. 

“Many times we talk about the scams on our elderly, how they can get fooled, but government can become a victim too,” Ryder said during a news conference last month. “If it weren’t for the coordinated effort and initial contact from the comptroller’s office, the money may not have been recovered because it moves quickly.”

Ryder said  Schnirman’s office reported the fraudulent activity on Oct. 25, and an investigation was coordinated between Nassau County police, the district attorney, the treasurer and the comptroller.  As a result they were able to freeze the accounts and seize the payments.

In response to the cyberattack, Republican county legislators called on DiNapoli, a Democrat, and Nassau County Inspector General Jodi Franzese to investigate whether proper controls are in place at Schnirman’s office to block cybercrime.

“We’ve taken an unprecedented step and requested, in order to safeguard taxpayer money, that the New York state comptroller intervene, come over here, look at the operations at the Nassau County comptroller’s office,” said Nassau County Finance Committee Chairman Howard Kopel.

DiNapoli’s office replied with a letter on Feb. 5 in which Elliot Auerbach, deputy comptroller, said he is confident that the Nassau County office of the inspector general, who has extensive experience conducting investigations of fraud and mismanagement, will be able to perform an objective and independent review.

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