A small Texas school district suffered a major blow in 2018, losing nearly $2 million in a business email compromise (BEC) scheme. And a Florida man who helped facilitate the crime is now serving time behind bars.
Two years ago, an employee of a school district near Fort Worth received an email requesting a wire transfer payment for a school construction project.
The school district was building a new elementary school at the time, and the employee sent the money as instructed. However, unbeknownst to the employee, the email was actually from a scammer posing as the construction company. The wiring instructions directed money to an account controlled by criminals.
That’s where Donald Conkright, of Big Pine Key, Florida, came in. Conkright assisted the scammers by using his own bank account to move the ill-gotten gains overseas, helping them profit even more from the BEC scheme in the process. People who commit crimes in this way—even unknowingly—are called “money mules” and are subject to prosecution.
In Conkright’s case, he knew he was helping criminals. Conkright told investigators he started acting as a money mule after getting into an online relationship with someone who requested he move money on her behalf.
“Conkright was a willing participant, and he acknowledged that he was engaging in money laundering,” said Special Agent Matthew Wilkins, who investigated this case out of the FBI’s Dallas Field Office. “Although he knew the transactions were benefiting criminals, he made money from it and did not stop.”
The school district contacted law enforcement as soon as it figured out what had happened. Investigators traced the funds to Conkright. He was convicted on money laundering charges in March. In June, he was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
In a victim impact statement in court, the Crowley Independent School District said the incident led to a budget shortfall for the year.
“It was very devastating to the school district,” Wilkins said. “This is a relatively small public school district, and to lose nearly $2 million was really difficult for them.”
While most of the funds had already been moved overseas, investigators seized more than $600,000 that remained in Conkright’s account. That will eventually be returned to the school district.
Investigators also seized a luxury car, which Conkright had bought with some of his money laundering proceeds. It will be auctioned off, and those proceeds will be returned to the school district as well.
“This is a relatively small public school district, and to lose nearly $2 million was really difficult for them.”
BEC is a devastating and common crime that costs businesses and other institutions more than $36 billion annually. While there are variations on the scheme, they usually involve scammers posing as vendors and asking unsuspecting businesses to wire money.
Money mules are key parts of these schemes because they move profits through their own accounts, shielding the criminals and the cash.
Many mules sometimes think they are participating in victimless crimes. Some think they are moving around money for a friend or as a “job,” but in fact, they are making cybercrime more profitable. This harms individuals, businesses, and communities.
“Putting an additional step between the initial money and the other criminals who are getting the money—it helps conceal who the true actors are,” said FBI Task Force Officer Casey Allen of the Fort Worth Police Department, who also worked the investigation. “It hides who is really sending those emails and helps criminals profit.”
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.