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California water company insider steals $9 million, flees country

An insider at the California Water Service Company in San Jose broke into the company's computer system and transferred $9 million into offshore bank accounts and fled the country.

Abdirahman Ismail Abdi, 32, was an auditor for the water company, which delivers drinking water throughout the state and is located in San Jose, Calif. Abdi resigned from his position on April 27. Allegedly, that night he went back to work and made three wire transfers totaling more than $9 million from the company's accounts to an account in Qatar. Abdi was seen by a janitor on the night of the crime, according to the San Jose Mercury News, citing court documents filed Wednesday in the federal court at San Jose.

The next morning, the water company discovered what had been done and worked with their bank to have the money returned to their account. The company notified police, who are currently investigating the case, Jose Garcia, public information officer at the San Jose Police Department, told on Friday.

“We have witnesses that identified him as this person, as well as evidence that shows he was involved in the embezzlement attempt,” Garcia said.

Since the case involved an international transaction, the FBI became involved and is also investigating the case. Currently, Abdi's whereabouts are unknown, Garcia said.

An investigation revealed that Abdi's wife and two children fled to Frankfurt, Germany, on April 28. Officials believe Abdi also fled the country, perhaps to Canada, on May 5, the Mercury News reported, citing a letter sent last week from the district attorney's office to San Jose federal prosecutors.

The local investigation also revealed that Abdi tried to book a flight to London on May 1, days after police searched his South Bay home. Abdi is not a U.S. citizen and was ordered deported to Somalia in 2005, the Mercury News reported.

Garcia said that due to the ongoing investigation, the police department could not confirm Abdi's legal status in this country or if he fled the country. The California Water Service Company did not respond to a request for comment early Friday.

“The downturn in the economy is raising the internal security threatlevels dramatically, as more and more disgruntled ex-employees takeadvantage of the fact that their ex-employer did not decommission theiraccess credentials,” Torsten George, vice president, worldwidemarketing, ActivIdentity, told on Friday in an email.

According to a survey of more than 200 organizations globally conducted by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, the number one security problem reported by IT security auditors was “excessive access rights.”

In addition, only 28 percent of respondents rated themselves as “very confident” or “extremely confident” with regard to internal threats, which is down from 51 percent in 2008.

Companies can protect sensitive data by limiting information access to only those employees who must have it, the survey said.

George added that with the mass layoffs as of late, ActivIdentity is seeing a huge uptake in strong authentication, which helps companies disable credentials quickly.

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