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Water utility auditor resigns, transfers $9m offshore

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California and federal officials are searching for a former employee of a large water utility who is suspected of trying to transfer more than $9m to an offshore account after quitting the company.

Abdirahman Ismail Abdi made the brazen transfers on April 27, just hours after resigning from the California Water Services Company, according to documents filed in federal court in Northern California. The following morning, he allegedly put his wife and two small children on a plane bound for Frankfurt, Germany, and then tried to deposit a $25,000 check that was stolen from his former employer.

The account is the latest reminder of the security threat posed by insiders. Over the past year, organizations from the London branch of Sumitomo Mitsui Bank to Countrywide Home Financial have fallen victim to large attempted heists that were in part carried out by employees. Many more businesses have been hobbled by sabotage allegedly carried out by disgruntled employees.

In Abdi's case, it would appear his former employer failed to take basic precautions in preventing the transfers.

On the evening of April 27, for instance, Abdi was able to use his electronic key card to access a secured parking lot just hours after resigning as an auditor at the utility, according to court documents. Abdi, who is now 33, then accessed two password-protected computers located in separate buildings to wire more than $9m out of his former employer's Bank of America account into accounts in Qatar.

The California Water Services Company, which bills itself as the largest investor-owned American water utility west of the Mississippi River and the third largest in the country, has yet to explain how a former employer could gain access to some of its most sensitive buildings. It also is unclear how Abdi had knowledge of two separate passwords.

It would appear that Abdi's plan may not have succeeded. Two of the three of the wire transfers were blocked and funds from the third are believed to have been frozen, according to court documents. Police believe Abdi fled California for New Westminster British Columbia. ®

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