PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two high-profile Rhode Island public officials who had money stolen from their campaign accounts had their banking information inadvertently posted online, according to the Board of Elections.
Board of Elections Chair Diane Mederos wrote in a press release that the board accidental posted the campaign bank account numbers of both Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea online as part of a report on candidates who received public matching funds in 2018.
The candidates’ bank account and routing numbers should have been redacted from the documents, but were not, according to Mederos.
“We take full responsibility for not redacting the account information within the report which may have been the source of the fraudulent activity,” Mederos wrote. “We also sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this caused.”
The Fung campaign was the first to discover $15,000 missing from his campaign account. The campaign reported the theft to the Rhode Island State Police, which referred it to police in New York where the phony transaction took place.
Fung’s wife and campaign treasurer, Barbara Ann Fenton, was the first to spot the fraudulent activity and said the Board of Elections was extremely apologetic.
“We believe that it was an honest mistake,” Fenton said in a statement to Eyewitness News.
After seeing media reports about the theft from Fung’s account, Gorbea’s office said her campaign discovered $15,000 missing from her account as well. She reported the theft to state police investigators, who said the transaction happened in Texas.
Mederos said once the elections board discovered the bank information on the matching funds report, the documents were removed from the website and re-posted with proper redactions.
Mederos said the board also contacted Lt. Gov. Dan McKee and Attorney General Peter Neronha, who also utilized the matching funds program, and they reported no fraudulent transactions in their accounts.
According to Mederos, the elections board met with state police and a detective determined “it is likely” that the info posted online led to the thefts.
Steph Machado (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.
Tim White and Kim Kalunian contributed to this report.