Scammers have swindled commodities trader Scoular out of US$17.2 million (A$22.1 million, £11.3 million) in a targeted phishing exercise.
Local news outlet Omaha.com reported the company controller at Scoular with the 800-seat company had followed instructions to wire a series of massive payments to a Chinese bank from emails purportedly from the company's chief executive Chuck Elsea.
Court documents revealed emails were sent from what appeared to be Elsea directing the executive to transfer three payments, one up to $9.4 million, to a Chinese bank.
Omaha did not specify if the email addresses set up in France, Germany, Israel, and Russia were spoofed to appear sent from internal corporate addresses or accounts known to be owned by Elsea, saying only that the boss' identity was "co-opted".
One fake email was made to appear sent from the company's external auditing firm which McMurtry was working with at the time.
McMurtry complied with an order in an email dated 26 June to wire $780,000 to Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, and followed instructions a day later to send $7 million and then $9.4 million to the institution.
The ruse worked in part because the scammers told McMurtry the transfer related to the secret acquisition of a Chinese firm and could not be discussed. Elsea had previously discussed making plays into China, leading McMurtry to admit he "was not suspicious of the three wire transfer requests".
McMurtry called a phone number listed in the email which was answered by a scammer pretending to be that contact
The FBI said a company Dadi Co. Ltd. was the principal recipient of the stolen funds adding it was working with central banking authorities to attempt to recoup the money.
However, Elsea told Omaha it would be difficult to get the cash back.
"It is encouraging to us that progress is being made in the criminal investigation that began promptly after the wire theft occurred in June 2014," Elsea said.
Scoular was recently numbered 55 in a Forbes list of the biggest privately held US companies. It operates in markets for grains, corn, and soybeans, among other commodities. ®