Yellowstone Regional Airport has fallen victim to cybertheft.
Heidi Rasmussen, YRA board member, revealed during a board meeting on Oct. 14, that a wire transfer for $7,829.67 was mistakenly sent to a fraudulent requester posing as the job-hiring firm the airport recently hired.
Rasmussen said this encompassed about the first 40% of payment to Florida-based ADK Consulting and Executive Search. She said it was four days before it was discovered the money had been wired to a fraudulent account.
She said the bank was able to recoup $450 of this loss.
“It was pointed out to me that it could have been much worse and I agree with that,” Rasmussen said.
Ray Lee, airport interim director, said the phishing attempt came from a technological breach through ADK, in which the scammer was able to send a request from a real ADK email address.
He said ADK is pursuing the crime with law enforcement agencies in their jurisdiction and have locked down a potential suspect.
In September, YRA decided it would pay ADK around $22,000 to help the airport find a new director.
Rasmussen said the airport will consider cybersecurity insurance moving forward, which she said can cost around $4,400 per year.
YRA is not the first local entity to fall victim to malicious phishing.
In spring 2018, Park County had its email servers shut down for about a week when hackers accessed at least three email accounts and hijacked them to deliver spam messages.
Although the airport has received $5 million for its general operations for the next five years through the CARES Act, the board members say every dollar still counts.
Bucky Hall, YRA board chairman, made the pledge at the Park County commissioners meeting Oct. 20, that the airport intends to never come back to the county or city again for funding. Prior to this current fiscal year, the county and City of Cody budgeted a combined $345,565 in annual funding for the airport.
Rasmussen also said during the meeting, that an application for Passenger Facility Charges was mistakenly not submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration from January and February, totalling a $30,500 loss to the airport.
PFC grants are federally authorized fees levied by local airport operators on airline tickets. In Cody, that fee is $4.39 per passenger.
Rasmussen, who is treasurer of the board, said she takes “partial responsibility for the errors.”
“I will strive to be better in this position,” she said.
Even with these losses, YRA is not in dire straits financially. In April, the airport learned it would be receiving a guaranteed $11.7 million and up to $18.01 million in CARES Act funding.
“Today will be that day I say, ‘Thank goodness for COVID (-19),’” Rasmussen said.
The board decided it will offer a $92,500-$97,500 salary range for applicants interested in the airport director position. After an individual is hired, they will be placed on a different employee scale than other employees. Any raises they get will come from annual performance reviews, rather than annually scheduled wage increases.
In his last year on the job, former director Bob Hooper was budgeted to make $97,884.80 not including benefits.
With the final range determined, ADK can now start formally interviewing applicants. Company staff said there is already an interested pool.
A committee of YRA board members Heidi Rasmussen, Bucky Hall and Doug Johnston, along with Park County Commissioner Joe Tilden, Cody Mayor Matt Hall, and citizens James Blair and Todd Simmons, will work with ADK on the hiring search and interview candidates.