Detroit Public Library missing over $400K from wire transfer fraud

The theft occurred during the span of 2020-2021.

Photo of a Detroit Public Library location

Detroit’s Legislative Policy Division recently released a report about the Detroit Public Library’s 10-year financial outlook, revealing that the organization is financially struggling.

According to Bridge Detroit reporter Malachi Barrett, the results were released a few days after a Detroit City Council meeting in January, when former DPL commissioner Russ Bellant mentioned thousands of dollars went missing in a wire fraud scheme.

“There were two individuals who, through some kind of complicated wire activities, were able to siphon actually more than $600,000 from the library accounts and put those into private accounts over 2 years.”

The theft occurred between 2020-2021. While some of the money was recovered, $407,000 is still missing.

Despite a pending criminal investigation, it’s not clear how the money will be recovered from the offshore accounts.

“From the library’s perspective…they essentially had to eat these costs,” says Barrett. “They weren’t reimbursed from the city and $400,000 sounds like a lot of money. It’s certainly a lot of money when it comes to the library, which runs on pretty tight margins and relies on a lot of support from the community and from the city to stay financially solvent.”

Detroit libraries serve as gathering spaces for Black churches, hosting job training, and providing reading programs for kids outside of schools.

“This budget conversation is really important because it’s going to take a lot of money to reopen these libraries. It’s not clear whether that money is going to be available,” said Barrett.

Barrett believes not having neighborhood libraries will make a significant negative impact on families.

This story is a collaboration between Detroit Documenters and Bridge Detroit.

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.