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A Great Barrington business was scammed out of almost $40,000 due to a complex cybercrime | South Berkshires | #cybercrime | #infosec








Molly de St Andre

Molly de St Andre, silk-screening fabric. De St Andre and her husband Aurelien de St Andre own Bon Dimanche on Railroad Street, clothing company Petit Pilou and Moho Design Creative. The couple lost nearly $40,000 in a cyber crime, as well as the fabric needed to run their business.




GREAT BARRINGTON — Molly de St Andre walked to Lee Bank on Dec. 28 to wire $39,818.93 to an overseas bank account for a shipment of more than 9,000 yards of fabric.

It would be her third order of ultra-soft organic cotton from a factory in India. But this one would never arrive.

The money, however, did arrive at its destination. Although, not into the right account.

De St Andre and her husband, Aurelien de St Andre, own Bon Dimanche, which means “Good Sunday” in French. The Railroad Street store and workshop is home to Petit Pilou, their 15-year-old hand-silk-screened clothing business and their graphic design company, Moho Design Creative.







Molly and Aurelien

Molly and Aurelien de St Andre in their Railroad Street shop Bon Dimanche. Nearby businesses are trying to help the couple find a way to buy the fabric they need after they were scammed out of nearly $40,000. 




That fabric shipment, weighing well over 6,000 pounds, would have been used to silk-screen and sew three years’ worth of inventory like “pasta pants” for children, which for years was a bestseller until they started making “chicken pants.”

It takes nearly a year to develop the fabric order, Molly de St Andre said in an interview at the shop. It involves searching for the right cotton farm and finding the right thread that is then knitted to Moho’s specifications. It involves the right fabric weight, the right feel, color and wash.

It involves lots of back-and-forth with a representative from a company that ensures the fabric is made by the factory “to spec,” and the receiving of samples at every turn. 

The couple found they weren’t getting a consistent product from American sources. Add to that a pandemic supply-chain crunch and they decided to change their buying habits. They had found the perfect thread, with the highest organic certification, at a factory in the Gautam Buddha Nagar district in northern India.

The couple had placed two previous orders with the same factory through a company that helps source the thread and fabrics, working with their “rep,” a man named Saji, who they had developed a trusting relationship with since 2020.







Bon Dimanche

Inside Bon Dimanche, which features Petit Pilou clothing made with organic cotton sourced from India. 




Between orders, the couple saves money ruthlessly so they can buy the next three years of fabric. They’ve never undertaken debt, de St Andes said. Loans and interest payments would make their product “not viable” financially. A loan would be “devastating to our business model,” she said.

‘THIS IS NOT MY EMAIL’

De St Andre walked that Thursday morning in December to Lee Bank to send “all our money” to an account at WIO, a digital banking platform based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. 

WIO’s website says that to open a personal account one needs a “valid Emirates ID and a valid UAE mobile number.” For business accounts, the company must be “UAE-based companies with a valid trade license.”

Lee Bank uses PNC Bank for its international wire transactions. De St Andre had received the wire instructions in an email from her rep, “Saji,” and the wire successfully reached its destination.

Soon, the shipper was ready to pick up the fabric from the port.

“And then about two or three weeks later, when it was time to actually release the goods,” she said, “[Saji] said, ‘Strangely, we’re not seeing the payment in our bank account,’ and I said ‘That’s bizarre, everything went through.’”







Petit Pilou

Petit Pilou’s “pasta” print is popular. It’s made with the organic cotton that the company tried to get from India before a cyber criminal thwarted the owners. 




The real “Saji” told her to send a certain form to trace the money. She did and he never received it.

“And I sent him a copy of the sent email, and when he received that email, he was like, ‘This is not my email address,’ and I said, ‘What are you talking about?'” She looked closely and saw that the email addresses are “almost identical.” 

The December wire transfer had landed in a WIO bank account that the wire instructions said belonged to Saji’s company, but actually didn’t. De St Andre speculates that the account may have been opened using fake documents.

It would take two months from the day de St Andre wired the money for everyone to realize that someone had hacked into Saji’s company computer and impersonated Saji in email communications with her for six months. This included stealing photos of the fabric and of packed shipments from his computer. 

De St Andre said there were so many reasons why she didn’t notice she was being had. One was the constant, and normal, back-and-forth with the real Saji.

“Because so many things are redundant in this business and so many things get checked more than once,” she said, “I didn’t blink.”

The parallel emails made it nearly impossible for her to tell the difference between the real and fake “Saji,” she said, unless she had been looking for it.

‘TRIED EVERYTHING’

“There’s no way to get it back,” de St Andre said of the money. “I’ve tried everything.”

She reported it last month to the FBI through their website portal. No response yet. She went to Lee Bank; because the wire instructions were to an actual bank account, and she sent the money, there was nothing they could do.  

Then she looked at her business insurance policy. Yes, the basic policy covers cybercrime. But, “there is a clause that basically says that the money would have had to have been stolen from us by someone going into our bank account without our knowledge and taking it out,” she said. “It does not cover any kind of scam that includes a willing transfer of the money.”

De St Andre said she thought of herself as the last person who could fall for such “intricate” fraud.

“I am such an organized person,” she said. “I’m so careful. I had no idea that this was even a possibility, you know, like that this kind of crime is out there.”

It’s a type of cybercrime that falls under the umbrella of “social engineering,” according to the FBI. In the de St Andres’ case, it is specifically called “spear phishing,” which targets someone with “customized email.”

It’s also known as “Business Email Compromise,” which typically involves grooming a victim over time and ends with a wire transfer, says a primer on the FBI’s website.  

“Adversaries often change one letter, symbol or number in an email address,” the primer says, “so that it closely resembles a legitimate email address.”

Given all this, the de St Andres’ said they felt hopeless. But on Railroad Street, business owners take care of their own.

Josh Irwin, who owns Mooncloud and Juju’s, gathered the support of the Railroad Street Collective and a handful of other businesses. He organized a GoFundMe campaign for the couple so that they can buy the fabric they need to keep their business going. The campaign has raised over $6,000 since Wednesday. 

“Not only is it a matter of, this could happen to anybody, but also one of us is down and then there’s no reason that we all shouldn’t stand up to lend a hand,” Irwin said.





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