July 24, 2024

A small town in Massachusetts, Orange, is facing severe financial strain due to a cyber fraud incident. The town’s Police Chief, James Sullivan, disclosed that the fraud is currently under investigation. According to Sullivan, the cyber fraud has left residents in dire straits, with a surge in demand for public services.


Orange’s situation comes amidst a significant rise in cyber crimes, with damages of about $12.5 billion reported in 2023. The FBI estimates that this shows a 22% increase compared to the previous year. Although the specifics remain unclear, various Massachusetts municipalities have fallen victim to various scams in recent years.

Previous cyber attacks include an incident where international hackers stole nearly half a million dollars from Arlington while impersonating a school vendor. In addition, Lowell experienced a cybersecurity breach that compromised their entire computer system, [New Bedford was subjected to a ransomware attack in 2019](https://www.npr.org/2019/09/06/758399814/town-avoids-paying-massive-5-million-ransom-in-cyberattack), and [Brookline was scammed via email in 2017](https://patch.com/massachusetts/brookline/brookline-town-hall-targeted-scammers).

While a suspect is already identified in the Orange fraud case, the police chief withheld specific details about the incident. Local official revealed anonymously that the scam involved fake invoices for a municipal project. The new town administrator, Matthew Fortier, discovered the fraud shortly after assuming office.

Crafting the town’s budget has been challenging due to the theft, with expected layoffs in the school, police, and library departments. The town is now faced with the daunting task of closing a budget gap. The rising cost of goods and labor, coupled with the end of pandemic-related financial assistance, has led several departments to request funding increases for the next fiscal year.


The town of Orange, which began as a group of farms and later grew into a robust manufacturing center, has seen a decline in public investment over the years. Closure of major industries has led to financial instability. Despite its geographical beauty and historical charm, the town has found it difficult to attract new development and investment.

Looking towards the future, Orange, like many rural areas in Massachusetts, faces challenges. These include a downsizing population, housing shortage, and limited public transportation and infrastructure.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the ways that municipalities in Massachusetts have recently been scammed?

To mention a few, Arlington lost nearly half a million dollars to hackers impersonating vendors, Lowell experienced a cybersecurity breach that compromised its entire computer system, and Brookline was affected by an email scam.

How did the scam affect Orange’s budget?

The fraud has strained the town’s finances, resulting in a budget gap and impending layoffs across several departments. It’s expected to heavily impact the school, police, and library sectors of the town.

What lies ahead for Orange and other similar rural towns in Massachusetts?

The future presents challenges such as a decreasing population, a shortage of housing, and limited public transportation and infrastructure. These issues mirror problems many small towns in Western Massachusetts are facing.
Deane cited overall development as a positive sign in the district, especially tourism, which has been boosted due to a conscious effort made by political figures in enhancing investments. She remains hopeful that the region, with its significantly lower costs in terms of property and living as compared to Boston, will become an appealing location for future inhabitants and businesses.

She voiced her optimism for Orange, acknowledging the town’s potential and the proactive residents working towards improvement. However, Orange heavily depends on revenues from domestic property taxes, with the [average tax for a single-family home being around $4,500 in 2024](https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-average-single-family-tax#fy2024-), as declared by the Department of Revenue. The town’s income per head is approximately $23,000, lower than areas like Lowell, Brockton, Worcester, and Everett.

Residents of Orange have previously shown hesitance towards tax increases authorized by Proposition 2½, designed to allow a maximum of 2.5% addition to the total property taxes collected. So far, no official proposition for tax augmentation has been enacted. That said, persons like Jason Sullivan-Flynn, director of Orange’s library, are of the belief that such a move would be beneficial for maintaining town services.

However, proposed budget cuts have faced backlash from residents, who urge town authorities to be more upfront regarding details of the financial crisis. Tyler Hauth, a bookstore owner in Orange, expressed a need for transparency from officials, particularly about the details of the fraud.

Mr Fortier, town administrator, continues to deal with the reverberations of the fraud scandal during his term, and implores residents to place faith in the authorities as they look into the matter further. He stressed the importance of unity among inhabitants and reliance on law enforcement to carry out the investigation thoroughly.

**## Frequently Asked Questions**
**### What is Proposition 2½?**
Proposition 2½ is a Massachusetts legislation that allows voters to authorize increases up to 2.5% on the total property taxes collected by the town.

**### Why are some residents pushing for a tax increase?**
Some residents, like Orange library director Jason Sullivan-Flynn, believe that a tax increase would generate the necessary funding to maintain services within the town.

**### Why are local residents urging for more transparency?**
Certain residents feel the town authorities have not provided enough specifics about the financial crisis and how the fraud was conducted. They believe that more transparency would increase trust in leadership and enhance community unity.