IT Contractors: Fraud Is a Bad Idea

By Donald Sears  |  Posted 2008-07-11 Print this article Print

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the economy is in a recession.

When Nevada brothels need to give rebates for gas to prospective clients (link will expire in 30 days), and well-seasoned MIT grads take to the streets with sandwich boards looking for work in the soul-crushing financial Mecca (aka midtown Manhattan), you know something is up.

You could almost see why an IT contractor in New Jersey grabbed the American dream by its entrepreneurial horns and took it upon himself to resell Cisco equipment that didn't belong to him for truckloads of cash. But I can think of a handful of alternative ways to get ahead in IT that don't involve facing 25 years in county blues. How about a well-positioned startup instead?

According to a Computerworld article, the devious IT contractor, Michael Kyereme, was working for the city of Newark and plead guilty of defrauding Cisco of millions of dollars by ordering "replacement" parts for hardware for the city's infrastructure. The only problem is that Newark didn't need the parts, and Kyereme saw a fast, fuhget-about-it shortcut and took it.

As part of his plea agreement, Kyereme admitted that between January 2003 and March 2007 he requested and received Cisco replacement parts after fraudulently claiming that certain components in Newark's computer system had failed. Kyereme did not use these parts for the city but instead resold them to a third party in California and kept the proceeds.

Kyereme did not dispute that in November of 2006, he requested and received a $260,000 one-port optical card. He returned a different part -- an eight-port adapter worth approximately $2,000, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Kyereme admitted that between January 2003 and March 2007, he received about $6.9 million in Cisco replacement parts, which he resold to third parties.

That seems like a long time to be defrauding Cisco and a city, but then again, not all that surprising given where we are talking about. With the apparent lack of oversight Kyereme had to have had working for a not-so-squeaky-clean Newark, it must have felt like the easiest money he ever made.

Somehow, I'm reminded of that '80s SNL commercial parody Bad Idea Jeans.

Kyereme's biggest problem seems to be that he didn't realize that someone would eventually catch up to him. The IRS, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office all had a piece of this one. Looks like Kyereme wasn't able to get those to whom he sold the stolen Cisco products to pay in cash. This IT contractor couldn't hide the $1.2 million in 2006 that he had between mattresses. His '06 tax return said he made just over $81K, according to the article.

What isn't clear is how long the Feds, Cisco and Newark let him get away with it to build up the case. A few other unknown pieces are how Cisco handled the situation (as to when it discovered the situation), who Kyereme was selling to and what happened to the stolen property.

People make mistakes and send incorrect parts back all the time. Easy to blame incompetence on the mail room or delivery companies. But sending back an adapter for a quarter-of-a-mil optical card had to ruffle somebody's router.

So is there any career advice to give here?

Don't steal (must blog the obvious). Felonies can damage careers. Keep doing what you are doing, stay on top of your skills, and read all the latest and greatest career info you can. There's no real fast track to wealth, unless you work in the right startup that is bought up. Put any devious, criminal energy you think you might have to work researching which company is most likely to get eaten up.

Get hired. Negotiate for options. Get rich. |

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