It’s that time again… Time to share your predictions for fraud in 2013

Gypsy looking at an eight ball to predict the futureEach year, I ask readers of this blog to share their predictions regarding fraud in the following year.

If you have time, please visit the poll I created on LinkedIn.

I’ll share the results at the end of January.

Thanks for voting!

Paul McCormack

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

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Old enough to know better?

Mary Ella Hixon, what are we to do with you?!?

The 91-year-old former mayor just pleaded guilty to stealing $201,000 from River Falls, in southern Alabama.

The judge sentenced Mary to 10 years in prison. However, luckily for Mary, he suspended the sentence due to her age. She will instead be placed on probation for five years.

All going well, at age 96, Mary will be free to do whatever 96-year-old people do, sleep I guess…

Did the judge make the right decision? Should age play a role in the sentencing of white-collar criminals?

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, but you knew that already…

Source: Kurhan

Did you know that October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM)? Ok, you probably did not. It isn’t exactly the type of event that hits the front page of most newspapers and websites, but it should.

The FBI’s Robert Mueller recently stated that “cyber security may well become our highest priority in the years to come.” In my opinion, that time is fast approaching. If you follow the news regarding Cyber Security as I do, you may agree that we are already under a sustained attack that has the potential to cut the country’s economy off at the “knees”.

As we all know, it is not just corporations that are the victims. US consumers are targeted by organized crime groups from around the globe. In fact, this is not just a US problem, it is a global epidemic.

It is easy to dismiss NCSAM as a silly event that means nothing. And that is EXACTLY why you should pay attention. As long as consumers are victimized, there will be an incentive for fraudsters to invest the time and money to launch their attacks. So, with that in mind, please take the time to review the FBI’s recommendations below:

  • Set strong passwords, and don’t share them with anyone.
  • Keep a clean machine—your operating system, browser, and other critical software are optimized by installing regular updates.
  • Maintain an open dialogue with your family, friends, and community about Internet safety.
  • Limit the amount of personal information you post online, and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Be cautious about what you receive or read online—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you want more information on NCSAM, the FBI’s press release contains links to a number of helpful resources. I hate to state the obvious, but if you don’t take the time to improve your awareness of the cyber security threat facing the nation, no one will do it for you.

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

 

Sorry valued customer, an employee just stole your identity

Customer data theft

Source: Mel B

As a freelance writer, I often write for companies around the globe.Here is an article that I wrote for Memento – a leader in enterprise fraud management.

The post discusses the theft of nearly 3,000 customer identities by a bank manager with a very troubled past.

Click here to read the post.

Please feel free to leave comments here, or on Memento’s blog letting me know what you think.

If you would need an article, newsletter, blog post or whitepaper, please contact me at paul@mccormackwrites.com.

P.S. I ghostwrite too!

Help wanted – willingness to share trade secrets a must

How much do you know about FOAMGLAS? Not much?

Thought so…

If you worked at Pittsburgh Corning’s facility in Sedalia, Missouri, you probably know a lot about FOAMGLAS. Up until recently, Ji Li Huang, and Xiao Guang Qi would have loved to chat with you. In fact, if during that “chat” you agreed to share what you knew about FOAMGLAS, in return you might have ended up $100,000 richer. That’s what the US government alleges at least.

Apparently, Pittsburgh Corning recently made major advances in the formulation and manufacturing process associated with FOAMGLAS. Just so you know, FOAMGLAS is used in liquid natural gas (LNG) tanks.

Which country has the greatest demand for FOAMGLAS? China – it has 10,000 LNG plants.

I’ve discussed the theft of trade secrets numerous times on this blog. What makes this case unique is the fact that Huang and Qi allegedly placed an advertisement in a local newspaper that solicited “technical talent” with experience at the Pittsburgh Corning plant. The advertisement indicated that there was a project lead vacancy associated with the building of a foam glass factory in the Asian market. What they really wanted was information, presumably to launch a competing product. That’s speculation on my part… Coincidentally, Pittsburgh Corning just announced plans to open a facility in China.

Thankfully, the FBI stepped in using an undercover employee from the company. The plan that the undercover employee shared with Huang and Qi involved the employee breaking into the engineering department and stealing equipment related drawings. The FBI helped coordinate the exchange of the documents and the corresponding payment. Huang and Qi are now in custody awaiting court hearings.

Should the allegations noted above result in convictions, it will represent another example of a U.S. based company creating intellectual property that attracts unwanted attention from foreign competitors. From what I can tell so far, Pittsburgh Corning did everything right. How many companies are not so well prepared?

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

Update: XM Radio Employee Sentenced to 15 Months

Photographer: Stephen McCormack

Photographer: Stephen McCormack

I have an update on a case that I previously discussed involving XM Radio. Valencia Person, an Accounts Payable coordinator just received a 15 month sentence for her role in the embezzlement.

The news article detailing her sentencing notes that Person agreed to a monetary judgment of $908,924. That doesn’t make much sense to me as the article later notes that Brenda Jones, her co-conspirator received $690,000 and Person received $125,000. May be there will be more information available when Jones is sentenced on August 16…

Now, I wonder how much the investigation cost to complete… I would hazard a guess that the total loss easily exceeds $1,000,000. Investing in prevention doesn’t seem so expensive after all, does it?

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

Intel engineer helps himself to $400 million

Photographer: Stephen McCormack

Intel Corporation is a world-class organization that has dominated the market for computer chips for many years. In fact, there is a high probability that the device you are using to read this post has an Intel chip inside. However, based on a recent case involving Biswamohan Pani, an Intel Senior Staff Engineer, it may need a little help protecting its intellectual property.

According to the FBI, here are the facts of the case:

  • From February through April, 2008, Pani was looking for a job at other computer chip manufacturers and ultimately obtained a job at Advanced Micro Devices Inc.
  • Pani kept his job search secret from Intel. (Why wouldn’t he?)
  • When he announced his departure on May 29, 2008, he told the company that he might work for a hedge fund
  • Pani told Intel that he wanted to take the next one-and-a-half weeks as vacation until his last day at work on June 11, 2008
  • Unbeknownst to Intel, Pani had started downloading from Intel numerous secret documents about Intel’s manufacturing and design of computer chips. The intensive downloads began on May 28, just before he announced his departure, and continued on May 29
  • Pani started working at AMD on June 2, while he was still on Intel’s payroll and still had access to Intel’s computer systems
  • On June 8 and June 10, Pani remotely accessed Intel’s computer system numerous times and downloaded 13 of Intel’s most valuable documents
  • Along with other confidential and proprietary information, Pani downloaded a document explaining how encrypted documents could be reviewed when not connected to Intel’s computer system
  • Pani backed up the downloaded files to an external hard drive for access after he left Intel
  • On June 11, 2008, Pani reported to Intel for his exit interview and falsely stated that he had not retained any of Intel’s property, when, in fact, he had kept the electronic equivalent of boxes full of downloaded documents and some printed Intel documents at his apartment
  • Documents taken by Pani were found a month later when the FBI searched his home. Intel has valued those documents as worth $200-$400 million, at minimum
  • The FBI was able to recover these documents quickly, before Pani could use them to Intel’s disadvantage, largely because Intel reported the theft quickly and assisted the investigation. AMD also cooperated with the investigation, and there was no evidence that AMD or its employees had asked Pani to take these documents or even knew that he had them

Based on the fact pattern above, it appears Pani knew exactly what he was doing. He grabbed documents before, during and after Intel knew that he was leaving. He also bought time by convincing Intel that he was leaving the industry. I can’t imagine that lying about his ultimate destination stopped Intel from blocking his system access. They probably just forgot to do it. After all, Pani was still on the payroll and “burning” his vacation allotment. Why block an active employee?

Who knows what actually took place, the net result was that Pani had one-and-a-half weeks of access to Intel’s systems during which time he did the most damage. So how did Intel figure out Pani had stolen trade secrets? Clearly, after the fact, but not much else has been mentioned in the media.

This case is eerily similar to another case that the FBI investigated involving Sanofi-Aventis. Is it really that easy to steal trade secrets from Fortune 500 companies? Apparently so…

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

Bookkeeper plays “hide and seek” with company’s bank records

Source: Hyku

Bonnie Denning didn’t want the owners of Easy Picker Golf Products to see the company’s bank records, and now we know why! Over the course of less than 12 months, Denning alledegly embezzled $818,339.37 from the Lehigh Acres company using wire transfers, a debit card linked to the company’s accounts, and one check (I suspect that there will be more fraudulent checks uncovered in due time).

Here is a break down of the loss:

  • 60 Debit card transactions – $411,387.00 

Alledegly used to used to buy clothes, gas, electronic goods and home furniture.

  • 54 wire transactions – $358,885.50

Alledegly included $4,799.58 to purchase granite for Denning’s home and $29,160.00 associated with a drug rehabilitation program for a relative

  • 1 check – $5,295.76 for shutters for Denning’s home

Total loss – an eye popping $818,339!

Here are some lessons learned:

  1. Denning refused to turnover the company’s bank records to the owners. In fact, the owners had to request the statements directly from the bank! That is a GINORMOUS red flag. Never, I repeat never give your bookkeeper sole custody of your company’s bank records.
  2. The bank issued a debit card to Denning apparently without the knowledge of the owners. I’ll leave it up to the owners and the bank to decide who is at fault here; however, as I have said before, relying exclusively on your bank to prevent embezzlement is a losing proposition.
  3. Engaging a bookkeeper should never result in the the owners abandoning oversight of the financials. To the contrary, owners must stay engaged and ensure that the bookkeeper compiles the results in an accurate and efficient manner. Put simply, not paying attention can cost you dearly.

I sincerely hope that the Easy Picker Golf Product Company can survive this catastrophic loss. I can only imagine how the owners must feel.

As this case develops, I’ll keep you posted.

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

Don’t forget about fraud perpetrated by customers…

Source: Brittany G

Many fraud blogs – including this one – tend to focus almost exclusively on employee fraud. However, fraud perpetrated by customers can be just as damaging.

Not surprisingly, many companies are loathed to think that customer fraud happens. Senior executives in marketing, sales and operations often appear determined to explain why customer fraud is not a big issue. To underscore their flawed logic, and in defiance of their fiduciary duties to the company, the executives continue to dream up new products and services that are riddled with holes that allow, and sometimes encourage customer fraud to take place.

Inevitably, when the fraud losses start to mount, rarely will the department that created the product/service acknowledge that it was flawed. Instead, they ask why the fraud department seemed unable to stop the fraud from taking place. The company’s CFO or COO normally gets dragged in to the discussion and so begins the “Mexican Standoff”.

Before anyone becomes overly agitated that I believe executives sometimes violate their duties of loyalty and/or care, think about the bigger picture. Typically, fraud losses are not recorded in the same profit and loss statement (P&L) where the revenue is booked. Most executives that are in charge of a product or service receive bonuses based on the revenue generated instead of net profit earned. Surely, that creates the potential to drive up revenue at the expense of sound fraud risk management practices that minimize costs?

Some enlightened organizations allocate fraud losses back to the individual product or services’ P&L. Doing so allows the company to judge the sales and marketing executive’s performance based on revenue growth and the “bottom line” which reflects revenue less associated costs, including fraud.

This approach to fraud loss accounting is not “fool-proof” and requires time and effort to ensure that both the fraud department, and the department receiving the fraud loss allocation support the process. However, it is well worth the effort as the moral hazard associated with marketing and sales “owning” the revenue and not the fraud loss should give organizations – both large and small – cause for concern.

Does your organization allocate fraud losses to product P&Ls? If so, has it helped minimize losses?

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com

Punishing the white collar criminal

“The judge opened his file and retrieved the case’s sentencing memos, plea agreement and lengthy pre-sentence report, which he had read over the past few days and which spelled out the case’s particulars: Borgono had pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government by falsifying records that allowed her boss, the president of a Miami-based export company, to steal more than $10 million from the Export-Import Bank of the United States”

–  Judge who had ‘no passion for punishment’ retires after 31 years, The Washington Post, June 1, 2012

The Washington Post Article referenced above provides a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the challenges facing the judiciary when sentencing white collar criminals. Should society punish white collar criminals to the maximum extent allowable under the law, or does it make more sense to show compassion? Does tough sentencing for white collar criminals discourage “would be” fraudsters? How important is it to rehabilitate the offender?

Consider the vast difference between the punishment that the federal prosecutors argued for and the request made by Borgano’s defense attorney:

“Because so much money had been stolen, federal prosecutors argued in court papers that Urbina should sentence the former office manager to 18 months in federal prison. Her attorney countered that Borgono deserved just a year of home detention and two years of probation because the Peruvian immigrant, who became a U.S. citizen in 2007, had not reaped a dime in the scheme’s proceeds beyond her $500 weekly salary. She had cooperated extensively with authorities and had helped them build their case against her boss, a man sentenced by Urbina to nearly four years in prison. She also had the support of her community, the attorney said. The judge’s folder was filled with heartfelt letters from relatives, friends and even her priest.”

More on who won that fight in a minute…

In addition to the investigations that I personally conduct, each week I review over fifty cases involving fraud and intellectual property theft to determine which examples to include in our Global Knowledge Center. The differences in the sentences handed out to white collar criminals are truly startlingly, and in some cases alarming. Even within the same jurisdiction, the sentences handed down vary significantly. And let’s not forget that the Internal Revenue Service may also take an interest in the case. Or not… I have yet to understand the criteria that the IRS applies when determining which cases involving fraud and unreported income are worthwhile pursuing. That’s a discussion for another day…

I understand better than most that each case is unique and numerous factors must be taken in to account before a sentence can be handed down. But let’s consider the variation in sentencing from the “would be” fraudsters perspective. Does the threat of prison time factor in to their decision making process? Should it? What are the odds that they will be caught in the first place? Why consider the worst case scenario when committing fraud is so incredibly easy to do?

The case highlighted in the Washington Post article is somewhat different as Norma Borgano did not personally benefit from the fraud – her boss Guillermo O. Mondino did and he received 46 months in prison for his troubles.

So let’s compare Mondino’s sentence to the 66 months that Patricia K. Smith,the perpetrator of a $10.2 million dollar fraud received. That’s a difference of 20 months, or nearly two years. I fully understand that each case is different, but is Smith’s crime anymore heinous than Mondino’s? In fact, Mondino’s fraud involved a far higher potential loss of $24 million. Did Mondino’s attorneys do a better job defending their client? Who knows, but the difference is significant – especially if you are the unlucky individual serving the “extra” 20 months!

As for Norma’s fate, she received a year of home detention, four years of probation and $5,000 in restitution payments. Is that an appropriate sentence? Let’s be honest, who are we to judge?

Need a writer that understands fraud? When you hire me to write an article, blog post, newsletter or white paper you get an accomplished writer that is also an expert in fraud.

paul@mccormackwrites.com