This one is sort of a Dog Day Afternoon story except for the bank robbery and the sex change. Other than that, it's dead-on; well, okay not exactly dead-on but close enough.
On December 9, 2011, Micahel W. Baxter, 62, Ball Ground, GA, wound up in a bad place - he was arraigned in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia pursuant to an Indictment that charged him with 15 counts of mail fraud and 15 counts of wire fraud. By any measure, 30 counts of fraud is a prodigious accomplishment for one guy.
According to federal prosecutors, Baxter was a network engineer in Verizon Wireless's Alpharetta, GA regional headquarters from 1994 through 2010. That sounds like a nice job and I'll be he pulled down a nice bit of change for his labors. In any event, during Baxter's tenure, Verizon Wireless purchased "extended warranty" contracts on certain network communications equipment (for example, processors and cards) from Cisco Systems, Inc. Under the warranties, Cisco Systems was required to service a malfunctioning part, or, if necessary, replace it. A key feature of the Verizon-Cisco arrangement was that in order to avoid potential interruptions in Verizon Wireless' network, Cisco agreed to replace parts in advance of receiving the malfunctioning unit.
Starting around December 2006 and continuing until his May 2010 termination by Verizon, Baxter, authorized to submit service requests and to order replacement parts through Cisco Systems' online customer service database, submitted hundreds of fraudulent online requests, which resulted in Cisco shipments. Not only were the shipped parts not swapped into Verizon's network but Baxter took them home and sold them to third-party re-sellers for his own profit. Moreover, not merely content to rip-off his employer under the warranty with Cisco, between 2000 and 2009, Baxter fraudulently caused Verizon to purchase nearly a half-million dollars in Cisco equipment outright, which he also took home and re-sold to third-party re-sellers.
Ah, the American entrepreneurial spirit at its worst. According to the Indictment, Baxter used his ill-gotten gains to buy jewelry, cars, extravagant international travel, and other personal luxury goods and services. Among my favorite expenses were the multiple cosmetic surgeries for his girlfriend - which, if you think about, is sort of keeping with the whole concept of swapping out parts for different parts.
If convicted, Baxter faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Perhaps aware of the fate that awaited him, on February 16, 2012, Baxter pled guilty. In retrospect, that seems to have been at least one smart move this defendant made. On October 3, 2012, Baxter was sentenced to four years in prison plus three years of supervised release, ordered to pay $2,333,241.18 in restitution to Cisco and $462,828.00 in restitution to Verizon. One can only imagine where he's going to find the bucks for the restitution but as far as those things go it does look good in the official press release.
Okay, so, sure, not exactly Sonny robbing a Chase Manhattan bank branch in Flatbush, Brooklyn in order to buy Sal a sex change, but, hey, maybe "Dog Day Afternoon" inspired some of the events in this case? Just use your imagine and consider how times have changed. After all, the bank heist was in the 1970s and this is 2012, and we have iPhones and the Internet and you can get all sorts of anatomical parts enhanced these days. I mean, you know, maybe today Sonny would have tried to hack into Chase's online banking network or phished at some ATM? I hope that federal prison authorities will carefully monitor Baxter's online activities.
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