Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fraudster Fleeces Fry's

Fry's electronics store is something of a Silicon Valley legend. Founded in 1985 in Sunnyvale, the store started out as a geek's gathering spot; the sort of place where you could buy everything from obscure components to complete computers. From those early origins, the company has grown to where they now have 34 stores nationwide and turn over north of $2 billion per annum.

(Just as an aside, any of you visiting in this area who is interested in technology then do yourselves a favour and make a pilgrimage to one of the multiple Fry's locations. Each store has some sort of theme and the one in Palo Alto is fun as it's the Wild West. However, this is not the Fry's of old. Much more space is now dedicated to everything from fridges to folders, cameras to chocolate, and that close knit "geeks only" feel has gone. Nevertheless, it continues to attract the Valley's brightest and best who can be found wandering the electronics and components aisles still. It's also remained true, therefore, that the best way to learn anything in Fry's about what they have in stock and how it works is to ask one of the customers, their sales people being, err, "variable" in their knowledge, shall we say.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all was not well: there was a traitor in their midst. A company VP, earning a salary reported to be $225k per annum, (which is more than I get paid in case you were wondering if I was one of those fat-cat CEOs the media bang on about) had more expensive tastes than this could reasonably cover. Therefore, he decided to make a little extra on the side, to the quite staggering tune of $65 million ...

By setting things up so that there were no other sales staff between him and his suppliers, it's alleged, he was able to offer them more attractive pricing and terms in exchange for a "marketing" fee that was supposed to offer them preferential treatment for things like advertising, shelf positioning etc. Those fees were channeled through a shell company the defendant owned, and in just a few short years got built up into quite a nice little nest egg for him to cash out on ... except it didn't.

Believe it or not, in parallel he managed to rack up debts in Las Vegas to the tune of $162 million. Yup, close to $100m underwater. To the Vegas mob. In three years.

Unsurprisingly, the Judge, upon letting Siddiqui out on bail, banned the defendant from travelling to Las Vegas. But he needn't have bothered. Doubtless Las Vegas will be paying a visit to Siddiqui instead .... and most likely by one of their employees whose middle name is "the".

What is it about Christmas and fraud??

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