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RealTime IT News

Ex-Microsoft Worker Guilty of Theft

A former Microsoft employee accused of ordering more than $7 million worth of software at the company and selling it on the side for a huge personal profit pleaded guilty Monday to fraud and money laundering charges, said federal prosecutors.

Finn W. Contini, 36, of Redmond, Wash., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering, according to federal prosecutors.

He will be sentenced on Feb. 3.

Conti, a former group assistant at Microsoft, was accused of exploiting a flaw in the software giant's Internal Ordering Program. He ordered $7.1 million in software from vendor Client Logic without permission from supervisors. He later sold at least 2,692 pieces of software for more than $2.3 million. He purchased properties, cars and expensive jewelry with the ill-gotten gains, said prosecutors.

As part of the plea agreement, Contini has forfeited $1.7 million in assets he obtained with money from the scheme, including four properties in Washington and Oregon, a 2003 Toyota Highlander, a 2002 Honda Civic, silver and gold coins and more than $188,000 in bank accounts and currency.

Microsoft's internal purchasing system was supposed to notify Conti's supervisor of any orders by e-mail. But instead of putting his manager's e-mail address as the appropriate contact, Conti entered the e-mail of other employees allegedly involved in the scheme, according to prosecutors.

The three other former Microsoft employees are Alyson Clark, 38, of Normandy Park, Wash.; Christine Hendrikson, 34, of Bothell, Wash.; and Robert Howdeshell, 40, of Puyallup, Wash. Each was charged in November with conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering in connection with the scheme, according to the prosecutors.

Prosecutors also claim the scheme continued even after Contini resigned from Microsoft in February 2002. He allegedly instructed Clark and Hendrikson which software to order, the amount to order and where to send it, according to prosecutors.

Both Clark and Hendrikson are scheduled for plea hearings Jan. 28.

The case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation Division and the FBI.