Houston, We Have a Problem: Managing a Security Investigation

Author's Note: Simple truths are often best revealed in the telling of a story. The tortoise and the hare come to mind. Following is a story with a few simple truths, not exactly Aesopian, but a story that invites you to get into the shoes of the main...


Your boss calls and says he's received complaints from the Dallas office alleging heavy-handed tactics. Before you can leap to the defense of the team, your boss congratulates you on doing a good job. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be getting these pig squeals. Keep it up." Sometimes you just love the guy.

At the briefing that night Rollo says, "Now get this. Today I just happened to be on the phone with an accounts payable clerk at Andriscotti. I mentioned that FNG was thinking about going into a business relationship with a company called Keith/Marwick. I asked the clerk if she knew of them. She put me on hold and came back a few minutes later and said that in the past year her department had cut 13 checks, totaling a little over $40,000, payable to Keith/Marwick, for used valves." Rollo was excited. "You know what I think?"

You and Cowan both have an idea, but you let Rollo roll with it. "I think Andriscotti sold us 14 valves at twice their value and bought back 13 of them for pennies on the dollar."

You point to Cowan. "Go ahead, Jim." The former bureau agent reports on his visit to the warehouse. He winds up by agreeing with Rollo, except there was only one valve and it had been sold 14 times. It moved back and forth between the Andriscotti plant and the warehouse, probably to create supporting paperwork. "But that valve's traveling days are over. I've got a sheriff's deputy sitting on it right now."

Consult with the prosecutor. Get ready for trial.

Another week passes and you have most of what you need. More than 1,000 documents have been collected, including several incriminating e-mail messages between Brown and Victor Durgin, Andriscotti's VP of sales. You have an admission of malfeasance by FNG's procurement manager. The warehouse operator identified Durgin as the lessee of the warehouse. Checks paid to Keith/Marwick by FNG for engineering services and by Andriscotti for scrap metal were traced to an account in Bermuda. The "data mining" software used by the PI firm connected the holder of the Bermuda account to phone numbers in Brown's personnel file and his company e-mail address book. The bank account turned out to be held by Brown's half-sister. A payment of $400,000 was made from the account to Durgin; none to Brown. On the day you met with the prosecutor, Durgin's attorney offered restitution in exchange for FNG's promise to not push for imprisonment. Brown skipped town. You plan to ask the prosecutor about extradition from Bermuda.

John Fay welcomes your comments by phone at 404-817-7116 or by e-mail at jackfay@mayfairtower.com.