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Former Microsoft workers charged with theft

Four former Microsoft employees have been charged with theft, conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering in connection with the alleged theft and resale of $32m (£17m) of Microsoft software.

In a case filed by the US Attorney’s office in Seattle, the four former Microsoft employees allegedly took advantage of an internal company programme that provided any Microsoft software products free to employees as long as the goods were for business use.

Instead, the four workers, Finn W Contini, Robert A Howdeshell, Alyson M Clark and Christine J Hendrickson allegedly requested thousands of software products through the internal programme and then sold them for personal gain, according to the 33-page criminal complaint filed against them.

Contini, Clark and Hendrickson worked as group assistants at Microsoft, while Howdeshell was a project co-ordinator, according to the complaint. All four workers had access to the free internal software programme, it is alleged.

Contini worked for Microsoft from September 1999 to February 2002, while Howdeshell worked there from May 2000 to October 2001. Clark worked for the company from June 1992 until last month, and Hendrickson worked there from March 2000 until June 2002.

The government also alleged that Contini ordered 5,400 software products worth $17m through the employee programme, while Howdeshell ordered 985 products worth $4m. Clark allegedly ordered 618 products worth $1.7m, and Hendrickson ordered 1,726 products worth $9.7m. Overall, the value of the alleged thefts was about $32.4m, according to the complaint.

The software included copies of Microsoft Windows XP Professional, Windows Advanced Server 2000, Exchange Server Enterprise 2000, SQL Server 2000 and SharePoint Portal Server 2001.

The government claimed that the four former employees earned more than $3m from the sale of the products to middlemen, who then sold them on the secondary market.

Todd R Weiss writes for Computerworld


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