Crooked Microsoft worker masterminded $7m racket

Stolen software financed life of luxury


A former Microsoft staffer yesterday pleaded guilty to conspiring with three others to run a massive software piracy ring that raked in millions through the sale of stolen software between April 2001 and November 2002.

Finn Contini, 36, of Redmond, Washington yesterday pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering, Reuters reports.

The former group assistant admitted personally making $2.3m through selling 2,700 items of software valued at $7m. The software, including SQL Server 2000 packages with a retail tag of $15,000, was obtained through Microsoft's internal ordering programme and sold to unscrupulous software distributors in Oregon and Virginia. The gang doctored the ordering systems to prevent transactions notices reaching their supervisors.

Contini is the one of four suspects charged in November 2004 over the racket. Also charged were Alyson Clark, 38, of Normandy Park; Christine Hendrickson, 34, of Bothell; and Robert Howdeshell, 40, of Puyallup. Clark and Howdeshell are due to enter pleas in the case tomorrow (Friday 28 January), the Seattle Times reports.

Contini faces up to 10 years of jail and a $250,000 fine for the money laundering offences, and up to five years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud at a sentencing hearing due on 3 June. He has already agreed to forfeit goods valued at $1.7m including four properties, gold and silver bars and coins, a 2003 Toyota Highlander, a 2002 Honda Civic, and more than $188,000 in cash and currency.

The case is one of several to feature abuse of Microsoft's internal ordering systems to emerge since 2002. Microsoft has hired investigators and revamped internal ordering system to prevent future scams. ®

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