50 million dollar fraud

Huge fraud found

by Duane Ausherman

The wrong connector found

Around the year 2000, I was working for Tek-Systems as an installer of cell site equipment in Northern California.  I worked on cell sites for about 17 years.  They are more commonly known as cell towers.

When I work on any cell site, I make it a practice to “look around”  to see what I can learn.  I was working on a project related to installing 2G equipment.  The power aspect had already been done.

It was not part of my contract work, but I opened the door to the many breakers that distributed power to the various pieces of equipment.  On a breaker for the future equipment on which I would soon be working, I noticed something odd.  The cable was a 4-0, which is a large one.  The usual shrink tubing covered the crimp on the connector.  I could see a minor line under the shrink tubing that was at an angle.  There should be nothing under shrink tubing at all, certainly nothing that would be at an angle.

Since I had the tools to cover it up again, I decided to remove the two attachment bolts so that I could cut them open for inspection.  This wasn’t my job, and I had no legitimate reason to look at this connector.  I cut the shrink tubing off and found some black tape.  No tape should be used for anything in that location.  I unwrapped the tape to find what you see in the photo.

The connector used was too small to accept the 4-0 wire, so someone had just cut away the extra strands of wire and tightly wrapped them with black tape.  The contracting firm doing this work saved a few dollars by using the wrong connectors.  The extra strands of wire were on the backside of the connector, proving that the installer knew it was wrong and tried to hide it.  The mistake was wrapping the black tape at an angle that showed up under the shrink tubing.

I was so disgusted at this huge infraction that I cut the 4-0 cable off as proof of this fraud.  I jumped out of the chain of command and called the head cell technician in charge of that area.  I informed him of this fraud.  He had a new boss, John Fye, that had recently arrived from the East coast and should hear of this fraud.   He scheduled a breakfast meeting for the next day.

John was quite shocked to see the cable that I presented.  He started an investigation into this fraudulent practice.  It was found to be widespread and much larger than anyone knew.  Many other infractions were found too.

A huge lawsuit was filed, and the resulting settlement was $50 million.  No, I didn’t get my whistleblower payment.

What I did get was a job offer a year later to go to work as an inspector/auditor for AT&T that lasted many years in one form or another.  I enjoyed that work a lot.

Updated 30 March 2023