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Computer Parts Scam Involved Lab Computers

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A caller or callers pretending to place orders for computers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories managed to fraudulently acquire over $1 million worth of parts in hundreds of phone calls to Dell Computers, according to court documents.

The caller identified himself as Andy Tyler more than 600 times between 2007 and 2009, using serial numbers of the lab computers to place orders.

Several hundred names were provided in all, but “a pattern emerged that indicated relatively few people were likely responsible for all of the fraudulent activity,” says a sworn affidavit for a search warrant.

It appears a Dell Computers security agent broke the scheme and two Albuquerque men, Ronald Campos and Allan Friedt, were indicted last May on 131 state counts each of fraud up to $20,000. They have entered not guilty pleas.

An October 2010 search warrant gave law enforcement permission to look into the Yahoo account of Campos, a private computer sales and service co-owner.

The details available about the alleged fraud are provided in the search warrant affidavit, though it is not clear what part Friedt is believed to have played.

According to the affidavit:

The U.S. Secret Service got the case in February 2010 from the Albuquerque Police Department, which had been contacted by Don Samuels, a Dell security investigator.

Samuels had been looking into fraudulent orders requesting replacement parts for computers that had been shipped to valid Dell customers. The primary account holders were Sandia and Los Alamos national labs — even though the computer parts were being shipped elsewhere.

Dell became aware of the fraudulent orders in October 2009, but they had been going on since Feb. 6, 2007. Dell stopped all shipments to the suspect addresses and credited the accounts of valid customers. Dell also absorbed the cost of the shipped parts.

The shipped orders went to two Albuquerque addresses by private carrier — Campos’ private home at a Southwest Albuquerque address, where almost 2,700 orders were shipped, and a computer business in the 2400 block of Menaul, where 396 orders were sent. About $896,000 in parts were shipped to the addresses.

Only a couple of times did the person signing for the packages match the name of the caller placing the order.

“For instance,” the affidavit says, “out of the approximately 600 times that the name Andy Tyler was designated by the caller, there was only one instance where that name was used to sign for the packages.”

Different phone numbers were used to place the orders, and when Dell could capture the numbers, they almost never matched. “The phone numbers varied wildly on a call-by-call basis,” the affidavit says. The phone number captured most frequently was associated with Campos’ home address.

Dell thought it had ended the fraudulent activity by stopping deliveries to the two addresses, but the orders resumed in May 2010.

“They continued the pattern of mainly using Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratory computer serial numbers,” but asked that they be shipped to a new address, a business complex on Washington SE. This time, the surname Thomas was used repeatedly — 59 times with the name Lee Thomas, a dozen times with the name Jim Thomas, and others with 13 other first names.

The Secret Service began surveillance of the Washington street business and linked up vehicles with the Campos addresses.

By July 2010, Samuels had found an additional 1,287 orders shipped to Campos’ home over a four-year period ending in 2006 and totaling $389,611, and $13,000 in orders from March through July 2010.

According to the affidavit, agents followed a Sept. 28, 2010, fraudulent order placed with Dell by an Adam Garcia for three computers belonging to Sandia. They followed the FedEx delivery from Washington to the PNM building in Downtown Albuquerque, where they saw Campos drive down an alley and throw cardboard boxes into a Dumpster.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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