box for mailing Above the Law Legal Blog.JPGWe’ve all done it: Use of office resources for personal purposes. Maybe you take the occasional personal call on your office telephone. Maybe you used the work fax machine to receive a one-page tax document from your accountant. Maybe you took some paperwork home with you one night, along with an office-issued ballpoint pen, and later used that pen to take down your mother’s chicken casserole recipe, as she read it to you over the phone.
If it’s de minimis use, then it’s okay. But this might have been, um, de maximus:

According to court records, while an attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Seth Zimmerman used his office’s Federal Express account to send Redskins tickets to eBay bidders….

The FTC says he cost the federal government $1,938. FedEx also says it lost $3,880 due to the discount shipping rate given to the federal government. According to the plea agreement, Zimmerman also profited by charging each buyer an additional $12 fee for the FedEx delivery.

Two grand strikes us as a sizable sum. But there is room for argument. Zimmerman might respond: “Come on, feds, lighten up! Isn’t that just, like, three Pentagon toilet seats — not even the padded kind?”
So how was the fraud detected? Was an elaborate investigation required?

In August 2004, investigators at the Office of Inspector General for the FTC were contacted by people complaining that tickets they bought from Zimmerman on eBay were never delivered.

What could have been some difficult Internet sleuthing was made easier because Zimmerman used his FTC e-mail address to set up his eBay account. The inspector general subpoenaed records from eBay showing that Zimmerman had been buying and selling tickets on the site since 2001.

Seth, it’s called Gmail. Try it, you might like it.
(Yes, we know: even if Zimmerman had used Gmail, if he used it from his work computer, messages could still be traced back to him using his IP address. But at least then the investigators would have WORK a little to uncover his identity, instead of having it served up on a silver platter.)
Penalty Box: FTC Lawyer No ‘Overnight Sensation’ [Legal Times (pass-through link) via NYLawyer.com]


comments sponsored by

1 comment (hidden for your protection) Show all comments