In 2010, I received an email from a man saying he got my information from a recruiter, and would like to discuss a possible position for me. Standard operating procedure in the industry really, nothing seemed out of the ordinary about any of it. I spoke briefly with the “recruiter” over the phone. She seemed to be reading off of a script, and wasn’t fully able to answer questions I asked. Again, not totally unusual.
The job seemed perfectly designed for me; I’d be a software engineer at a company specializing in ecommerce solutions for the automotive industry. Coming from a family of car-guys, but loving computers instead, this appeared to be a good fit.
The position would be contract to hire, with a 6 month contract. That was a tad unusual, but not too far out of the norm, so it didn’t immediately concern me. The more unusual part was that I’d be getting paid by the recruiter. Typically, the head hunters get a flat fee for finding someone for an open position. Or the company would hire an outside contractor to find people for a temporary project, lasting only a few months. But, I really wanted the job, so I accepted.
Things turned even more weird shortly after starting the job. I found out from my boss that my paychecks would be delayed by a month, or longer. Any questions or issues I had with the process, I was told to discuss with Mike, my boss, instead of the “recruiter” Kristine. I could never get a hold of Kristine via phone, she would only respond via email. Or occasionally discuss things with Mike, and he’d pass along a message from Kristine.
My alarm bells were starting to go off. Never a good sign, when they start going off they’re almost never wrong.
In my 20+ years of being a total computer geek, I’ve become quite adept at research. Most of us geeks typically are. I started digging into the recruiter company, “Pearlington LLC.” They were a business registered with California, originally as “Pearlington The Movie, LLC,” and had been working exclusively with my new employer, WHI Solutions (later to be acquired by ebay inc).
Pearlington LLC was registered by Michael Williams, my new boss. The website set up for the company was registered by Michael Williams.
I was shocked. Clearly my new boss had created an “outside” company to do the hiring, and was profiting from it. I didn’t know what exactly to do, and my contract was only a few months from expiring. I decided to wait it out, half convincing myself that maybe this was his old company and he was just working with a friend.
My paychecks starting having various complications, delays, mistakes, and other problems. Each time something happened, I’d send an email to “Kristine” and Mike would talk to me directly about it. Then I’d get a reply from “Kristine” saying something to the effect of “I hope Mike explained things to you.” So I dug up the headers of the emails.
The email account set up for the business was done through Yahoo, which at the time did not remove or hide the IP Address of the user sending the message. I believe this policy has changed since. I was able to find the IP Address of whoever was sending the messages. The IP Address was the same external IP used by our office.
Mike and Kristine were the same person. Mike was behind Pearlington LLC, and ripping off the company.
This had been going on for many years, and dozens of employees. Each time someone’s contract was up, Mike found an excuse to let them go and bring in someone else. Conservative estimates put his yearly intake from this operation well into the six figure range. This was on top of his already healthy salary from his position within the company. He was able to accomplish this scam by having nearly zero oversight. His direct boss was in the east coast office, and almost never came out here.
I learned a few months after he was terminated, that they had known about this scam for quite some time, and confronted Mike on at least one occasion about it. He denied involvement, lawyered up, and they didn’t have enough evidence against him to terminate his employment without a lawsuit that would win.
So they allowed it to continue, unabated.
After a number of delays and complications with my paycheck, “Kristine” offered direct deposit as an option. At this point, my contract was supposed to expire and I’d either be hired or let go. “Kristine” said the contract was extended, and Mike promised me a position at the end of the new contract. The contract was extended 5 times. I reached my limit of tolerance, and Mike had made a massive mistake with the direct deposit; it was really just a straight deposit done at a local branch for my bank, and unfortunately for Mike, each deposit had his full name attached.
This was the smoking gun.
Not knowing how far up the food chain this scam went, I took extreme precaution in setting up an email address that could no way be tied to me, and sent a message to all of the top brass in the company. They replied almost instantly, promising me that I was protected as a whistleblower, and they know that he’s been running this scam for a long time.
I gave them the emails showing the IP Address, the corporation information showing Pearlington LLC was registered by Michael Williams, the WHOIS data showing he had registered the domain for the company in his name, and a list of the deposits he made showing his name and/or Pearlington LLC as the entity making deposits into my bank account. I had a few other miscellaneous details as well, but those were the big bullet points.
Michael Anthony Williams was terminated from WHI Solutions just a few weeks after I handed over all the information I had gathered.
My manager, and his boss credited me with helping to finally remove Mike from the position of being able to swindle the company, and it’s employees, out of millions of dollars.
In fact, Mike underpaid me. There was a difference between what the contract said I would be paid, versus what I actually ended up getting paid. I initially thought this was due to taxes, but at the end of the contract I found out I was 1099. The difference was $5 per hour, which doesn’t seem like much, but it totals out to over $12,000 that Michael Williams still owes me to date.
He owes far more to many other people. I got paid in satisfaction, knowing I helped remove a con artist from taking advantage of people and saving my new employer potentially millions of dollars.