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10 Charged For Bilking Xerox In $4 Million Forklift Fraud

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 4:18am
Ben Dobbin, AP Business Writer

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — Seven mechanics at Xerox Corp.'s manufacturing hub in upstate New York and three owners of a forklift company were charged Thursday with bilking the printer and copier maker out of an estimated $4.1 million.

Over five years, four current and three former employees who maintained Xerox's forklift fleet in suburban Rochester ordered forklift parts from Clarkson Auto Electric Co. in nearby Brockport that were not delivered or sent out parts for repairs that weren't carried out, federal officials said.

The firm's owners billed Xerox between 2002 and 2007 for supposedly broken parts that were simply repackaged and sent back to be reinstalled, and the Xerox workers took unspecified kickbacks in return, U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr. said.

"The lesson here is that all companies large and small need to keep a close eye on the people and contractors you employ," Hochul said. "It's important to know exactly who they are, what they are doing and for what and how much you're paying for."

An internal investigation taken up by Xerox in 2007 was turned over soon afterward to federal authorities, Xerox spokesman Bill McKee said.

The mechanics, ranging in age from 40 to 51, were charged with mail fraud and conspiracy along with the owners of Clarkson Auto Electric — Anthony Fretto, 72, his 46-year-old son, Gerald, and Matthew Lavilla, 66.

Anthony and Gerald Fretto did not immediately return messages left on their home answering machines. Lavilla's number is not listed. There was no answer at Clarkson Auto Electric.

If convicted, the 10 men could each draw up to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $250,000. They all pleaded not guilty at arraignments in U.S. District Court on Thursday afternoon and were freed without bail being set.

About 7,000 of Xerox's 130,000 employees worldwide work in the Rochester region.

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