A Kansas City construction company founded in the 19th century has fallen victim to a very 21st century kind of fraud, federal prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
Authorities charged Rodney J. Tatum Jr., 42, of Kansas City, North, with defrauding Clarkson Construction Co. out of more than $300,000. Tatum, who began working at Clarkson in 1991, was the firm’s director of information technology.
Clarkson, one of the region’s largest heavy contractors, was founded in Kansas City in 1880.
Over the last year, the charges say, Tatum purportedly used the company’s money to purchase hundreds of solid-state hard drives, almost two dozen iPhones and two Apple laptops. .
“To date, none of the $306,540.34 worth of computer and communication equipment has been located in Clarkson’s inventory,” an FBI agent wrote in a sworn statement filed with the charges. “It appears that Tatum has been reselling the equipment for personal profit.”
Investigators found that from mid-July 2013 to early August 2014, Tatum’s bank records showed almost $270,000 in electronic credits from PayPal, court records said.
Tatum also allegedly had his employer pay $4,200 to an Alabama shop that rebuilt his 500-horsepower motorcycle three times. The shop’s owner told FBI agents that Tatum paid for some of the repairs by upgrading the shop’s computer network, court records said.
The owner said he recently looked for invoices and emails from Tatum and could not find them. He told agents that he believed that Tatum left “open doors” in his computer network that allowed him to control security cameras in the shop and delete files remotely.
Authorities raided Tatum’s Northland home Wednesday morning. Tatum allegedly maintained access there to all of the construction company’s computer systems and records, including payroll, bidding and financial information.
“Clarkson is concerned that once Tatum is confronted with the apparent embezzlement, he will continue to have access to Clarkson’s computer system, websites and to its proprietary and customer data,” court records stated.
FBI agents conducted the raid on the first day of school “to minimize potential trauma” by making sure Tatum’s children were not home, court records said.
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