Sucheta Dalal :OUT-SCOURGE
Sucheta Dalal

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OUT-SCOURGE  

Feb 1, 2006



FUGITIVE FINANCIER'S STOCK FRAUD SCAM GETS PERSONAL

 

OUT-SCOURGE

By CHRISTOPHER BYRON

 

FOR the past two months this column has been chronicling the Krakatoa-like eruptions of fraud, forgery and identity theft that have been darkening the sky over New Jersey in the bankruptcy proceedings of a North Brunswick computer company called Allserve Systems Corp.

 

Allserve, which claimed (for a time) to be world leader in the booming computer-based business of corporate outsourcing, is the plaything of Dinesh Dalmia, a rogue financier from Calcutta. Last week the company brought evidence of one of Dalmia's most remarkable, and scary talents — a Zelig-like ability to dress himself in the camouflaging identity of virtually any person or company that comes near him.

 

Latest example: An unlisted cell phone number that was issued by then-Nextel Communications in April 2002 to a Bronx security guard, Gilberto Alvarez.

 

Last week, Alvarez's cell phone number was discovered in the bankruptcy files of one of Allserve's creditors, where it adorned an invoice seeking $1.3 million from the subsidiary of a Cincinnati-based software company called Cincom Systems — with the money to flow to a company secretly controlled by Dalmia.

 

This was all astonishing news to Alvarez, who insists that he knows nothing of Dalmia or the Allserve affair, and said he has no idea how his cell phone number turned up on the invoice.

 

Dalmia certainly knows the answer to that question if no one does. But like the rest of Allserve's largely Indian-born top brass, he's reported to have left the country and returned to India — leaving behind the mystery of Alvarez's cell phone number along with a lava flow of bank fraud, forgery and money laundering that now stretches from New Jersey to Singapore.

 

The invoice itself — ostensibly issued by Allserve supplier IGTL Solutions (USA) Inc. — is actually a tissue of lies, and the bankruptcy case file contains at least a dozen more like it, from its hoaked-up and bogus logo to its make-believe street address. The invoice even includes what purports to be IGTL's main corporate switchboard number. In reality, the number belongs to Alvarez's cell phone.

 

The invoice, issued in June 2004, seeks payment for $1.3 million worth of enumerated computer equipment, and directs that payment be made to a bank account at the Franklin Park, N.J., branch of PNC Bank.

 

BEHIND this hoax lay more than a year of history, beginning with the incorporation of IGTL as a New Jersey shell company housed in Allserve's North Brunswick office and having Dalmia as its president. The company's name was chosen to match, word for word, the name of a separate, and fully functioning, computer vendor based in Arlington, Va.

 

The idea behind the brazen ploy — which amounted not simply to the theft of a single individual's identity but to that of an entire corporation — was to give the invoice enough legitimacy so that Cincom would pay the $1.3 million bill without thinking. And the scam worked, because a subsequent notation on the invoice indicates the charge was approved for payment.

 

The use of Alvarez's cell phone number on a forged invoice is now just one more thing for the FBI to investigate as its agents struggle to scope out the ever-widening dimensions of the Allserve bankruptcy and the chicanery of its buccaneering Mister Big, Dinesh Dalmia.

 

From the start, Dalmia's calling card has been the purloined identity — a disturbing fact when one considers that much of the growth in the outsourcing business is coming from U.S. banks, credit-card companies and other such financial services outfits, which are blithely outsourcing their customer billing and records-keeping work to offshore data-processing sweat shops run by men like Dalmia.

 

Now, the collapse of Allserve has brought to light a whole new demi-world of stolen corporate identities featuring Dalmia-linked fake and "mirror image" companies, each set up to facilitate swindles that have so far bilked close to $100 million from a long list of presumably savvy U.S. lenders.

 

In California and Delaware, investigators have uncovered Dalmia-controlled mirror image and fake companies designed to look — on paper at least — like clones of Allserve's own business partners. In Delaware, there's even a mirror image of Allserve itself — set up as part of a failed scheme to take over a Texas-based outsourcing company called Aegis Communications.

 

No company has been more shaken by this skullduggery than privately held Cincom, one of the nation's largest, oldest and most-respected software companies. Some of the others that got snookered are International Business Machines, CIT Group and Wells Fargo Bank.

 

Almost immediately after setting up Allserve in early 2003 as an outsourcing operation in the U.S., Dalmia set up a fake version of Cincom as a Delaware shell. But Cincom officials discovered it and threatened to sue, causing Dalmia to stop — at least temporarily.

 

But a year later, Dalmia began worming his way into Cincom all over again. This time it happened through a mid-level Cincom sales manager who has now been put on leave by the company and is thought by officials to be facing indictment for a variety of offenses involving payments to Dalmia-linked companies. Others at Cincom are believed to be targets as well.

 

In London, yet more forged invoices tied to Cincom have now surfaced. One seeks a $911,690 payment, in the name of a Santa Clara, Calif., company called Cincom Systems Inc., to an account at the same Franklin Park, N.J., branch of PNC Bank listed on the invoice containing Alvarez's cell phone number.

 

A search of California business records reveals no such company, but does disclose a resident named Anoop Kapoor, who has held positions as a top official at both the London and New Jersey Allserves.

 

For two-and-a-half years, The Post has been pretty much a voice alone in warning of Dalmia The Despicable's arrival in town and what it might lead to. Yet no one listened as he prepared to pick the pockets of U.S. corporations a hundred times his size, then skedaddle back to India.

 

Now readers of this column have been up close and personal with a man who epitomizes all that is worst in the scruple-free business climate of the developing world. So, isn't it time for us to say, "Enough's enough!" — and put an end to this nutty outsourcing racket once and for all?

 

JUST forget about the liberal whining over the millions of entry- level computer jobs that have been wiped out in the U.S. already by this foolhardy approach to cost-cutting. Instead, think only about Gilberto Alvarez, the Bronx security guard, and how lucky he was that Dalmia didn't get his hands on more than just his cell phone number.

 

Then ask yourself this: If we can't even catch a thug like Dalmia while he's parading around New York robbing us all blind, then how on earth will we ever catch him — or others like him — if we're dumb enough to hand him all the computerized records of value that we have, so that they never have to leave the safety of their own squalid, corrupt home countries to steal it in the first place?

 

Isn't that what this all comes down to . . . really . . . in the end? Not being hopelessly stupid about the same thing . . . twice? Say goodnight, Gracie, it's been fun.

 

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-- Sucheta Dalal



 



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