E-mail Cache Alerted Apple, Provided Details of Kickback Scheme

It was cached e-mail that tipped off Apple about a kickback scheme the company accused one of its managers of engaging in, according to court documents covered by IDG News. Apple found files cached on a company-supplied laptop that was issued to Paul Shen Devine, the manager so accused, and those files included very detailed information on how the scheme was worked.

According to those court documents, one company alone paid Mr. Devine more than US$1 million over three years. Jin Li Mould Manufacturing was given information about its competitors that allowed the company to submit winning bids for Apple contracts.

Andrew Ang, the co-conspirator named in the lawsuit from Apple against Mr. Devine, was an employee of Jin Li Mould Manufacturing, and he was paid 15 to 20 percent of the kickbacks by Mr. Devine. According to the court documents, the two kept a detailed spreadsheet of their payments, and that spreadsheet was among the files found in the e-mail cache.

Another company has allegedly paid Mr. Devine a $6,000 per month consulting fee since February of 2007. South Korea-based Cresyn, a maker of earphones, microphones, digital camera modules, and other electronic components, was allegedly given sales forecasts for unreleased iPod and iPhone models, product roadmaps, sales reports and details of problems being encountered by Cresyn’s competitors in exchange for the fees. The company then used that information to submit winning bids to Apple.

Though he was nabbed in part due to e-mail-related communications, Mr. Devine was seemingly aware of the risks associated with communicating by e-mail. Court documents included a quote from an e-mail written by Mr. Devine to Cresyn saying, “I received your e-mail on my Apple account. Please avoid using that e-mail as Apple IT team will randomly scan e-mails for suspicious e-mail communications for forecast, cost and new model information.”

All in all, the court documents accused Mr. Devine of using 14 bank accounts in the U.S., South Korea, and Singapore so that he could receive his kickbacks in increments of less than $10,000. U.S. federal regulatory agencies are informed of any transaction over that amount, and it would appear as if Mr. Devine wanted to avoid being noticed by said authorities

At least one South Korean bank noticed him, however, and met with Mr. Devine to offer him VIP status due to his transactions. According to an e-mail in the court documents, he told a contact at Kaedar Electronics, another company Apple said paid Mr. Devine kickbacks, Shinhan Bank offered him such status.

What the court documents do not reveal is why Apple went looking on his hard drive. The company took an image of the drive and its forensics team found the incriminating files in caches on that drive.