Dead Solid Pluperfect

A Hot Buttered Guff™ Production

Arbortext Royalty Fraud: Chapter Ten

The Disappearance of $4,000,000

 “You got a minute?” Mary asked.

I smiled and closed the computer file I was working on. Having a “sec” might mean only a minute, but having a “minute” always meant considerably more. It was when she said, “We’ve got to talk,” that it was time to close up shop for the day.

“I discovered a  product called Intermarket.

“Our product is Interchange.

“Right. Intermarket is another product.”

“I’m entering into Inter-overload.”

“Just pay attention.”

She handed me three print out pages. One was an Arbortext announcement concerning Intermarket‘s imminent release and extolling its import/export capabilities (without, of course, extolling the import/export authors), among other business type bafflegab. The second announced the product’s release and its availability for purchase, showing two cute, clean, business people clasping each other in a handshake. And the third was an announcement, six months later, that one P. G. Barlett, an Arbortext marketing bigwig, was hawking the product at a big New York trade show.

“It’s a product all right,” I said. “I take it that it doesn’t appear on our royalty reports.”

“Not a one,” she said. “Now take a gander at this.”

She flourished out one more piece of paper. It was a Resume, posted on the web by a Zoltan Gombosi. Mr. Gombosi, according to the resume, had been the lead engineer of a team of eleven programmers who had specifically worked on this Intermarket catalog management product for Arbortext, beginning in April of 2000 and concluding in November 2001. According to Mr. Gombosi, this Intermarket product had sold a million dollars in pre-sales and had sold over $4,000,000 worth before the project was eventually abandoned in late 2001.

“How much would our royalties be for this?” Mary asked.

Four million would bump us from the 10% category down to the 5% category. (See Exhibit A, Appendix C.) Why my ex-partner had negotiated a diminishing royalty percentage as success increased was definitely a puzzle for brain chemists to discern. In universes unvisited by Dwan like substances, payments increased with success, not lessened. At any rate, I responded, “Somewhere around  $200,000.”

“So despite our recent royalty recovery of over $30,000 in previously missing sales, this particular product is still missing and it’s a whopper. For Blueberry, anyway. Petty cash to them, I suppose.”

“Gombosi was working on Intermarket three months before we even signed the contract with Arbortext. Before I even finished my work on Interchange. Before Epic 4.1 was released. Those thieving little crooks. They intentionally left this product out of Appendix B, which lists the products we would be incorporated into. Wow. They meant to rip us off from day effing one.”

“No wonder they jumped so fast when you threatened to stop work. They would have had to return any advance sale money. Not good for their bank account or their company image. You had them over a barrel.”

“Too bad I didn’t know that.”

“I think that was your partner’s job. All it took was a little Internet research to discover it.”

 “They planned to just give us a few small Epic Editor sales and keep the big ones to themselves. What a bunch of crooks.”

“Makes you wonder about the other companies you had contracts with in the past, doesn’t it?”

“You’re depressing me. You think they all cheated us?”

“Dwan handled them all. He makes an inviting target.”

“Maybe he only got dumb recently.”

“Dumber, maybe. But some part of dumb was always there. It’s not like a medical condition. It’s a brain condition.”

“I don’t get it. He’s a smart guy. Always has been. Smart as hell. Smarter than me, by far.”

“That’s not a large achievement.”

“Hey! I got a college degree, you know.”

“They gave you one to get rid of you. My two years of college were worth more than your four. Besides, there’s book smart and life smart. His life peaked when he took his last college exam.”

 “Two hundred thousand potatoes,” I mused. “Can you believe the thieving gall of these assholes?”

Mary pointed a stern finger at me. “Don’t you even think about whatever it is you’re thinking about doing.”

Apparently, some sort of hissing noise was emanating from the top of my head.

“I won’t do anything,” I said.

“You promise?”

“I swear.”

“Don’t swear.”

“I promise.”

“Good. I’m going to call Mr. Gombosi and verify his resume and that Interchange was included in this Intermarket product.”

Mary gathered her papers and left the room and I sat there staring out the window and performed doing nothing. Nothing visible, at any rate. Inside my head, however, I was hauling a trunk down from the attic with my Rambo equipment stored inside while Mary and the children pleaded with me to stop. But I had my face set in stone, spinning the revolver chambers, sighting down the barrels, checking the shotgun shells, strapping on the cartridge belts, lacing up my stomping boots, painting grease under my eyes, and heading out to start up my faithful old truck for the long drive to Michigan.

Ten years of mortgage payments sitting there in Jim Sterken’s hidden royalty pocket. Was he skimming these payments due off the top? Was he reporting these payments due on his Cost of Goods line on the company financials? If not, and how could he since we didn’t get paid, wouldn’t this be a case of inflating net profits to dupe the public into becoming prospective stock buyers? Were we the only vendor he was cheating or was this just business as usual at Arbortext? One thing was obvious. Prying that money owed out of his thieving pocket was going to be a Herculean task.

I decided to take a walk. It had worked for Mr. Saia, what the heck.

We lived at the base of a ridge of small hills that threaded its way through Concord, California and on out to Clayton and the majestic Mount Diablo mountain. This ridge of hills, called Lime Ridge, was protected as “Open Space.” Cute. They made for a fine walk, for sure. Or you could fly a model airplane or run your dog. At the top of the ridge, you could see out across Concord, Walnut Creek, and Pleasant Hill and on to the horizon of the Oakland Hills.

I sat under a lone tree at the top of the ridge and pondered the imponderable. I admit I snuck a peek at the surroundings from time to time just in case the Blessed Mother was in the vicinity. I could sure use a little heavenly pat on the old aching back right about now. I figured I was certainly as unlikely a useless crud bucket as Mr. Saia, not that he was a crud bucket or useless, that was my specialty. But just that he wasn’t, like, a Holy person or anything. Just an ordinary guy getting his balls ripped off. Certainly we had that much in common. Ah, Blessed Mother, couldn’t you just sit down here beside me for a couple of seconds and spread some of that warm love through me?

That’s the problem, though. I never could pray worth a shit.

If Arbortext could stiff us for Intermarket, an entire big ass product, we were going to have hell to wade through to ever force them to be honest.

Anger gave way to depression. If I stunk at praying, this was not the case with anger and depression, at which I was a virtuoso. I could steam about things for days and wallow in self-pity equally as long. Throw in some booze, and I could go weeks and months slogging around in the mud of these pathetic character flaws.

I slunk down off the ridge and back to our home. Mary had lunch waiting for me. A sandwich with all the bells and whistles — lettuce, tomatoes, pickles — the whole 100% deli/Dagwood deal. With a watermelon wedge on the side.

I gave her a hug and sat down to gobble.

“Zombosi verified that Intermarket included Interchange,” Mary said. “They discontinued the product because other companies had similar technologies and Arbortext didn’t want to compete.”

“How sad,” I said. “But they still owe us $200,000.”



See Exhibit E for Zoltan Gombosi’s resume. See Exhibit F for the Intermarket evidence. Arbortext would claim in the future, and still does to this day, that this product was “never developed and never sold.”

It has never been reported to Blueberry, that’s for sure.

If, as Arbortext and Jim Sterken strenuously claimed, the royalty reports were accurate and honestly reflected the Arbortext accounting books, then where did all that money go?

 To be continued . . .

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June 23, 2008 - Posted by | Business, Law, Life, News, Software, Technology, Writing | , , , , , , ,

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