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‘A wink and a nod’ can’t rename high-tech government bribes

Raushi Conrad was a longtime, well-liked U.S. federal government high-tech specialist. He bucked the stereotype of the aloof, arrogant IT worker. But an anonymous email led to an investigation that showed he’d committed a one-man $1 million internal fraud scheme that involved chicken restaurants, computer viruses and “wink-and-a-nod” briberies. Here’s how to fend off similar high-tech crimes.

Raushi Conrad was a long-serving IT specialist at the U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters in Washington, D.C. Conrad, as the director of systems operation and security, supported the operations of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), a high-tech organization that regulated the export of technology to other countries within the Commerce Department. It also conducted criminal investigations into illegal exports of U.S.-origin goods that could be used for terrorism, human rights violations or to develop weapons of mass destruction programs. Conrad had an easygoing style, and people liked him.

His façade began to fall in April 2011, when the Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General hotline received an anonymous email tip indicating a conflict of interest between Conrad, who was overseeing a data migration project for BIS, and the owner of the contracted company, ironically named Team America Inc.

The tipster alleged that Conrad, who also owned two fast-food chicken restaurants, was receiving some construction work paid for by Team America’s owner. One of the chicken restaurants — the Chicken Place Express — was about two blocks from the main Commerce Department headquarters in downtown D.C. The tip noted that “Mr. Conrad is hiring associates to perform the work for BIS [through Team America and other companies] and may be receiving some sort of financial benefit.”

The tip didn’t contain specifics, or include any supporting documents, but it was enough to begin an investigation.

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