Michael W. Baxter was sentenced to serve four years in federal prison by Senior U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester on charges of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to steal millions of dollars in high-value network communications equipment from Cisco Systems Inc. and his employer, Verizon Wireless, while employed as a Verizon network engineer between 2000 and 2010.
Baxter, 62, was sentenced to four years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2,333,241 in restitution to Cisco Systems and $462,828 in restitution to Verizon. Baxter was indicted on the charges on Dec. 6, 2011, and convicted on Feb. 16 upon his guilty plea.
“Telecommunications networks are a vital part of our infrastructure, supporting governments, health and emergency services, and businesses throughout this nation and the world,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates in a statement.
“To accomplish his fraud, this defendant exploited a program designed to keep this critical infrastructure running uninterrupted: Cisco’s program for replacing expensive equipment on a moment’s notice. He also abused his insider access to Verizon’s procurement system. He funded a lavish lifestyle with his stolen funds, and has now earned himself several years in a federal prison.”
The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Beginning at least as early as 2001 and continuing until he was terminated by Verizon Wireless in May 2010, the FBI found that Baxter submitted hundreds of fraudulent service requests on behalf of Verizon Wireless through Cisco Systems’ online customer service database.
In response, Cisco Systems shipped millions of dollars in parts to Baxter at Verizon Wireless from various Cisco Systems distribution centers throughout the United States.
The service requests were fraudulent in that no parts needed to be replaced, authorities said. Instead of placing the replacement parts into service in Verizon Wireless’ network, they said Baxter simply took them home and sold them to third-party re-sellers for his own profit.
He used the money from the sale of equipment to buy jewelry, cars, extravagant international travel, and other personal luxury goods and services, including multiple cosmetic surgeries for his girlfriend, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.