Complaint vs. Office Depot & U.S. Communities
TO STATE OF ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL
Office Depot, inc., including its affiliates and/or agents, has engaged in deception, fraud, false promise, misrepresentation, unfair practices, and/or the concealment, suppression, or omission of material facts in connection with the sale of office products to ALABAMA governmental entities and nonprofit or charitable entities, and such was done in conspiratorial concert with U.S. Communities its affiliates and/or agents thereof.
BAY AREA NEWS
Attorney General Investigating Office Depot
Company accused of overcharging public agencies, including Berkeley and San Francisco
By JACKSON WEST
Updated 4:23 PM PDT, Tue, Aug 4, 2009
Next time you think to complain about wasteful government spending, you might note that privateers sometimes try to profit from public contracts.
Office Depot is being investigated for widespread overbilling, and has already paid $2.5 million back to the State of California.
In Berkeley, an audit concluded that the company had overcharged the city for supplies, and has had to pay back $289,000.
A former employee is accusing the company in a civil suit of asking him to falsify records in order to coverup the excess money charged to Berkeley.
And the National Office Products Alliance, a trade association, has called on the state attorney general to investigate US Communities, a government purchasing cooperative based in Walnut Creek which does some business with Office Depot, over allegations that it has received $20 million in so-called "kickbacks." A representative of US Communities says the allegations are "baseless" and a "total misrepresentation" of the nonprofit's role in facilitating contracts.
Beyond California, Office Depot is being investigated in Florida, Missouri, Texas, Colorado, Ohio and by the nation's General Services Administration, the Department of Defense and Department of Education.
San Francisco is currently conducting its own audit, and is looking for a new office supply provider.
So much for assuming that big box shops like Office Depot always offer the best prices.
Attorney General Investigating Office Depot | NBC Bay Area
Aug 4, 2009 ... Company accused of overcharging public agencies, including Berkeley and San Francisco ... Beyond California, Office Depot is being investigated in Florida ... ink should be reason enough for a full federal investigation. ...
http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/politics/... - - Cached - Similar pages
Jul 6, 2009 11:52 am US/Mountain
Colorado AG Investigates Office Depot Pricing
DENVER (CBS4) ?
Office Depot may have been cheating school districts out of money. The company acknowledges it is under investigation by the Colorado attorney general's office.
The probe involves a major contract between Office Depot and the purchasing agent for public agencies in Colorado. Allegations have been made about "bait and switch" tactics on the pricing of items to institutions.
The company provides supplies to school districts in Colorado and throughout the country under a national contract negotiated through an organization called U.S. Communities.
The detailed criminal complaint was filed by a former Office Depot account manager David Sherwin. It states that the company engaged in trickery and deception, resulting in fraudulent overcharges.
"The state of Colorado is one of the 10 states that has been impacted the greatest in the United States," Sherwin said.
In North Carolina an audit found a $300,000 overcharge of state agencies. In California Office Depot paid $2.3 million to settle allegations of overcharges. Georgia terminated its $40 million contract after finding problems in pricing.
The Cherry Creek School District discovered irregularities in prices charged by Office Depot about a year and a half ago and has since resolved the issue.
In a statement to CBS4 the company wrote that it is aware with the Colorado attorney general's investigation and "will cooperate fully."
There is also a federal investigation. It is reportedly focused on purchases from Office Depot by the Department of Defense and the General Services Administration.
Colorado AG Investigates Office Depot Pricing - cbs4denver.com
Jul 6, 2009 ... Office Depot may have been cheating school districts out of money. The company acknowledges it is under investigation by the Colorado attorney general's office . ... Inside a Denver-area Office Depot store. CBS. Click to enlarge ... In a statement to CBS4 the company wrote that it is aware with the ...
http://cbs4denver.com/investigates/Offic... - 60k - Cached - Similar pages
Ex-Office Depot worker says company asked him to falsify records on Berkeley overcharges
By Doug Oakley
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 07/28/2009 03:20:22 PM PDT
A Fremont man, claiming he lost his job at Office Depot because he refused to falsify data that showed the company overcharged the city of Berkeley hundreds of thousands of dollars, is suing the office-supply giant in federal court.
Earl Ante, a former Office Depot salesman, seeks unspecified damages for lost wages, benefits, mental distress and punitive damages. He filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco about the same time the owner of a rival office-supply store in Hercules used purchasing records she obtained through a public records request to show Berkeley officials that Office Depot overcharged the city $289,000 from early 2007 to early 2009.
Berkeley officials conducted their own investigation of the city's contract with Office Depot and came to the same conclusion. Office Depot paid back the city in April.
In a letter to Berkeley Councilman Kriss Worthington, who helped uncover the Office Depot overcharges, Ante's attorney said he will subpoena city records relating to the contract and depose "the most knowledgeable person in connection with these allegations."
If Ante's allegations prove true, he deserves a pat on the back for refusing to alter the data, Worthington said.
"It's wonderful to learn that some employee would have the ethics to not just do what he was ordered to do," Worthington said. "Based on what he is claiming, it seems like if he had gone along and changed the records, the city might not have this info, so we're lucky he didn't do it if that's what he was asked. They should be grateful to an employee who is honest."
Office Depot's legal woes since have escalated, and the company says it is cooperating with attorneys general in California, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Colorado and Ohio regarding contract discrepancies. It is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Defense, Department of Education and the General Services Administration.
According to the suit filed by Ante in January, he was laid off Nov. 21. The suit claims that Ante had no knowledge Berkeley was being overcharged. When Office Depot learned that Berkeley was about to audit its contract, the suit says Ante's manager "directed him to alter data on his company computer with respect to the record of transactions between the City of Berkeley and the defendant."
Ante's lawyer, John McMorrow, was out of town and unavailable for comment.
Office Depot declined to comment on the lawsuit. On Tuesday, the company reported a net loss of $82 million in the second quarter on a 22 percent decline in sales.
The uproar over the fraudulent overcharging by Office Depot in California exploded today with accusations flying back and forth between Office Depot and the attorney for the fired Depot employee (Earl Ante).
Office Depot blames employee for Berkeley overcharges
Salesman claims he was told to falsify charges
By Doug Oakley
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 08/07/2009 10:10:33 AM PDT
Updated: 08/07/2009 10:53:54 AM PDT
Office Depot blames a former Fremont salesman for overcharging the city of Berkeley $289,000 for office products after the man sued the company saying he lost his job for refusing to falsify data in the case.
In April, Office Depot repaid the city after an investigation of the city's contract revealed the overcharges. Office Depot is facing similar problems with its contracts all over the country. Attorneys general in six states and three federal agencies are investigating the office supply giant for contract overcharges.
The salesman, Earl Ante, says in his lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco that he lost his job in the fall after he refused orders to falsify data in the company computer when the company found out Berkeley was about to audit its contract.
Office Depot initially declined to comment on the suit but decided to break its silence on its investor-relations Web site with a full-on assault against Ante.
"(A)ny overcharges to the City of Berkeley were caused by Mr. Ante himself, who was responsible for managing that relationship," the posting states.
The statement also says that Ante gave Berkeley officials paperwork showing a 55 percent discount on office products, but then gave Office Depot paperwork showing only a 10 percent discount.
"Mr. Ante proceeded to service the City of Berkeley account for two years without correcting his error," the post says.
In addition, the post says Ante was laid off in November as part of companywide layoffs of 200 people.
But Ante's lawyer, John McMorrow of Fremont, said he has documents showing that Ante's Office Depot supervisor told him to falsify the data in the overcharges to Berkeley.
"He received the instructions (to falsify data) on Oct. 24 at 1:05 p.m. on a Friday, and he refused to comply," McMorrow said.
"The following Monday he attempted to access the company's computer system only to find out he was locked out of the system. He then e-mailed his boss from his wife's computer and confirmed the content of the conversation (about falsifying data) they had on Friday."
When Ante lost his job a month later, McMorrow said, he was offered a severance package, but he refused it because he would have had to sign an agreement forbidding him to sue the company.
McMorrow said the suit is set for trial in May, but the two sides have been ordered to mediation starting Thursday.
Fort Myers, Florida
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