ALPHARETTA, Ga. – An Alpharetta Verizon employee was convicted Feb. 16 of defrauding both Verizon and Cisco out of millions over 10 years to fund a lavish lifestyle. He was sentenced Oct. 3.
Michael W. Baxter, 62, of Ball Ground, was sentenced to serve four years in federal prison 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 network engineer for Verizon between 2000 and 2010.
“He abused his insider access to Verizon’s procurement system,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “He funded a lavish lifestyle with his stolen funds and has now earned himself several years in a federal prison.”
Between 1994 and 2010, Baxter was employed in Alpharetta as a network engineer at the southeastern regional headquarters of Verizon Wireless. During that time, Verizon had warranties on intricate parts for their systems that, should they ever need replacing, Cisco would ship the replacements before receiving the broken parts. This was to try and keep the systems working as continuously as possible.
Authorized Verizon employees could make service requests and order replacement parts through Cisco’s online customer service database.
Beginning at least as early as 2001 and continuing until he was terminated by Verizon Wireless in May 2010, Baxter submitted hundreds of fraudulent service requests using Cisco’s online customer service database. In response, Cisco Systems shipped millions of dollars in parts to Baxter at Verizon Wireless.
Instead of placing the replacement parts into service in Verizon Wireless’ network, Baxter simply took them home and sold them to third-party re-sellers for his own profit.
In addition to this, between 2000 and 2009, Baxter fraudulently caused Verizon Wireless to purchase nearly a half-million dollars in expensive network communications equipment from Cisco Systems outright, which Baxter also took home and sold to third-party re-sellers for his own profit. Baxter then used the proceeds from the sales to buy jewelry, cars, extravagant international travel and other personal luxury goods and services, including multiple cosmetic surgeries for his girlfriend.
Baxter was sentenced to four years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $2.3 million in restitution to Cisco Systems and $462,828 in restitution to Verizon.