Tardy Patriotism or Greedy Extortion

Tardy Patriotism or Greedy Extortion? You Decide.

This is the third post in this 6 part series, telling the story of my Victimless Indictment… How Two Employees Stole Micfo’s Trade Secrets and Confidential Information

Context

Victoria Latham worked as my personal assistant from January 2017 till being discharged on May 7, 2018. Erinn Larkin was hired as People Operations Manager and as a key manager of Micfo’s culture in January 2017 and resigned on May 1, 2018.

I entrusted both women with my most confidential information, both personal and business. They also enjoyed extreme flexibility in terms of when they came and went from the office, and, because I believed in their work and loyalty, each received a 20% raise + bonus at the first year mark, i.e. January 2018–months before they began their illicit activities with company information.

Proprietary Safeguards

Micfo is aTech company and like all other Tech companies, it takes trade secret and proprietary information very seriously.

As an example, here is Victoria’s offer letter, signed non-compete, and confidentiality agreements.

Being hired by Micfo required employees to:

  • Sign our non-compete and employment agreement. By signing these documents, an employee agrees to take Micfo’s confidential information very seriously, as you can see if you read the following provisions:
    • 3.6 Trade Secrets;
    • 4.2 Former Employer Information;
    • 4.5 Employee Confidentiality Obligations; and,
    • Exhibit A: Permitted Relationships with Competitive Business.
    • Read and agree to the standard of conduct in the Employee Handbook
  • Item C: Employee Conduct, specifically states the employee may not engage in the following actions:
    • Unauthorized possession of or removal of Company or another employees’ property;
    • Engaging in illegal conduct which, in Company’s sole judgment, is or potentially is detrimental to the reputation of the Company;
    • Committing a fraudulent act, dishonest act, breach of trust or violating the duty of loyalty to the Company in any circumstances; 
    • Failing to maintain confidential or proprietary information;
    • Standard company warnings about lack of privacy when using internet and email while at work, and;
    • That Micfo is an ‘at will’ company, meaning that termination can happen without cause.

Making unauthorized copies of confidential Micfo information

Erinn Larkin and Victoria Latham began making unauthorized copies of Micfo’s confidential information in March-April 2018, which we discovered during forensic analysis of their Micfo assets—laptop, workstation, etc. 

Not only had Erinn Larkin made unauthorized copies of highly confidential information, including full employees and HR files, but she had also breached her fiduciary duties by disclosing and emailing confidential employee-related matters to Victoria’s personal email.

The information they stole included: 

  1. Complete HR files, containing sensitive and private employee information such as copies of SSN cards, driver’s license, passport copies, banking information, medical records etc.
  2. Complete customer list including full name, address, financials, etc.
  3. Micfo’s marketing decks and collateral, trade secrets, intellectual properties, financials, tax returns, banking information, PayPal logins, online banking logins, bank statements, competitive analysis, copyrighted materials, etc.
  4. My personal financials, tax returns, online banking logins, statements, debit/credit card information;
  5. My family and children’s IDs, SSN cards, passport copies, etc.

Terminated

As a result of all this, Victoria’s employment was terminated May 7, 2018. It’s important to note that Victoria’s boyfriend, Shayne Estes, was a systems engineer for a competitor in Charleston.

Victoria signed this release and separation agreement on the day she left the office.

Attempted Extortion?

On May 24, 2018 Victoria sent multiple text messages to me, asking to have a meeting to discuss certain matters. She said:

I will take your silence as intent and will unfortunately have to pursue an avenue that I do not wish to, but will

Victoria Latham / May 24, 2018 [Source]

Forced into Legal Action

It was never Micfo’s intention to litigate. We simply wanted Victoria and Erinn to return the materials they had obtained illegally. We were worried that all that data in the wrong hands would be catastrophic for Micfo as well as current and past employees.

My mind raced to Identity Theft and what I had heard about the selling of people’s personal and banking information on the Dark Web for big money. (with stolen personal information criminals can file for fraudulent tax refunds, apply for credit cards, deplete victims’ financial accounts, etc.)

Our fiduciary duty towards both the company and our employees meant we needed to ensure that their information was safely guarded. My attorneys, Nelson Mullins, reviewed the messages. They agreed that it was an attempt to extort Micfo and starting on May 27, 2018, sent demand letters to both Victoria and Erinn asking them to return all the illegally copied materials.

Neither Victoria nor Erinn responded.

Sequence of Events

  • On May 29, 2018 Victoria met with the FBI and SA Matt Pinto to report Micfo.
  • On June 15, 2018 Micfo sued both women for breach of contract. Here is a copy of the lawsuit.
  • Erinn Larkin and Victoria Latham then filed counterclaims against Micfo. These documents contain countless false accusations of money laundering , tax evasion, and defrauding customers.

Also – they claimed immunity three months after stealing all this information under federal whistleblower laws, stating that their actions were the result of suspicions that Micfo was engaged in illegal activities. 

Interesting to note, Victoria and Erinn reported Micfo to the FBI only after

  1. Micfo refused to meet and; 
  2. After they were served with Micfo’s demand letters at the end of May

This makes an almost three month gap from the illegally copying of Micfo’s material until actual contact and meeting with the FBI.

So I can’t help but wonder…

  • If they were so concerned with illegal company activity, why did they need full HR files, employee banking information, IDs, and SSN cards?
  • Why didn’t they contact law enforcement in March/April 2018—i.e. when they began making and stealing copies of Micfo’s confidential information?
  • Why did they take the matter in their own hands and without consulting law enforcement, deciding to make unauthorized copies of Micfo’s trade secrets and so much more?

What do you think? Could this be a case of Tardy Patriotism, Greedy Extortion, or perhaps something else?

Please scroll down to the comments below and share your point of view on this compelling situation. And again, thanks so much for your enthusiastic support! I don’t know how I could have made through all this without the love and support of my family and friends. This is the first step in our creating community around Helping Every Loving Parent (HELP) to spend time with their children. Every story is important.

[Next in this Series]: FBI Seeks Golestan’s Assistance Re: Iranian Hacking Targeting U.S. Universities

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Written by Amir Golestan

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