Search This Blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

Design, Measure, and Improve Your Customer Experience With The Customer Experience Book

In the race for the next customer, businesses have access to a mind-boggling array of technology ranging from social media to artificial intelligence and Big Data. These tools seem to offer businesses the opportunity to understand their customers like never before. Are they helping, though? Businesses now know more about their customers but are they missing something deeper? The Customer Experience Book: How to Design, Measure, and Improve Customer Experience in Your Business believes that we are.



Design, Measure, and Improve Your Customer Experience With The Customer Experience Book

Find Your Perfect Biz Event During Microsoft National Entrepreneurship Week

Some business events tend to cater to only specific types of businesses.
But there’s something for almost every business during Microsoft’s National Entrepreneurship Week. Taking place during the week of February 25, it includes events around the country and even online. So no matter where you or your business is located or what your business is looking for in an event, you can probably find something that’s of interest.


Find Your Perfect Biz Event During Microsoft National Entrepreneurship Week

10 Essential Ingredients of Successful Businesses

Have you ever wondered if there’s one most important technique or approach most small business owners use for success? There’s not! But there are some essential ingredients that go into building almost every successful small business. You can see some of those essential ingredients by checking out the list of tips from members of our small business community below.



10 Essential Ingredients of Successful Businesses

This Wine Company is Taking on Anheuser-Busch (Watch)

This Wine Company is Taking on Anheuser-Busch (Watch)

10 Tips to Protect Your Business and Customers on Data Privacy Day

Having information about clients and customers is important, but ensuring that private information remains secure might be just as vital to the health of a small business. That’s according to data professionals and others who are marking this year’s Data Privacy Day on January 28.
Many small businesses are not well prepared for the tricks that hackers use to extract data from their information systems or to deal with the fallout from such an occurrence, according to Bindu Sundaresan, a senior security professional for AT&T.


10 Tips to Protect Your Business and Customers on Data Privacy Day

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Four School Bus Company Owners Convicted for Bid Rigging and Mail Fraud Conspiracies Involving Puerto Rico Public School Bus Services

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 26, 2017

Four School Bus Company Owners Convicted for Bid Rigging and Mail Fraud Conspiracies Involving Puerto Rico Public School Bus Services

Following a week-long trial, a federal jury in Puerto Rico convicted four individuals for participating in bid rigging and fraud conspiracies at an auction for public school bus transportation services in Puerto Rico’s Caguas municipality, the Department of Justice announced.
Gavino Rivera Herrera, Luciano Vega Martínez, Alfonso Gonzalez Nevarez and René Garay Rodríguez were found guilty today in the U.S. District Court of the District of Puerto Rico, in San Juan, for conspiring to rig bids and allocate the market for public school bus transportation contracts in the municipality of Caguas from approximately August 2013 until May 2015.  Each individual was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of mail fraud for defrauding the municipality of Caguas to fraudulently obtain contracts for school bus transportation services.  Sentencing is set for May 30, 2017.
“These defendants enriched themselves at the expense of Puerto Rico schools and have been held accountable by a jury of their peers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brent Snyder of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The division will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure that school districts and other consumers benefit from competitive markets.”  
“These convictions should serve as a reminder that Federal law enforcement agencies intend to vigorously prosecute those who manipulate government bidding processes to enrich themselves illegally,” said U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez of the District of Puerto Rico.  “Federal law enforcement agencies will continue their ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute these crimes, in order to promote and protect free and fair competition in the marketplace.”
“The defendants’ actions in depriving the citizens of Caguas of the right to choose what is best for the transportation of their schoolchildren, while also putting the defendants’ own financial interests above those of equally deserving Puerto Rican business owners, were particularly harmful during these difficult economic times.” said Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Leff of the FBI’s San Juan Division.  “The FBI is grateful for its partnership with the Antitrust Division and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General for their endless dedication to protecting the rights of all businesses, large and small, to compete in a fair marketplace.”
“Today's action demonstrated that these business owners willfully and intentionally sought to enrich themselves at the expense of students and taxpayers.  That is unacceptable,” said Special Agent in Charge Yessyka Santana of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s Southeastern Regional Office.  “The Office of Inspector General will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue anyone who games the system for their own selfish purpose and protect these vital funds from this type of calculated plunder.”
According to evidence presented at trial, the four school bus company owners and other co-conspirators carried out the conspiracy by agreeing during meetings and communications to allocate contracts for transportation routes awarded by the municipality of Caguas.  Trial evidence showed that the conspirators submitted fraudulent certifications and received award letters by certified mail in connection with their conspiracy to defraud the Municipality of Caguas.
The defendants were convicted of bid rigging and market allocation in violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine for individuals.  The maximum fine may be increased to twice the gain derived from the crime or twice the loss suffered by the victims of the crime, if either of those amounts is greater than the statutory maximum fine.  They were also convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of mail fraud.  Each count of mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.   
Today’s conviction arose from a federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct in Puerto Rico’s school bus transportation services industry.  This investigation is being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section, the District of Puerto Rico U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI’s Puerto Rico Field Office and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General.  Anyone with information in connection with this investigation is urged to call the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal I Section at 202-307-6694, visit www.justice.gov/atr/contact/newcase.html or call the FBI’s Puerto Rico Field Office at 787-754-6000.

Businessman Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge For Conspiring to Take and Sell State Department Vehicles

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 26, 2017

Businessman Pleads Guilty to Federal Charge For Conspiring to Take and Sell State Department Vehicles

Defendant Admits Sharing Proceeds with State Department Vehicles

          WASHINGTON – The manager of an auto restoration and collision center pled guilty today to charges that he conspired with others to sell vehicles that were brought to the business by the U.S. Department of State, announced U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips, Steve A. Linick, Inspector General for the U.S. Department of State, and Timothy R. Slater, Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

          James Ratcliffe, 67, of Fairfax Station, Va., pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of conspiracy to commit theft of government property and wire fraud. The charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faces a potential range of 18 to 24 months of incarceration and a fine of $4,000 to $40,000. The plea agreement calls for Ratcliffe to pay $416,020 in restitution and an equal amount in a forfeiture money judgment.

          The Honorable Amit P. Mehta scheduled sentencing for May 3, 2017.

          According to a statement of offense, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Ratcliffe is the manager of the Car Collision Center, located in Springfield, Va. He and the owner of the Collision Center, who is identified in court documents as “Person A,” also have a license to sell automobiles in Virginia under the name of Collector’s Auto Restoration.

          Through the Car Collision Center, Ratcliffe and others performed legitimate work on vehicles for government agencies, including the U.S. Department of State. Vehicles that came to the Collision Center from the State Department were delivered by State Department employees. The Collision Center provided estimates for the work requested, and, if approved, employees of the Collision Center prepared work tickets, performed the work, and billed the State Department.

            Apart from legitimate work for the State Department, Ratcliffe admitted in the statement of offense that he conspired with a State Department employee, identified in court documents as “Person B,” who worked in the Defensive Equipment and Armored Vehicle Division, to misappropriate and sell vehicles and other State Department property. This employee was responsible for the acquisition, repair, and maintenance of armored vehicles. “Person B” also was involved in record-keeping with respect to the State Department’s armored vehicles.

            According to the statement of offense, on at least two occasions in 2011 and 2012, “Person B” caused truckloads of State Department tires and wheels to be delivered to the Collision Center. “Person B” told Ratcliffe that he could sell them and keep the proceeds. Ratcliffe kept the full proceeds of his sales, which amounted to at least $7,500.

            Also, beginning in or before June 2011, and continuing through at least November 2013, “Person B” and Ratcliffe took a Hummer and 12 Chevrolet Suburbans from the State Department motor pool; these vehicles were unarmored. They agreed that Ratcliffe would sell the vehicles and split the proceeds with “Person B.” Ratcliffe typically sold the misappropriated vehicles for at or near market prices. The total sales price of the misappropriated vehicles was $408,520, according to the statement of offense. Ratcliffe and “Person A” kept the majority of these proceeds for their personal benefit and the remainder went to “Person B.” Additionally, in 2015, “Person B” provided Ratcliffe with two unarmored Suburbans that Ratcliffe kept at his place of business or home. The base price of these vehicles was $48,200 each, for a total of $96,400. The two vehicles were recovered during a law enforcement investigation of the criminal activities.

            All told, the value of the property that Ratcliffe misappropriated through the schemes was at least $512,420.

            In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Phillips, Inspector General Linick, and Special Agent in Charge Slater commended the work of those who are investigating the case from the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Inspector General, as well as the FBI’s Washington Field Office. They also expressed appreciation for the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea L. Hertzfeld, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Vesna Harasic-Yaksic, and Paralegal Specialist Jessica Mundi. Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. Marston, who is prosecuting the matter.