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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Clarkson Construction Employee Charged with Embezzling at least $300,000


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the former director of information technology for Clarkson Construction Company has been charged in federal court with a mail fraud scheme in which he embezzled more than $300,000 from the company.

Rodney J. Tatum, 43, of Kansas City, Mo., was charged with one count of mail fraud in a federal criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. Tatum was arrested at his residence this morning and an initial court appearance is scheduled for 3 p.m. today.

Clarkson Construction Company is one of the Midwest’s largest construction companies. Clarkson specializes in large-scale construction projects such as highways, interstates, bridges, and sport facilities. Clarkson employs approximately 130 full-time employees and approximately 650 hourly employees. Clarkson’s 2013 revenue was approximately $250 million.

Tatum has been employed by Clarkson since 1991 and has been Clarkson’s director of information technology since 2003. In this role, he oversees all of Clarkson’s IT activities at all of Clarkson’s business entities.

According to an affidavit filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, Tatum ordered more than $300,000 worth of expensive computer and communication equipment between Oct. 22, 2013, and July 31, 2014, and had it delivered to himself, either at Clarkson’s office or his personal residence, without authorization or a legitimate business purpose.

For example, Tatum allegedly ordered 545 solid state hard drives totaling $259,282 as well as 58 other computer-based items with a value of $14,768. Tatum was also responsible for purchasing Clarkson’s cellular telephones through Verizon. In 2014, the affidavit says, Tatum has used Clarkson’s corporate Verizon account to purchase 23 iPhone 5s Golds and two iPad Airs at a total value of $11,317. To date, none of this $306,540 worth of computer and communication equipment has been located in Clarkson’s inventory.

The affidavit alleges that Tatum has been reselling the equipment for personal profit. Bank records indicate that, during the time the computer equipment was being purchased, Tatum’s bank account was credited approximately 57 times in the amount of approximately $269,706 from PayPal. Tatum’s personal Facebook page reflects possible recent large spending, the affidavit says, including on customized motorcycles, a boat, and a large Raptor motor home.

According to the affidavit, Bill Clarkson, Jr., vice-president of Clarkson Construction, received an anonymous telephone call in early June 2014. The caller asserted that Tatum was embezzling from Clarkson Construction. Bill Clarkson looked into the allegation and soon learned that Tatum took his 2011 Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle to Stedman Motor Sports, located in Moulton, Ala. Stedman worked on the motorcycle for six days, completing $6,567 worth of work, including customization. To pay for the services rendered, Tatum made multiple payments using his PayPal account. After picking up the motorcycle from Stedman, Tatum contacted PayPal and claimed the transactions were fraudulent. PayPal canceled the transactions and Stedman Motor Sports did not receive payment for its services. Stedman filed a police report with the Moulton, Ala., Police Department on April 15, 2014.

An invoice to Clarkson dated Sept. 25, 2013 in the amount of $4,200 listed Michael Stedman as being the provider of service and/or product to Clarkson. Stedman is the owner of Stedman Motor Sport and the address listed on this invoice is similar to the address of Stedman Motor Sport’s business address. On Tatum’s expense report, the affidavit says, he lists the $4,200 transaction as a “security update.” This invoice and expense report are believed to be related to Tatum’s transactions described in the Moulton, Ala., police report.

Tatum’s PayPal account was linked to his Clarkson purchasing card. The PayPal transactions with Stedman Motor Sports appeared on the April 2014 purchasing card statement. Based on this, Clarkson expanded the scope of its internal investigation and discovered the additional computer and communication equipment purchases.

According to the affidavit, Tatum visited Stedman approximately 10 times. Most recently, Stedman rebuilt his motorcycle three times. Stedman provided some of the labor in return for Tatum upgrading their computer network. During this period, the affidavit says, Tatum emailed Stedman 20 to 30 times per day. According to the affidavit, part of the upgrade was new security cameras that Tatum insisted they install. Subsequently, Stedman and his employees would often notice the cameras moving, not knowing why. They now believe Tatum was controlling the security cameras remotely and watching them at work. When Stedman had the issues with Tatum’s PayPal and credit card charges being charged back to the company, they searched for and collected the company’s records associated with Tatum. But many of the files were missing, the affidavit says, including emails from Tatum and the invoices accurately reflecting work done for Tatum. Stedman contracted a local IT company to have the network looked at and was told it had several “open doors” that were accessible through the Internet. Stedman now believes that Tatum accessed the network, exceeding his authority, and deleted files.

Dickinson cautioned that the charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel M. Nelson. It was investigated by the FBI.
Updated January 15, 2015