SCC:CHIP LAWSUIT , DECEIT & INTRIGUE ?

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SCC:CHIP LAWSUIT , DECEIT & INTRIGUE ?

 user 2006-08-17 at 1:45:00 pm Views: 54
  • #16261

    Chip suit details deceit, intrigue
    A suit accuses two local businessmen of selling counterfeit computer chips under a company led by a figurehead.
    Two
    bay area businessmen have been accused of buying a competitor’s
    computer chips, hiring a Russian engineer to extract the software code,
    manufacturing and selling counterfeit copies, and using a homeless
    ex-con from St. Petersburg as a legal front man.A lawsuit under way in
    federal court in Tampa accuses Steven Miller, 45, and friend Robert
    Rauber, 50, of stealing business from a Sanford, N.C., company that
    makes components used to restore spent toner cartridges. To cover their
    tracks, the suit claims, Miller used a power-of-attorney form to wrest
    legal control over a homeless day laborer named David Abraham,
    registered him as president of a newly formed chip company and
    proceeded, with Rauber, to conduct an illegal business enterprise in
    the figurehead’s name.”David Abraham was the alter ego of Mr. Miller,”
    said Skip London, general counsel of Static Control Components, the
    North Carolina company that filed the lawsuit.Miller, reached late
    Thursday, called the lawsuit part of a conspiracy by several of his
    former employees and Static Control to steal multiple inventions he has
    patented for use with printers.”Static Control would love to see me out
    of business because they would like to steal my patents, which are
    worth billions, not millions, of dollars,” he said.Andrew Greenberg, an
    attorney for Miller and Abraham, called his clients legitimate
    businessmen. He portrayed Abraham, now 55, as an American success story
    who refused to accept charity and, with Miller’s encouragement, formed
    a prosperous Pinellas Park chipmaking company, Inter Solution Ventures,
    en route to creating “an extraordinary life.” Rauber’s attorney called
    a racketeering claim against the defendants “outrageous.”Public records
    portray a different side of Abraham. The St. Petersburg resident has
    been arrested 25 times since 1985, was incarcerated twice while
    purportedly running Inter Solution, and will be arraigned later this
    month for allegedly engaging in a lewd act on a crowded Treasure Island
    beach. Abraham currently lives in a room at the low-budget Venice Motel
    on 34th Street N, even as former colleagues Rauber and Miller reside in
    a $1.4-million Palm Harbor home and a $1-million waterfront house in
    Tierra Verde, respectively.Welcome to the brass-knuckled world of
    reconditioned toner cartridges, where the market for cheap alternatives
    is nearly boundless, the line between legal and illegal copying is
    paper-thin, and people with little or no experience can quickly become
    players.Infringement claims are rife in the industry, and many
    chipmakers parry lawsuits as well as prosecute them. When Static
    Control first sued Inter Solution in 2004, for example – the case was
    transferred from federal court in Durham, N.C., to Tampa last month -
    Static was defending itself against a similar action filed by the
    printer manufacturing giant Lexmark.In a legal twist, Static Control’s
    suit targeted Inter Solution’s knockoff of its own Lexmark imitations.
    Static Control prevailed over Lexmark last year.”The idea in software
    has always been, you take the product of your competitor, you take it
    apart, you completely figure out how it works, and write your own
    version,” said Greenberg, the Carlton Fields attorney representing
    Miller and Abraham.In terms of pedigree, Static Control and its bay
    area foes are different breeds. Static Control, a family-owned company
    formed in 1986, has 1,100 employees, annual revenues of more than
    $300-million and several awards from local business publications.
    Investment bankers routinely approach it about going public. Inter
    Solution was formed in 2002.Miller operates a Pinellas Park auto-repair
    shop called Platinum Wrench. Rauber – a longtime friend who, along with
    Miller, made the front page in 1995 of the St. Petersburg Times when
    their single-engine plane crashed into Tampa Bay – had been a painting
    contractor as well as a service manager at Miller’s shop. Both men have
    been arrested at least twice. Rauber was imprisoned more than two years
    in the early 1980s for fatally striking a bicyclist with his car,
    fleeing the scene and allegedly dismantling the vehicle to conceal
    evidence.Attempts to reach Rauber and Abraham through their attorneys
    were unsuccessful. But interviews with the lawyers and a review of
    court filings provide a picture of their venture with Miller.Greenberg
    said chipmaking was Miller’s idea but not meant for his own benefit. He
    saw it as a way to “help his friend” Abraham get off the streets. Using
    Static Control’s chips as a model made sense, he added, because it was
    virtually the only company offering less expensive alternatives to
    Lexmark’s toner cartridge chips. Moreover, Static Control was
    temporarily prohibited from selling the chips, thanks to Lexmark’s suit
    against it.”Suddenly, this small business out of Pinellas Park was the
    only one serving a multibillion-dollar market,” Greenberg said.Static
    Control says Miller saw Abraham as a convenient dupe. Court documents
    allege Miller and Rauber assumed Abraham’s identity to set up bank
    accounts and sue a competitor. The pair even pretended to be him or his
    son when customers demanded to talk with the boss. Miller allegedly
    decided to “kill off” Abraham’s character after Static Control filed
    suit, telling customers the president had pancreatic cancer. Miller
    then allegedly told Rauber to form Chips Inc. and transfer Inter
    Solution’s assets to it.Brian Gilchrist, Rauber’s lawyer and the
    managing partner of Orlando-based Allen Dyer, said his client had
    nothing to do with designing Inter Solution’s chip software. He claimed
    Static Control is targeting Rauber largely so it can put Tarpon
    Springs-based Chips out of business.”If Static can tie him up with
    legal fees, they gain a competitive advantage,” he said. “From what I
    understand, his chips are that good.”