Illinois pair suspected in Best Buy chip scam

  • Article by: JACKIE CROSBY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 24, 2008 - 8:55 PM

The government says a Chicago-area couple paid for a $2.8 million new home by bilking Best Buy in a computer-parts scheme.

The government wants to seize some expensive real estate in the suburban Chicago area that it says was bought with the proceeds of a kickback scheme that allegedly duped Best Buy Co. Inc. out of at least $31 million.

In an affidavit made public this week in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, authorities said Abby Cole, owner of Chip Factory, and her husband, Russell Cole, the company's president, used $2.8 million in fraudulently obtained income to buy a two-parcel property in Deerfield, Ill., tear down the existing home and build a custom residence.

The money allegedly came from a scheme run between 2003 and 2007 in which Chip Factory submitted the lowest bid price for computer parts through an online auction run by a company identified as National Parts, Inc. Chip Factory would secure the job, then send an invoice to Richfield-based Best Buy "at a price significantly higher than its bid price," according to court documents.

Former Best Buy vendor-relations manager Robert Bossany, 37, of Prior Lake, was charged Dec. 15 with conspiracy and money laundering for allegedly taking kickbacks of cash and property from Chip Factory before he was fired. During the four-year scheme, Chip Factory billed Best Buy for $60 million in parts, more than half of it at inflated prices, the government says.

Chip Factory's revenues and the Coles' income came almost entirely from those Best Buy transactions, according to a sworn statement by U.S. Postal Inspector Barry Bouchie that was filed with the motion to seize their Deerfield property. Tax returns for 2003 through 2007 show that the Coles claimed earnings of about $5.7 million, while Chip Factory reported profits of $8.1 million.

Neither Abby Cole, 52, nor Russell Cole, 52, has been charged in the case. An attorney could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The case is being investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the IRS Criminal Investigations Division and the FBI.

Jackie Crosby • 612-673-7335

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