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12/24/2008
04:11 PM
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Fry's Exec Accused Of Massive Kickback Scheme

The manager with a gambling debt is accused of demanding exorbitant commissions from a handful of Fry's suppliers in return for prominent product placement within the retailer's stores.

A Fry's Electronics executive is accused of defrauding the retailer and some of its suppliers of $65 million in a years-long kickback scheme that was used to pay off massive gambling debts at several Las Vegas casinos.

Ausaf Umar Siddiqui, who goes by the name of "Omar," was freed on bail awaiting a mid-January court hearing. Siddiqui, a Palo Alto, Calif., resident, was fired by Fry's on Monday. He faces wire-fraud and money-laundering charges.

According to a complaint filed in federal court in Santa Clara County, Siddiqui is accused of demanding exorbitant commissions from a handful of Fry's suppliers in return for prominent product placement within the retailer's stores, the San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday. The scheme involved the use of Siddiqui's independent company, PC International, which received money funneled from the executive's victims.

An IRS analysis of PC International's records showed that from January 2005 to November of this year, Siddiqui withdrew $162 million from the company, with three-quarters of the money used to pay three Las Vegas casinos, the newspaper said.

Siddiqui joined Fry's as a computer salesman in 1988, rising to VP of merchandising and operations in 2003. The latter position placed Siddiqui in control of the products bought to stock the company's 34 stores.

A friend of the small family group that runs privately held Fry's told the newspaper that the family was "in shock" over Siddiqui's arrest. In a statement released late Tuesday, Fry's said it was cooperating with federal prosecutors and was demanding "prosecution to the fullest extent of the law," the Mercury News reported.

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