Some plastics executives of the last decade should have taken the advice of the theme song to '70s TV cop show Barretta: ``Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.''The list since 1989, includes:
Mark Bruck — owner of plastic compounders Advance Resins Corp. and Westover Color & Chemical Corp. in Chicopee, Mass.
Bruck is currently serving an 111/2-year sentence in a Massachusetts prison for burning down a warehouse and compounding plant in March 1994 that he owned so he could collect the insurance money.
Used equipment and plastic inventory were destroyed in the blaze. Bruck had increased his firms' property insurance a week before the fire and instructed employees to inflate the value of goods destroyed in the fire. He also inflated sales figures from 1986-94 to get Bank of New England loans, for which the firm did not qualify.
Bruck began serving his sentence in August 1996. Under federal guidelines, he must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, putting his earliest release date in 2006.
Carl Cooke — president and major shareholder of CWC Research and Development Co. in Elkhart, Ind.
Cooke was released from Elkhart County Jail in June after pleading guilty to two counts of felony theft. He was given two suspended sentences and credit for time served. Cooke had been jailed in Elkhart since fall 1997, when he was extradited from a Michigan jail where he had been serving time for federal wire fraud charges. The federal charges stemmed from Cooke's bilking investors out of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a massive injection molding plant he planned to build to make child-safe pharmaceutical bottle closures. He first planned to build the plant in Holtsville, N.Y., before moving to Elkhart.
Cooke later announced plans to build a similar plant to make the closures, as well as medical syringes and child-safe cigarette lighters, in Norwalk, Ohio. Similar Cooke ventures have failed in Colorado, Wyoming and Canada. His closure patent was taken from him as part of the federal ruling. Several investor-filed civil suits are pending. Cooke has filed for personal bankruptcy and is reportedly living in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area.
In Elkhart, Cooke was charged with theft after he pocketed insurance deductions taken from his employee's paychecks.
Ironically, Cooke's case became a campaign issue in the Elkhart County prosecutor's race earlier this year. Challenger Paul Eash claimed prosecutor Michael Cosentino allowed Cooke to plea-bargain because he had worked as Cooke's lawyer before criminal charges were filed. Cosentino denied the charge and later was re-elected.
Howard Gray — controller at Huntsman Packaging Corp.'s film plant in Calhoun, Ga.
Gray decided to keep a little something for himself while dishing out the payroll to as many as 100 employees at the plant between 1993 and 1996.
That ``little something'' amounted to $3.7 million, which Gray diverted to personal and brokerage accounts he controlled. He used the excess funds to buy seven cars, three pizza restaurants and a $500,000 home in Rome, Ga.
Gray was earning about $52,000 a year when Huntsman dismissed him in March 1996. Gray pleaded guilty to two felony theft counts in May 1996 and was sentenced to three years and five months in jail. Georgia corrections officials said Gray remains in jail and will likely serve a majority of his sentence.
Huntsman Corp., the Salt Lake City-based chemicals giant that owned the plant, filed a civil suit against Gray the next month. Huntsman was later given ownership of Gray's real estate and personal property, which were auctioned off in June 1996.
Thomas Popoli — owner of Nylon Engineering Resins Inc., in Fort Myers, Fla.
Popoli was convicted on 23 counts of fraud and conspiracy in January 1998 for importing Asian-made resin into the United States in 1993 and 1994 and selling it off as more expensive resin made by Hoechst Celanese Corp.
As part of the verdict, Popoli agreed to forfeit $350,000 in proceeds from sales of the counterfeit acetal. Popoli's woes mounted recently when a federal judge awarded Ticona, Hoechst's current engineering plastics business, $2 million in lawyers' fees on top of an earlier $2 million in damages the company had been awarded.
A series of events, including appeals and the death of the federal judge assigned to his case, have delayed Popoli's sentencing, which remains unscheduled. He faces a maximum of five years in jail. He maintains his innocence, claiming he believed the material was Hoechst's because it had a Hoechst marking. Popoli is free on bond.
Steven Thompson — process engineer at Elf Atochem's resin plant in Birdsboro, Pa.
Thompson joined Elf Atochem, a maker of additives used in PVC and other plastics, in April 1996 after being fired by Rohm & Haas Co., an Elf Atochem competitor. Both companies are based in Philadelphia.
Thompson's three-year stint at Rohm & Haas ended in May 1995 when he was terminated for ``poor performance.'' Apparently stung, Thompson tried to provide Elf Atochem with technical data to make several Rohm & Haas products.
Unfortunately for Thompson, he used Elf Atochem's postage meter to mail computer disks with the secret info from Elf Atochem's Birdsboro site to its research center in King of Prussia, Pa. An Elf Atochem chemist received the package and immediately turned it over to company officials, who noticed the Birdsboro postmark. They checked the Birdsboro postage meter's number and found a match. From there, it was a matter of identifying Birdsboro employees who had worked at Rohm & Haas.
The final blow to Thompson came when the handwriting on the envelope containing the disks matched the writing on his job application. Thompson had addressed the envelope by hand, even though he had typed the note enclosed with the disks. He admitted to the deed when confronted by Elf Atochem officials and immediately was fired.
Thompson pleaded guilty to a charge of computer fraud in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in December 1997. He was sentenced to six months of electronic house arrest, two years of probation, 150 hours of community service and fined $1,000.
Rohm & Haas filed a civil suit against Thompson, which was settled for an amount less than Rohm & Haas' legal costs. A Rohm & Haas spokesman said the suit primarily was filed to get Thompson's personal computer and data files from authorities.
Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua — The cost-slashing executive who some say is most responsible for the collision course between automakers and suppliers is himself recovering from a serious accident.
The former General Motors Corp. purchasing chief was riding in an Audi in January 1998 when it struck a truck in his native Spain. Lopez sustained head injuries and has been in seclusion since. Doctors expect a slow but complete recovery.
Lopez received better news on the litigation front. In August, German prosecutors dropped criminal charges in exchange for payment of $328,000 to various charities. GM sued him in 1993 after he left for Volkswagen AG. GM accused him of stealing confidential documents. But German prosecutors said, after five years of legal maneuvering, the industrial espionage case was too cumbersome to pursue.
VW didn't get off so easy. It agreed to pay $100 million in damages to GM and to buy $1 billion in GM parts over seven years.
Lopez resigned from VW in 1996. Meanwhile, the Justice Department's criminal investigation of L¢pez continues.
In 1997, Lopez published an autobiography accusing GM of taking revenge on him for leaving.
VW opened its modular-style Resende, Brazil, plant in 1996, supposedly a model of Lopez's vision of a supplier future.
VW and its suppliers work under the same roof. Suppliers are paid after shipments leave the plant.
The plant has had production problems and hasn't been the model of efficiency that Lopez had planned.
Plastics News staff reporter Joseph Pryweller contributed to this story.