Data broker at center of Certegy storm
A Seminole man says he bought financial records, but had no idea that they were stolen.
By SCOTT BARANCIK, Times Staff Writer
Published December 28, 2007
When Largo resident William "Gary" Sullivan pleaded guilty last month to stealing consumer financial records from his former employer, Certegy Check Services, he described the man he sold them to as a "co-conspirator."
Sullivan did not identify his alleged accomplice, who may face federal charges in the case. But Seminole data broker Michael S. Currier has some news for us: He is the guy who bought millions of records from Sullivan. And he had no idea they were stolen.
"May Jesus Christ come down here and take my children," Currier said in a recent interview, his Rhode Island accent as thick as paste. "I got nothing to hide."
Currier, 40, says he is an easy target. A single parent of two, the Providence native spent much of his youth in trouble with the law and served seven years behind bars for a botched burglary. According to court records and newspaper accounts, in 1990 Currier and a friend donned ski masks, broke into an acquaintance's home and pistol-whipped him when he refused to turn over drugs. The victim pulled out a gun and killed the friend.
After prison, Currier moved to Pinellas County to start a new life. Though the low-wage factory job his mother had lined up for him was a poor fit, he soon found a job he did like: telemarketing sales. Before long he was managing a room of callers and hobnobbing with his boss, who invited him to join a friendly poker game.
Sullivan was there, too. Currier remembers him as a quiet "computer geek" who claimed to be a minister. "We used to laugh, because he drank like a fish at the card games, drinking a whole bottle of Wild Turkey or something," he says. "We used to say, 'He's a minister?'"
The poker game disbanded after half a dozen meetings. But several years later, Currier says, Sullivan called to see if he wanted to buy some consumer lists generated by a few Web sites he had set up. Currier eventually said yes, and a new career as a data broker was born. He called his company JAM Marketing, for then-wife Jill, daughter Alexandra and himself. Though Currier added other clients, his relationship with Sullivan lasted five years.
The work was lucrative. Currier and his wife bought a handsome home along a Seminole golf course. They drove a Jaguar and a Lexus. In 2005, the same year the couple divorced, Currier told his probation officer he was making $40,000 a month. As recently as May, he took his kids to a golf outing in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The good times didn't last.
An unwelcome call
This summer, Currier was contacted by Certegy and the U.S. Secret Service. Consumer information had been stolen from the St. Petersburg company, they said, and traced back to him. Where did he get it? After doing some research, Currier concluded that data in question had come from Sullivan.
Certegy was surprised. Until then, Currier says, the company suspected hackers were behind the theft, not an employee. Currier says he was shocked, too. He says he had no idea Sullivan worked at Certegy or that he had stolen the records. Currier says he spent days helping Certegy track down and recover the records that he, in turn, had sold to many companies.
So much for gratitude, Currier says. He claims both Certegy and Sullivan are falsely implicating him now: Certegy to deflect negligence lawsuits and bad press, and Sullivan to win prosecutors' favor and a reduced prison sentence. Currier says he had to take out a home-equity loan to be able to hire civil and criminal attorneys as well as a private investigator.
Meanwhile, JAM Marketing is kaput. "I had a really good name in this business," he says. "Now, I can't make a cent."
A spokeswoman for Certegy's Jacksonville-based parent company, Fidelity National Information Services, declined to discuss Currier or his accusation. "We continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement agencies investigating this crime," she said in an e-mail. "However, we have no opinion or comment regarding who may or may not be culpable."
He said, they said
Sullivan's criminal attorney, Jeff Brown of St. Petersburg, says Currier has it all wrong. He claims Currier knew Sullivan worked at Certegy, knew the records were stolen, and even came up with the idea to steal them. Brown says prosecutors can deduce that from information on the men's computers, which the government seized. "We'll see him at trial," he taunts.
Currier hopes it does not come to that. A jury may find it hard to believe an ex-con. But in this zero-sum legal game, where one side or the other is lying, he insists he is the honest broker.
Think about it, Currier argues. He paid Sullivan not in cash but with checks, which are traceable. He paid taxes on the earnings. When Certegy called, he told the company where he got the stolen records and then bent over backward to help recover them.
Currier insists he is not the same person he was back in Providence. He says he has not been arrested in nearly 18 years. A single parent, he says his 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son probably would become wards of the state if he were sent to prison, and that is the ultimate deterrent. "They mean everything to me," he says, his voice choked. "You couldn't entice me with $100-million to break the law."
Later on, a touch of pride peeks through Currier's veneer.
"I'm about as sharp as they come," he says. "If I was involved in something like that, I can guarantee you one thing: You wouldn't know."
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Scott Barancik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8751.
- William "Gary" Sullivan, who has pleaded guilty to stealing millions of consumer financial records from ex-employer Certegy Check Services, will be sentenced in federal court on March 14.
- The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa continues to investigate the Certegy theft and may issue further indictments.
- A civil investigation of the Certegy theft by the Florida Attorney General's Office is ongoing.