Comcast auditor takes stand
By By Suzanne Monk/The Meridian Star
April 5, 2001
The main witness Wednesday in what has become known as the "Comcast trial" was Sharon Desmond, one of the cable television company's internal auditors.
Desmond arrived in Meridian on Aug. 12, 1996, after company officials began to suspect Comcast-Primestar regional manager David Colvin was stealing large amounts of money through an American Express account.
She testified that she was "surprised" by the records or lack of records available at Comcast's Meridian office. She asked Bill Kyles, then chief financial officer of the Meridian office, about the situation.
Kyles testified last week that Colvin told him the back-up documents were stored at the Primestar office. Colvin told Desmond the documents were kept at Gianakos Associates.
Before it was over, Colvin had confessed and agreed to testify against four former friends and business associates in a federal trial now in progress in U.S. District Court.
The five co-defendants are alleged to have defrauded Comcast of $2.6 million in a false billing scheme between January 1994 and August 1996.
Also indicted on charges ranging from conspiracy to commit mail fraud to tax evasion and money-laundering are: Kim Gianakos, owner of a public relations firm that did business with Comcast; Kary Graham, manager of a Comcast satellite sales office in Waynesboro; C.D. "Bubba" Newell, a former vice president of Trustmark National Bank in Meridian; and contractor Darrell Wayne Raley.
Because few records were available at Comcast's Meridian offices, Desmond and her audit team were dependent on Gianakos who did maintain records relating to Colvin's American Express card.
Desmond produced a long summary report of what she found; that summary was entered into evidence Wednesday.
This testimony is the basis of Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Anderson's assertion that both knowingly defrauded Comcast although Gianakos attorney Frank Trapp was quick to assert that without his client's records, Comcast would have been unable to research the history of activity on Colvin's Amex at all.
Under Trapp's cross-examination, Desmond described an almost total breakdown of the check-and-balance financial system at Comcast's Meridian office.
Desmond discovered Gianakos invoices Colvin had altered or fabricated on agency letterhead. Gianakos produced a copy of a letter signed by Kyles authorizing her to pay Colvin's American Express invoices.
Back at Comcast, she asked Kyles about it.
The fiasco has had long-term effects on a number of people not involved in the federal trial. Kyles insists he was not fired, he simply wasn't offered a position in a planned corporate move to Atlanta. His position, which he described as "the best job I ever had," paid $98,000 a year with bonuses and stock options.
Glenn Colvin, the senior executive in Comcast's Meridian office during his son's illegal activities, is no longer affiliated with the company. Brother Ronnie Colvin still works for Comcast, but has been transferred to Florida.
The trial resumed today at 8:45 a.m.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail her at email@example.com.
During the first part of the day, a number of vendors testified that merchandise had been purchased at their stores with David Colvin's American Express card.
A cell phone rang in the courtroom. U.S. District Judge Tom Lee reportedly told his bailiff that the next time a cell phone rings, its owner is to be escorted from the courtroom.
There was a new member of the prosecution team in court Wednesday, an FBI agent said to specialize in money-laundering cases. Attorney Frank Trapp, representing Kim Gianakos, sent him some scorching looks during cross-examination of a Comcast auditor. The FBI agent sat with his arms stretched out on the back of the bench and smiled.
Gianakos takes an active role in her defense, helping her attorney keep paperwork in order and recording exhibit numbers. Speaking of paperwork, Trapp said 60 boxes of records requested earlier by the defense were delivered to a local law firm in Meridian after the trial began.
Judge Lee is concerned about the length of the trial and has extended the work day by one hour. Each day will begin at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8:45 a.m. The lunch break will be one hour, instead of an hour and 15 minutes. Court will adjourn at 5:30 p.m. instead at 5 p.m. The judge asked the jury to inform him today if the new schedule presents a problem.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Anderson's first stop after court adjourned Wednesday was Meridian 1-Hour Cleaners on the corner of 22nd Avenue and Ninth Street. A clean shirt a day …