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Report: Couple guilty of defrauding Best Buy of more than $41 million

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New York City A federal jury on Thursday convicted an Illinois couple of defrauding Best Buy Co. out of more than $41 million, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, the Minneapolis St. Paul Journal reported.

Russell and Abby Cole, who owned a company called Chip Factory, overbilled Richfield, Minn.-based Best Buy for computer parts from 2003 through 2007 and conspired with former Best Buy employee Robert Bossany to conceal the fraud. Bossany pleaded guilty in January 2009 to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud and one count of money laundering, admitting to his role in the crime.

Following a 17-day trial in Minneapolis, Russell Cole, 50, was found guilty on one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud; 12 counts of mail fraud; five counts of wire fraud; four counts of tax evasion; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering; and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Abby Cole, 53, was convicted on one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and four counts of tax evasion.

The Coles, who were originally indicted in July 2009, face a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States; five years in prison for each of the four counts of tax evasion; and 20 years on the conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud count the report said. Russell Cole additionally faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years on each mail fraud and wire fraud count, as well as on the conspiracy to commit money laundering count.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis will determine their sentences at a future hearing, which has not yet been scheduled.

In a statement, Best Buy spokeswoman Susan Busch said the company is "satisfied that justice has been served."

"While we are grateful that we can put this trial behind us, we remain dismayed that a few individuals were able to perpetrate such a significant fraud against us," she said. "Since learning of this scheme back in 2007, we made significant changes to our processes to help ensure that this type of fraud does not occur again. We will continue to use this situation as a learning experience so we can better serve our customers, shareholders and employees."

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