July 17, 1997 in City

Phone Company Sues Salesman For Fraud

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The nation’s biggest phone company is suing a Spokane man, claiming he pocketed $10,000 in commissions on bogus cellular phone sales.

AT&T; filed the lawsuit this week in Spokane County Superior Court against Thomas E. Hall, who was fired by the company last October.

The company accuses Hall of telling supervisors he sold 405 cellular phones to Washington Trust Bank last summer, when he really sold 154.

Hall, 43, insists all 405 phones were sold by the time he turned in requests for commissions.

“This lawsuit is the result of someone messing up that sale, then looking for a fall guy,” Hall said Wednesday.

The backdrop for the legal dispute is intense competition between cellular phone companies vying for new customers.

Hall was fired Oct. 31 for reasons unrelated to the Washington Trust sale, he said. After four years with cellular phone companies, he now works as a real estate salesman for Tomlinson-Black.

Last fall, an AT&T; Wireless supervisor told him he was being fired over his handling of other corporate cellular phone sales. Hall said he was told he made deals using promotions that were no longer valid.

“I was doing what other sales reps were doing; I just think my boss was looking for a reason to fire me,” he said.

Two weeks before he was fired, Hall was sent a paycheck that included commissions for the 405 phones he said he sold to Washington Trust.

In court documents, AT&T; attorneys say the alleged overpayment was discovered after Hall was fired.

Gary Miller, a Washington Trust vice president, agrees with AT&T; - saying the bank did not buy as many phones as Hall claimed.

Up to last summer, Washington Trust had purchased about 150 cell phones through Hall. Miller said he was wary about agreeing to buy an additional “200 or so” phones that Hall said were available.

Miller said Hall called him, urging the bank to “reserve” the additional cell phone numbers before Aug. 15, 1996 - the deadline for one of the sales promotions.

“We chose not to buy those extra phones,” Miller said.

But Hall insists the bank purchased the phones because Miller agreed to activate the phone numbers.

Hall said his AT&T; supervisor would never have approved his commissions if she hadn’t seen Miller’s signature, indicating the bank had purchased the phones.

Hall said AT&T; may be targeting him because local managers were embarrassed when the bank refused to accept the phones.

In 1995, Hall said he was expected to sell 25 cell phones a month. Each sale generated a commission of $35 to $50, he said.

Last year, the quota of monthly sales climbed to 50 phones, and commissions were cut to $18 to $25, he said.

, DataTimes


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