November 25, 2003 11:24 AM PST

AOL sues former execs for embezzlement

America Online filed a lawsuit against two former employees for allegedly embezzling funds as part of an elaborate shell game to line their own pockets.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 21 in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County, Va., claimed that Gregory Horton, AOL's former executive vice president of human resources, and Ruben Moreno, the former vice president of human resources hired by Horton, engaged in fraud and business conspiracy, among other charges. The suit named three others--Angel Rodriguez, Steven Soden and Michael Soden--as co-conspirators.

The lawsuit alleged that Horton and his co-conspirators crafted deals with companies, both legitimate and fake, that would move AOL money through a series of accounts and eventually into their own wallets.

In March 2003, Horton opened up a contract with Pinebrook Consulting under which AOL would pay the company $100,000. Horton then told Pinebrook to pay the $100,000 to an outside firm called SHM, which the suit alleged was run by Horton and his associates. The purported conspirators diverted a portion of the money into another fake company called HRC Realty owned by Horton and his associates.

AOL fired Horton in August and then fired Moreno in October of this year. The company is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages.

An AOL representative declined to comment on the lawsuit.

This is not the first time that AOL has been plagued by troublesome business maneuvers. AOL parent company Time Warner is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice for the way its AOL division accounted for revenue with other partners. The investigation has not yet been resolved.

 

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