I’ve long believed that the amount of wasted material is a strong data center construction metric. In other words, if your scrap pile could fill the data hall you just built, your design and construction processes may have a few flaws that you might want to address. I think we can all agree that reducing waste in our construction efforts is a good way to pay more than just lip service to environmental conservation, shorten delivery schedules, reduce costs, and cut down on the entrepreneurial opportunities for the help.

No one is quite sure as to the origin of the phrase, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but my mom always said that these old adages are around for a reason, and I think the fine people at XYZ Systems (not their real name) would agree. In 2011, two of their employees, Russell and Thomas Ray, were entrusted with the job of redeeming the metal scrap generated by a data center renovation project that included a large amount of copper wire. Like all good employees, they immediately recognized the revenue generating potential of their assigned task. Unfortunately for XYZ, both men’s ambitions were of the personal, rather than corporate, nature.

How these types of things get started is anybody’s guess. Maybe, in the course of their daily duties, the Ray boys found themselves a little short on lunch money and things just kind or escalated from there. The next thing you know, you’ve supplemented your income to the tune of $388,000. Whether or not that amount included the 2010 Ford Mustang, 2012 Harley-Davidson, and a 2017 Chevrolet pick-up they purchased wasn’t clear from the indictment, but either way I think we’re all going to have to think about the term supplemental income in a whole new way.

Nobody, except maybe the occasional white-collar criminal, accumulates $388,000 overnight, and it’s obvious that both men did their best to keep their clandestine activities, well, clandestine. Apparently, their strategy was to lay low and avoid any conspicuous activity, like paying taxes that might alert someone to their scheme. This stealth mode carried over to their interactions with the home office that only saw 39 of 137 scrap redemption receipts. Yes, the same people who want documentation for any expenditure over $25 somehow didn’t make the connection between almost 100 missing receipts and some nefarious activity. Talk about hiding in plain sight.

I suppose that like many of us, the Rays were victims of their own success. You know how it is when you’ve been embezzling from your employer for five years, you tend to get a little lazy and careless. For example, requesting that the scrap dealers make the checks out to them personally certainly left a paper trail. Although, let’s face it, embezzlement is really an all-cash proposition, and asking the company for a $5,000 wire stripping machine to improve their efficiency probably took things a little too far. But aren’t these really examples of the human failings in all of us?

As they say, all good things (and felonious activities) must come to an end. Russell and Thomas Ray received their cancellation notice in the form of a 13-count indictment that included charges for wire fraud, money laundering, and filing false tax returns. Certainly, we can expect to see changes in a number of areas at XYZ Systems as a result of these breaches of fiduciary responsibility. We can only hope that their next data center project is conducted utilizing the old chestnut “Waste not, want not” as its guiding philosophy.