Janesville police seeking district's former IT boss

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Ted Sullivan
Friday, October 30, 2009
— The former information technology manager for the Janesville School District is wanted on suspicion of buying $215,000 worth of computer software from companies he or his friend owned.

Brandon M. Keirns, 31, Milwaukee, is accused of transferring money the school district paid the companies into his personal bank account and using some money to buy a condo.

Keirns is wanted on an arrest warrant charging two felony counts of being a public employee entering into a contract with private interests. State statutes prohibit public employees from arranging contracts for their employer that benefit themselves.

Janesville police Thursday were looking for Keirns in the Milwaukee area.

According to the criminal complaint:

Keirns knew a woman named Shannon Fermanian, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. They chatted on e-mail. They also were friends on Facebook.

Fermanian started a company named Avontur for the sole purpose of selling software to the Janesville School District. She knew Keirns worked for the district.

While employed with the school district, Keirns recommended the district's business director buy networking software from Avontur.

Keirns was allowed to make the purchase. The software cost $18,000 a month. Avontur also provided an outside computer server to administer the software.

The school district paid more than $187,000 to Avontur from January 2008 to November 2008. Paying Avontur instead of a less-expensive company might have cost the school district more than $161,000.

The interim IT manager who replaced Keirns discovered the problem. He called Avontur and spoke with Fermanian.

The interim IT manager then traced the software's license to a company called Error Help Group, which was organized by Keirns. The phone number for Error Help Group was the same number as Keirns' other company, Mithrax Networking.

A Janesville police detective investigated the bank accounts of Avontur, Error Help Group and Mithrax Networking. He also reviewed Keirns' personal bank account.

A large cut of the $187,000 the school district paid to Avontur was transferred to Error Help Group. Money was then transferred again to Mithrax Networking.

From there, about $104,900 was transferred into Keirns' personal bank account.

Money from the Mithrax Networking account also was used to purchase a condo at Keirns' Milwaukee address.

In an interview with Scottsdale police, Fermanian said she got a cut of Avontur profits.

She then sent the rest of the money to Keirns' company, Error Help Group.

The two continued their scheme for about year.

In a separate plot, Keirns bought the school district anti-spam software called Mailmax for $1,562 a month. Keirns bought the software from De Rekening Group, a company he started while working for the school district.

De Rekening Group had a checking account opened by Keirns. The account had a $27,950 deposit from a school district check.

Keirns, who was hired in December 2007, resigned in November 2008 after a computer virus crippled school district computers for weeks.

Police cannot prove whether Keirns planted the school district's virus to enhance his scheme, Lt. Tim Hiers said.

Keirns in November 2008 told the Gazette he resigned after being given the option of resigning or being fired.

His alleged criminal behavior from the software purchases was discovered by his replacement, IT manager Steve Schlomann.

Superintendent Karen Schulte, business director Douglas Bunton, school district attorney David Moore and Schlomann reported Keirns to Janesville police in April.

Fermanian has not been charged in the case.

If arrested and convicted, Keirns faces a maximum three years and six months in prison and a $10,000 fine for each charge.

Last updated: 11:37 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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