Friday, March 23, 2001

Verizon employees Harmon Lee, left, and Lawrence Seu, right,
were arraigned yesterday in court, charged with improperly using
computers to tap into city phone lines and get choice tee times
for themselves and their friends. In the middle
is their attorney, Scott Collins.

Pair banned from
city golf courses
after tee-time scam

The Verizon workers blocked
phone lines so they could grab
the best tee times

By Debra Barayuga

They wanted what any avid golfer wants: choice tee times on a regular basis.

But unlike the thousands of callers that flood the city's automated tee-time system daily to make reservations, Verizon employees Harmon Lee and Lawrence Seu figured out an easier but illegal way to do it.

By blocking the phone lines, they were able to call in and reserve prime tee times for themselves and their golfing buddies.

Because of their actions, Lee and Seu are banned from the city's six golf courses for the next five years, under a plea agreement.

Lee, 54, and Seu, 61, yesterday each pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized computer use.

While the offense is punishable by five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, they will likely receive probation because they do not have criminal records, said Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee.

If they violate the golfing ban, they run the risk of going to jail. Lee and Seu also will be required to perform 250 hours of community service.

Scott Collins, attorney for Seu and Lee, said his clients had no idea their conduct was criminal.

They first learned what they did was illegal when they were arrested last October, and have since taken responsibility and cooperated fully with the investigation, Collins said.

Although the city did not lose money from the scheme, their actions deprived the public of equal access to the city's golf courses, Lee said.

Also, because they were in a position of trust, which they violated, prosecutors felt it was appropriate to bar them from the city's golf courses during a period similar to probation.

"It's only right they should not receive any benefit from their wrongs," Lee said.

The city began its investigation a year ago after starters became suspicious that Lee, Seu and their golfing partners were consistently getting the same tee times on the same day of the week.

During a random monitoring of calls made to the automated system between March 2000 and August 2000, at least 11 of those calls were made by Lee or Seu while they were on duty, and other callers were prevented from getting through.

It is not known how many times they made calls when the system was not being monitored or how long they had done this.

The two worked the graveyard shift as customer zone technicians in charge of testing equipment and routine maintenance, Verizon officials confirmed.

Investigators also personally observed Lee and Seu show up during the preferred tee times they had secured, mostly between 9 and 10 a.m. They were able to secure tee times at Ala Wai, Pali, West Loch and Ewa Villages golf courses.

The automated tee-time system receives about 2,400 to 3,000 calls per day from people reserving tee times, canceling or seeking other golf-related information, said Laurie Wofford, a support specialist with Fairway Systems, the company contracted by the city to run the system.

Prime tee times are from 6 a.m. during the summer or 7 a.m. in the winter to 12 noon, she said. Weekends and holidays are the busiest. Tee times are usually booked within the first half-hour after the lines open at 6:30 a.m., she said.

"We're committed to making it as fair as possible with a first-come, first-served system," Wofford said. "If people are illegally tapping in, they have the advantage and that's not fair. It's totally against the city's policies."

Verizon spokeswoman Ann Nishida said the phone company feels bad about the matter, but noted that Lee and Seu's acts were isolated incidents.

The company has since developed techniques to ensure this type of activity does not happen again, she said.

Seu has retired from Verizon. Lee has been suspended but is still an employee.

The two will be sentenced on May 11.

E-mail to City Desk

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