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SEIFERT HANDWRITING MATCHED TO TIMESHEET SHIFT ORDERS

'Put Huggies and Wings Time on ONDCP' Read One Notation

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- An FBI handwriting analyst yesterday said timesheet notations instructing an Ogilvy & Mather executive to shift billings from other accounts to the White House drug office account matched the handwriting of Shona Seifert.
Photo: Louis Lanzano
Shona Seifert outside the U.S. District Courthouse in lower Manhattan.
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Full Background:
BACKGROUND: THE WHITE HOUSE DRUG OFFICE ADVERTISING CASE
The Stories From 2001 to the Present

Read the 14-page indictment .pdf

'Huggies and Wings'
Testifying in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the FBI's John Sardone presented a set of timesheets for Rosalinde Rago, Ogilvy's former director of research and planning who died last year. He told the jury that the handwriting on written orders on the timesheets telling Ms. Rago to "Put Huggies and Wings time on ONDCP" matched handwriting samples provided to prosecutors by Ms. Seifert.

The ONDCP -- the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy -- is the advertising account that Ms. Seifert oversaw at the WPP Group agency. Ms. Seifert, a former senior partner and executive group director at Ogilvy, New York, and Thomas Early, that office's former chief financial officer, have pleaded not guilty to an 11-count indictment accusing them of conspiracy in making false billing claims against the federal government for that account.

Mr. Sardone said there was only one qualification to his conclusion that the handwriting samples matched the timesheets -- the fact that he had to work with photocopies of the timesheets. Nevertheless, he maintained there were "significant agreements" between the two.

Plot to over-bill
On the seventh day of the trial prosecutors neared the end of presenting their case and worked to close the gap between the two former Ogilvy & Mather executives and a low-level plot to over-bill the national anti-drug program in 1999.

In other evidence, an examination of Ms. Seifert's daily calendar entries from that time period showed a number of meetings between her, Mr. Early and former Ogilvy executives whom the government named as co-conspirators. Those executives were Robert Zach, an Ogilvy media department director who has pleaded guilty to fraud charges and testified last week as the government's star witness; and Al DiOrio, an contracts coordinator who died last year after entering a guilty plea in the case.

Ms. Seifert's date book
Prosecutors displayed calendar entries both on an easel placed directly in front of the jury box and on a projection screen. One entry from Ms. Seifert's date book, for Dec. 21, 1999, at 5 p.m., read: "See Tom Early re financial issues f- up," presumably indicating both an expletive and a reference to anticipated revenue shortfalls on the ONDCP account. A printout of an entry from Mr. Early's electronic planner showed a Sept. 28, 1999, meeting between him, Ms. Seifert, and Messrs. Zach and DiOrio.

The new evidence of those meetings is significant because, though the government has thoroughly laid out the timesheet-padding scheme, it's often been unclear how the defendants relate to it or, at times, each other. They rarely, if ever, look at or speak with each other even though they occupy the same defense table. Moreover, defense lawyers have repeatedly emphasized that Ms. Seifert, an executive group director, and Mr. Early, the New York office's finance director, worked in different departments.

Seifert assistant falsified timesheets
Prior to this, the strongest suggestion of any discussions between the two came from Mr. Zach, who testified to being called on the phone by Ms. Seifert and Mr. Early about ONDCP issues. But Mr. Zach's credibility came under fire from the defense team, and the steady march of past and present Ogilvy employees admitting to transferring hours from other accounts to the ONDCP routinely bypasses the defendants. Just today, Ms. Seifert's former assistant, Sally Axelrod, testified that she had billed hours against the ONDCP account she didn't work. But she also testified that the order to over-bill ONDCP came from Mr. DiOrio, not Ms. Seifert.

The prosecution plans to rest today and the defense will be expected to begin its case immediately thereafter.

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