April 22, 2015
Don’t you just love initiative? Our country has been built by the overwhelming desires of the many men and women who wanted to turn their dreams into reality. Of course, not everyone’s dream necessarily falls within the realm of what most of us would consider legal as the good people of Floyd County, Virginia recently found out.
Just like in the movies, one day a mysterious stranger rolled into town promising to build a $25 million data center that would create 20 local jobs and everybody was immediately excited. Mysterious strangers always give the locals something to talk about, and since they tend to pretty much fall into two camps–serial killer or entrepreneur—there’s usually something for everyone. The city’s erstwhile “rainmaker”, Paul Allen, was initially greeted with open arms since all of the area’s residents seemed to be accounted for, and a new business venture always pull a community together. Unfortunately for everyone, especially Mr. Allen, enthusiasm quickly began to wane.
After securing a land purchase agreement with Floyd County, Allen’s company, B-Telecom (with the “B” standing for “bilk”, I guess), immediately contracted with a firm called Data Knight 365 to build the facility. Things seemed to be progressing well; Allen busied himself with lining up potential investors by showing them the company’s existing data center in Ohio and Data Knight 365 did what it did, which, unfortunately, had nothing to do with building data centers. Apparently, a couple of the local citizens thought it might be a good idea to do a bit of due diligence and, upon closer inspection, they found that the only construction experience Bill Byler, the owner of Data Knight, had was in the production of Amish furniture. While admitting that this would have made for interesting lobby décor, suspicions, as they say, were aroused.
Without having to dig too deep, it was soon discovered that Data Knight’s “world headquarters” was located in an executive office suite and things just continued to unravel from there. A closer look at the company’s web site determined that B-Telecom’s Ohio data center closely resembled one owned by AT&T and by then everyone agreed that the jig was up. Fortunately, the taxpayers of Floyd County were able to avoid the expense of two trials as Mr. Byler was quickly incarcerated on charges unrelated to the data center scam, leaving only Mr. Allen to take the rap for one count of conspiracy and three for bank fraud totaling up to slightly north of $1.2 million.
Some of you may find nothing terribly unique about this story. After all, haven’t we all heard stories about the glib confidence man who “sold” someone a bridge, ocean front property or a piece of art that turned out to be somewhat less than advertised? To me, featuring a data center in this shell game illustrates how pervasive high technology has become in our society. Trying to round up a group of gullible investors in your standard ponzi scheme just isn’t good enough anymore. The aspiring “Madoffs” of the world have had to elevate their game. In retrospect, maybe Allen didn’t go far enough in building his investment façade. I myself, have a bit coin mining facility available for sale if you’re interested.