Scandal leads to closing of firm
Published Feb. 15, 2011
By James J. Gillis
Daily News staff
MIDDLETOWN - With little notice, 100 or so employees of Advanced Solutions for Tomorrow carted their belongings to their cars and turned in security badges and parking passes Monday after the scandal-plagued company laid off its entire staff and shut down.
"We heard this was supposed to go down on Friday," said Tim Lazuk, an engineer at the defense firm for 11 years. "Then the word was they were trying to sell the company, but that apparently fell through during the weekend. So here we are saying goodbye to each other. It's been quite a week."
The 18-year-old company's future was thrown into jeopardy when founder and president Anjan Dutta-Gupta, 58, was arrested in Atlanta on Feb. 6 on a charge of bribing a public official in connection with a kickback scheme involving about $10 million in Navy funding. Two days later, he resigned from the company.
Dutta-Gupta allegedly worked with Ralph M. Mariano, 52, a civilian program manager and senior systems engineer with the Naval Sea Systems Command in Newport, who also has been charged under a federal bribery statute. According to criminal complaints and supporting affidavits filed in U.S. District Court in Providence, about $13.5 million in Navy funding was sent by ASFT to a subcontractor, mostly for work that was not performed. The subcontractor, over a period of years, allegedly kicked back a total of about $10 million to Mariano, his relatives and associates and entities controlled by Dutta-Gupta.
When they arrived at work Monday, Advanced Solutions employees received an e-mail from Wayne King, the company's executive vice president, reading: "I'm sad to report that that since my last 'all hands' e-mail, ASFT's assets have been frozen to an extent that we have been unable to secure financing or find a buyer for the company."
King's e-mail said the company had been seeking a buyer or financing for the past week but determined Sunday that it would have to close. It went to on say all employees - in Middletown, Roswell, Ga., and Fairfax, Va. - would be laid off Monday at noon.
Last Thursday, four days after Dutta-Gupta's arrest, King had issued an e-mail of reassurance, telling employees that ASFT was "still a strong, vibrant and dedicated company whose staff is completely dedicated to our mission."
King's e-mail on Monday came on the heels of a Friday e-mail from James Slater, deputy director of the Naval Sea Systems Command, stating that the Navy was suspending contracts with Dutta-Gupta and ASFT "in order to protect the government's interests."
As they said goodbye to each other Monday, Dutta-Gupta's former employees had nothing bad to say about his company, just how sad they are to be leaving it. Advanced Solutions was a good company to work for, they said, and Dutta-Gupta was a personable executive who provided generous salaries and benefits and created a family atmosphere at the firm.
Lazuk was one of about a dozen employees who commuted from Connecticut, in his case from outside Hartford, on their own or in car pools. "Anjan treated us very well," Lazuk said. "He would treat us every summer to a clambake at Kempenaar's, and he picked up the tab. Of course, whose money he was using ..."
Employees learned Monday about 8:30 a.m. that the company was closing at noon. They carried forms instructing them how to apply for unemployment benefits, and brochures reading "How to Survive a Layoff."
Some were more worried about finding work than others. Paul Shenosky, 63, of Middletown worked at Advanced Solutions as a senior analyst for 10 years. He said he already had lined up an interview with neighboring defense contractor Sea Corp.
"With any luck, I'll have something by the end of the week," he said Monday afternoon. "But it's going to be tough for some people. It's been a very good place to work. We kind of knew it was coming, but it's still tough when it happens. The mood today has been somber."
Jamie Bagley of Bristol, an executive assistant for 18 months, said the news caught her off guard. "I guess some people were prepared," she said. "It's a sad day for everyone. It's been a great company to work for. I don't look forward to being unemployed but hopefully I won't be for long. I'll miss no longer being able to see the people I see every day."
Kyle Hessler grew up in Middletown and graduated from Middletown High School, not far from Advanced Solutions in the Aquidneck Corporate Park. He worked in human resources and finance in his eight months with the firm. It was his first job after graduating from Lyndon State College in Vermont.
"It's sad to see what has happened," said Hessler, 23. "But it's tougher for people with families and mortgages than it is for someone young like me. They were trying to create a family atmosphere, and it was a great place to work. I learned a lot. But you wonder who, why, how ... how did that happen. I'm young. I'm flexible. I could take a job in San Diego tomorrow if someone offered me one. But not everyone is that lucky."
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