From the Thursday, Nov. 11 edition of the New York Daily News
How a guy's gizmo
spread fear at Fed
BY THOMAS ZAMBITO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
It nearly sparked a financial catastrophe.
An electrician's homemade gadget wreaked havoc on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, causing computer convulsions at a facility that houses the world's biggest cash vault, the Daily News has learned.
The foulup short-circuited the career of journeyman electrician John Cravetts, who was fired though he insists he meant no harm.
But it could have been much worse, according to papers filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
"The results could have been catastrophic," said Barry Schindler, an attorney for the New York Fed.
Fed officials say they might have had to shut down computers that process some $2.5 trillion in funds and securities payments and $4 billion in checks every day.
Fortunately, backup systems kicked in after the Nov. 17, 2002, incident.
The heavily guarded facility in East Rutherford, N.J., is also home to a vault that handles more than $1 billion in currency, coins and food coupons.
Cravetts, 62, was canned two weeks after the incident. A surveillance tape caught him using the crude device - two red wires strung between an ordinary household switch and plug.
(bold type mine)
He later filed an age discrimination suit and also charged his firing was retaliation for reporting an electrocution hazard at the facility where he'd worked for almost 10 years.
Manhattan Federal judge Harold Baer tossed out Cravetts' claim this week.
"I had an unblemished record," Cravetts told The News yesterday.
"What I did was in good faith. I did not do anything malicious," added the licensed electrician, who has since found a new job. "What do they think I'm going to do, sabotage it?"
Although Fed attorneys presented a near-doomsday scenario in court filings, Fed spokesman Peter Bakstansky downplayed the incident yesterday.
"There was no point at which the operations of the Fed were in danger," Bakstansky said. "We stopped him. ... We have a lot of redundancy."
Cravetts had been asked to locate circuit breakers on the Fed computers that had not been properly labeled.
He used his gizmo to conduct the search, plugging it in and tripping breakers, knocking out power as he went along.
Cravetts told The News his superiors knew he used the device. He had made four of them at work.
Fed attorneys say he should have used a device that sends a harmless tone back to the breaker and doesn't cause disruptions.
Cravetts said that for more than a year, he had asked his bosses to order the manufactured device needed for the job, but they never did.
Originally published on November 11, 2004
The original article is at http://www.nydailynews.com/front/story/251774p-215484c.html