ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A newly hired salesman did no work for months, telling bosses his 3-year-old son had cancer, only to be unmasked as a liar when the firm tried to send flowers after being told the boy had died, a lawsuit claims.
Lancope Inc., an Atlanta-based software firm, said in its suit that Michael Ruffalo launched his tales of hardship right after he took a sales job last year and was given paid leave for months.
Last week, a judge declined a defense request to dismiss the suit, which was filed in May and seeks to recover $40,151 in salary and benefits plus unspecified punitive damages.
"When you hear of somebody's child being ill and ultimately the child dying, you feel for that person," said Lancope's chief financial officer, David Cocchiara. "To me that's what makes this so tough to fathom."
Ruffalo said from his home in Macedon, near Rochester, that he was declining to comment on his lawyer's advice.
According to the lawsuit, Lancope hired Ruffalo in November as a regional account manager and shortly afterward he said his son, Aiden, had been diagnosed with leukemia.
Messages in January reported "things aren't going as well as we had hoped" ... "(we) continue to hope for a miracle," and then, after the boy allegedly died, "It's been an extremely difficult time for us losing our son."
He also reported his pregnant wife had to undergo a Caesarean section and the newborn had a lung ailment, the suit said.
Finally, said Lancope attorney Robert Weissflach, the company called the school where the wife worked "to ask about sending flowers and it was clear after that telephone call that the child had not passed away." In fact, neither Aiden nor his baby brother was ill, the lawsuit says.
EncryptX Corp., an e-mail security company, had a similar story, saying it hired Ruffalo in March 2005 and "within two weeks, we got an e-mail stating his son was rushed to the hospital," said its president, David Duncan.
In the end, "we tried to send flowers to the funeral home and they said we never heard of him," Duncan said. EncryptX demanded Ruffalo pay back $21,464, but, getting nowhere, decided to "just write it off as a bad experience," he said.