Other items: BPA plans 12.5% rate increase for October and a low-fare airline plans Seattle service.

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Former Microsoft employee Finn Contini, who ordered more than $7 million worth of software at the company then sold it on the side for a profit, pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and four counts of money laundering.

Contini, 36, will be sentenced June 3 in U.S. District Court. He also forfeited assets valued at more than $1.7 million, including properties in Washington and Oregon, a 2003 Toyota Highlander, a 2002 Honda Civic, silver and gold coins and more than $188,000.

Contini and three other former Microsoft employees were charged in November in connection with a scheme that exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s internal ordering program. Contini ordered software from a vendor but set the system so it would notify another employee, instead of his manager, of the purchase.

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After Contini resigned in 2002, he told others which software to order and where to send it, then took a percentage of the proceeds. He ordered at least 2,692 pieces of software that he sold for about $2.3 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.

Also charged were Alyson Clark, 38, of Normandy Park; Christine Hendrickson, 34, of Bothell; and Robert Howdeshell, 40, of Puyallup. Clark and Howdeshell are scheduled for plea hearings tomorrow.


12.5% rate increase planned for October

The Bonneville Power Administration said yesterday that it has reached an agreement with more than 120 utilities to raise electricity transmission rates 12.5 percent for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The increase amounts to less than $1 per megawatt-hour, or about 1 percent to 2 percent of the total wholesale power cost of about $30 to $40 per megawatt hour, BPA officials said.

Steve Wright, chief of the Portland-based federal power marketing agency, said the agreement will expedite regulatory approval.

Bonneville has seen network transmission sales fall by 3,000 megawatts since the Western energy crisis of 2001, a decline agency officials blame partly on utility customers finding more efficient ways to use their transmission rights.


Low-fare airline plans Seattle service

Delta Air Lines’ entry in the low-fare wars, Song, will begin service between Seattle and New York beginning July 4 with three flights daily.

In its first expansion beyond the East Coast, Song said yesterday it plans to nearly double flights from New York’s JFK airport. In addition to Seattle, it will add routes to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Juan and Aruba.

Delta just posted the industry’s largest annual loss — $5.2 billion — but it says Song’s lower fares and “high style” amenities are key to its future.

Song operates an all-Boeing fleet of 757s with 199 leather seats, all in coach class.

The Song Web site shows a round-trip ticket from Seattle to JFK in early August would cost $144 each way, for a total of $288. That compares with discount carrier JetBlue, which charges $248 round trip for its single daily flight to JFK, and Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, which offers several direct nonstop flights daily to JFK beginning at $396 round trip.

Compiled from Seattle Times business staff and The Associated Press