updated 2/22/2007 8:54:37 PM ET 2007-02-23T01:54:37

A salesman was ordered to pay back more than $50,000 to an Atlanta-based software company that accused him of begging off work for months by falsely claiming his young son was stricken with cancer.

Lancope Inc. said in a lawsuit that Michael Ruffalo launched a tale of hardship right after he took a sales job in November 2005 as a regional account manager. He was given paid leave and unmasked as a liar four months later when the firm tried to send flowers after being told the boy had died, the lawsuit said.

Ruffalo must return $52,517 in wages, benefits and interest because he failed to answer Lancope’s complaints over the last nine months, state Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Fisher ruled in a default judgment this week.

“It’s incredibly hard to understand why somebody would do something like this,” David Cocchiara, Lancope’s chief financial officer, said Thursday. “Using your child as a method of getting money out of companies while not doing any work is not good karma.”

Six other technology firms that employed Ruffalo at various times dating back to 2002 had similar stories of him doing little or no work by claiming his son was seriously ill, Cocchiara said. “They chose not to deal with the legal hassle, but it was something we felt strongly about pursuing because it seemed so wrong,” he said.

Calls to Ruffalo’s home in Macedon, near Rochester, and to his lawyer were not immediately returned Thursday.

According to the lawsuit, Ruffalo was employed full-time by Invoke Solutions of Waltham, Mass., and Chordiant Software of Cupertino, Calif., when he took the job at Lancope.

He told Lancope soon afterward that his son Aidan, who was 3 years old at the time, had just been diagnosed with leukemia, the lawsuit said.

Continue to hope for a miracle’
Messages to the company from Ruffalo in January 2006 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 their newborn had a lung ailment, the lawsuit said.

Finally, Lancope called the school where the wife worked to ask about sending flowers and learned that neither Aidan nor his baby brother was ill, the lawsuit said.

EncryptX Corp., an e-mail security company in Boulder, Colo., said it hired Ruffalo in March 2005 and within two weeks, got an e-mail saying his son had been rushed to a hospital.

In the end, “we tried to send flowers to the funeral home and they said we never heard of the son that had died,” said the company’s president, David Duncan. EncryptX demanded Ruffalo pay back $21,464 but, getting nowhere, decided to “just write it off as a bad experience,” he said.

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