Who duped Slate?

Media criticism.
March 12 2002 7:46 PM

Who Is "Robert Klingler"?

On the trail of the man who duped Slate.

(Continued from Page 1)

Klingler made two requests in his Feb. 6 e-mails to Truitt, both of which she honored: He wanted to conduct all correspondence through his AOL address "In the interest of making my legal department happy. … That will enable me to satisfy the nitpickers on the fourth floor and separate this endeavor from my job." He also requested semi-anonymity in the bio note. Truitt suggested this language: "Rob Klingler-Desai is the North American head of a European auto manufacturer." He agreed but later asked that his byline be scaled back to Robert Klingler, offering this explanation: "By the way, I am in the midst of finalizing my divorce, so by the time the diary comes out, my name will be restored to the pristine state of Rob(ert) Klingler."

Advertisement

Slate made no attempt to reach Klingler at his rk@ceo.na.bmw.com address and made no phone call to BMW headquarters to confirm his employment before it published the diary. It should have done both. And it should not have extended partial anonymity to him. Our hair shirt hangs heavy.

At this point, the mystery of "Who Is Robert Klingler?" swells to include "Who Is Robert Klingler-Desai?" and "Who Is RDesai3109@aol.com?" not to mention, "Are They the Same Person?"

It's true that nobody knows you're a dog on the Internet. But the Internet has a way of collecting everybody's paw prints over time and preserving them for eternity. A flurry of muddy prints connecting Klingler to Desai can be gleaned from the Web.

Every Internet e-mail hops from computer to computer as it makes its way from source to destination. Accompanying the e-mail on its journey is the "Internet header," which contains the e-mail's itinerary. The header for the rk@ceo.na.bmw.com e-mail (click here to read it), provides ample evidence that it did not come from bmw.com but from considianconsulting.com, an Internet domain registered with Register.com.

According to Register.com's Domain Name Registration Services, this is the registration information for considianconsulting.com:

Organization:
   considian llc
   ravi desai
   2101 mills avenue
   menlo park, ca 94025
   US
   Phone: 650 854 7889
   Email: rdesai3109@aol.com

Created on: Wed, Feb 07, 2001
   Expires on..............: Fri, Feb 07, 2003
   Record last updated on: Tue, Feb 05, 2002

 Administrative Contact:
   considian llc
   ravi desai
   2101 mills avenue
   menlo park, ca 94025
   US
   Phone: 650 854 7889
   Email: rdesai3109@aol.com

A Register.com systems engineer delineates the path the rk@ceo.na.bmw.com e-mail traversed: The header shows that a user first logged onto the Web through America Online. His next stop was www.mail.considianconsulting.com, the Web e-mail page that services the Web domain www.considianconsulting.com through Register.com's vendor Critical Path. Before I alerted Register.com to the spoofed e-mail, pointing your browser to www.considianconsulting.com produced a page from which its owner could log in and send Web-based mail. At press time, however, the link no longer worked. Whoever composed the rk@ceo.na.bmw.com e-mail to Slate appears to have used his software's options to "spoof" the rk@ceo.na.bmw.com "from" address, the Register.com engineer says. He rates his certainty that the e-mail traveled this path in the high 90s (on a scale of 0-100).

Ravi Desai
Ravi Desai

According to Ravi Desai's estranged wife, Jennifer Desai, the two resided at 2101 Mills Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025, from 1997 until the summer of 1999, when they broke up. That is the same address to which considianconsulting.com is registered. The Desai couple also shared the registered phone number (650) 854-7889, although Jennifer doesn't recognize the rdesai3109@aol.com e-mail address. Jennifer Desai is currently suing Ravi Desai for divorce and is represented by San Jose attorney Gregory MacSwain. MacSwain's office confirms both Jennifer's identity and the fact that she is seeking a divorce from Ravi. Jennifer Desai adds that she learned during divorce proceedings that Desai founded Considian Consulting after the couple split.

Drawing on the IntraNDA National Directory, Slate was unable to locate any Robert G. Klingler in the United States who works for BMW. Given this back story, we can assume that either Ravi Desai sent Robert Klingler's e-mail from rk@ceo.na.bmw.com to Slate, or someone with access to Desai's passwords did the deed. He is either a perpetrator or a victim.

Who is Ravi Gunvant Desai? Jennifer Desai gives a stoic interview. She's become all too familiar with the Ravi stories, such as those reported in Eli Sanders' Ravi Desai feature in the Seattle Times. Almost one year ago today, Sanders detailed the prank that Desai pulled on the University of Washington. In October 1999, Desai told the school via e-mail of his desire to support its poetry program with a $2 million gift. In February 2000, the school celebrated the pledge by throwing a $10,000 party in Desai's honor. But as recently as 2001, Desai had given the university only $6,770, according to Sanders. Desai also told Sanders that he would eventually make good on the pledge. He hasn't.