Mathew & Rosemary Martoma

October 16, 2014

Mathew & Rosemary Martoma

I read an article this morning about Mathew & Rosemary Martoma. For a quick summary, Mr. Martoma was sentenced to nine years in prison and was ordered to pay back more than $9 million dollars he stole while working at SAC Capital. He will surrender to federal prison next month. Based on the length of his sentence, and the approach his wife, Rosemary, is taking to try to keep ill-gotten gains I can only assume they were not guided through this process very efficiently.

Rosemary Martoma, I read, is requesting that the court allow her to keep half of her husband’s ill-gotten gains. She quit her career, she said, based on the promise she would have equal ownership of all assets. Under that argument, then, she should do half his time if she is willing to take half of the money her husband earned illegally. Asking for half makes clear she is unconcerned with where the purloined funds came from. They came illegally, Ms. Martoma. Why would you want what you never earned? That line of reasoning is partly why Mr. Martoma is going away for nine years. That line of reasoning once led me to the inside of Taft Federal Prison Camp.

I always wonder why Ruth Madoff was allowed to keep a nice chunk of cash. After all wasn’t her husband the biggest swindler of all, even bigger than Charles Ponzi? I presume, and to be clear I am not a lawyer, that her lawyers did a better job prior to Mr. Madoff’s sentencing of explaining why Ms. Madoff should not be thrown on to the streets of New York City, broke and homeless. Could you imagine the response from the public if Ruth Madoff had suggested she wanted half of her husband’s stolen money? No rational person could made that argument. But one could argue that Ms. Madoff, was too, a victim, and suffered immensely as a result of her husband. She was never indicted, sued I am sure, but never indicted. It is not unreasonable for a spouse who was also swindled to be left with something. But half? Come on!

As I review this case in depth I am blown away at how many things this family did poorly. The lawyers probably collected millions in legal fees. Perhaps Ms. Martoma should take a different approach. Rather than asking tax payers who were deceived to continue to fund her lavish lifestyle, perhaps she should ask her lawyers to return some of their legal fees–in my opinion, those fees, like those illegal trading profits, were unearned.

Justin Paperny

100 Things to do in Prison

October 6, 2014

100 Things to do In Prison

Last week, a friend of mine began asking me questions about prison. He closed our call by asking me to quickly name 100 Things to do in Prison. I asked him to write down my answers as I began rattling them off. My quick responses follow:

100. Bocce Ball

99. Play tennis

98. Get married

97. Write a book

96. Sleep 18-hours a day

95. Fast

94. Ice Cream for Breakfast

93. Make fun of guards for guarding, not correcting

92. Read a book a day

91. Build your vocabulary

90. Teach a class

89. Complain, all day

88. Blame the judge for your plight in life

87. Blame the prosecutor for your plight in life

86. Blow 300 phone minutes in 7 days

85. Spend your whole commissary limit in one shopping

84. Visit

83. Get divorced

82. Go to the hole aka SHU.

81. Use a cell phone, then watch you get locked up and sent to a medium security prison

80. Snitch

79. Talk to the guards

78. Smuggle out a hard boiled egg from the chow hall and get sent to the hole

77. Change the channel in TV room and get reprimanded by Big Homie in TV room.

76. fall into a state of depression when football season ends

75. fail a drug test

74. cry about not getting enough halfway house time

73. Become a paralegal

72. Become a jailhouse lawyer

71. Layout

70. learn to cut food without the benefit of a knife

69. get sent to a higher security prison

68. gamble

67. teach

66. play music

65. get a chair dropped on your head for cutting in line

64. learn how the BOP makes money of the backs of prisoners

63. secure a job in the halfway house

62. laugh as men talk about the money they have while wondering why they have no $ for commissary

61. get fatter

60. get slimmer

59. buy into the rumors about legislative relief

58. ignore your family

57. sit for hours watching the clock tick

56. complain about the rationing of toilet paper

55. wake early to find peace while dorm sleeps

54. learn to sleep through any noise or smell

53. watch in disbelief as you work in kitchen with men who questioned existence of Holocaust

52. create a plan to reach thousands of people

51. spend 20 minutes getting the cheapest floss ever made out of your teeth

50. nearly break your leg while jumping down from top bunk

49. watch in disbelief as guards need 2 attempts to get accurate count for census count

48. watch in disbelief as guards need 4 attempts to get accurate count for census count

47. exercise without weights

46. learn a second language

45. enroll in a community college

44. contribute to University research projects

43. trade the stock market

42. wonder who put up platitudes on the fence on the softball field about “helping offenders prepare for re-entry”

41. look like a science experiment when they run the troubled high schoolers through the dorm to show what could be in “store for them”

40. appreciate the wonderful songs prisoners sing on holidays

39. watch men freak out if their dorm does not win the cleanliness inspection

38. learn to public speak

37. see prisoners struggle due to totally inadequate medical attention

36. learn benefits of being a loner

35. loathe men who watch the Kardashians and Sons of Anarchy all day, then call home to complain how hard prison is

34. enroll in RDAP

33. get a bachelors degree

32. get a master defree

31. get a PHD

30. suffer from Stockholm Syndrome

29. have the best meal of your life

28. Outcrew

27. develop perspective on life

26. learn the prisoners who say they did not cooperate, cooperated

25. pay men to do your work

24.watch in disbelief as guards need 7 attempts to get accurate count for census count

23. see almost every tattoo imaginable

22. watch men not want to leave

21. see men return only to say, “ain’t no chances coming for a felon”

20. learn how much you can actually do with a book of stamps

19. learn to live out of a small locker

18. embrace having to listen to unsolicited advice

17. find joy in reading the LA times from the previous week

16. bingo

15. wonder if this will ever end

14. interview fellow prisoners

13. escape

12. become obsessed with Ayn Rand

11.wonder why taxpayers are so disinterested in our systems of corrections that makes failures of so many

10.find joy in scrubbing pots and pans in the chow hall

9. drop friends in an instant if their plan does not align with yours

8. learn to tell your story with precision

7. become an expert in something

6. obsess over how you will tell your unborn children you went to prison

5. dream

4. reclaim my dignity and self esteem

3. learn to love living without an iPhone, text and email

2.learn to think like an underdog

1. access daily whether my actions align with my values and goals

 

Endorsement From Federal Prison

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October 3, 2014

Endorsement From Federal Prison

I am grateful to have received an endorsement from Federal Prison. My client, Christian Ounaniam, who offered a testimonial earlier this year, wrote me a message to both thank me and summarize his early adjustment in federal prison.

As a former prisoner, I understand the costs associated with this process. Writing tear stained checks to lawyers, lost income, press releases from the DOJ which crushes your reputation and totally impugns your character, the cost of living in prison, and so on makes this an expensive process both in dollars and character.

As I did before surrendering to prison I encourage people who reach out to me view this as a cost/benefit analysis. As a side note, I remember reading a book in prison by Zig Ziglar. He said one should never use the word “cost.” But all we do in life is a cost/benefit. The cost of my facilitating a fraud while working at UBS versus the benefit of making $100K in commissions a months of off my duplicitous client. The cost of waking early to run 10 miles in prison versus the benefit of feeling strong and regaining my self esteem.

To Christian and my clients, despite the urgings from Mr.Ziglar who I love, I do ask them to weigh the costs/benefits of retaining me. Those that see it as an investment in their family, health, and future easily draw the conclusion and we move forward. Some, I will admit need more time. Great! I encourage to them vet, vet, vet. I do not just send a link to testimonials for them to review, (frankly I know of some consultants that write their own), I put them on the phone with existing clients who can easily attest to the value I provide.

Whether you are serving a sentence of one-year of six-years you have an obligation to your family to adjust well and avoid the pitfalls that derail so many. After you have adjusted well and after we have created a measurable and specific plan, we can advance to the next phase, which can be as difficult as the actual prison term: coming home.

My new endorsement from federal prison follows:

“I would just like to tell you thank you for all the consulting that you have provided and proved extremely effective. I was so happy of all the knowledge I knew coming into this institution. Your blogs from Taft Camp helped and so did your videos but the knowledge that came from our weekly calls, texts and emails was invaluable. You told me when I hired you that I should look at it as an investment not an expense. I believed it then and now more than ever. You were right. I am so happy to report a successful entry into prison, and now I must have a successful exit into society, though it’s a bit away. One thing that I remembered deeply that you said is when a new arrival comes here what they do one day one and two and three is the same thing they will probably be doing 4 years from now when they have 3 days left. I took that to heart. I’ve also noticed those who came here not knowing what to expect, and they quickly make the wrong friends, break rules that are easy to break if you do not know any better. So many begin playing cards, and to this day this minute they are still on the card table playing cards. In my case, within the first four hours of arrival, I already had myself issued into my greens, and made good contacts. Also I began reading the very first day here and walking. On day 2, I began the day with a five mile walk, and lived in the library till night time. From that day on, my day begins with a walk on the track, which helps me clear my head and get fresh air into my lungs, I finish my chores before 7am, and I’m in the library by 730am writing, reading, and studying accounting. With your guidance I am writing to my network all of the time, and as you advised I am already planning for that job in the halfway house and beyond. I have clear and concise goals of keeping up my fitness, emotional, spiritual, intellectual well being. If you would like to use this email for a testimonial, you have my permission. Your friend, Chris O.”

 

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Guidance Through Federal Prison

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September 29, 2014

Guidance Through Federal Prison

Yesterday I spoke with a soon to be prisoner.  The man with whom I spoke is named Richard. He made it clear in about 3 seconds that he was seeking guidance through federal prison. In the coming weeks Richard will be self-surrenderding to Lompoc Camp. Richard is understandably uneasy about what is to come. Lompoc Prison Camp is easy to acclimate to, I told him, though it is natural if the first few days feel long and troubling.

I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Richard and tried to ease his anxieties.  I also helped ease his concerns about getting through the 18-month sentence he was scheduled to serve.  As had been the case with me when I arrived, Richard didn’t have any idea of how much time he would have to serve in prison.  He was expecting to serve all 18 months.  When I told him that my sentence had been the same length, but that with good time and halfway house placement, I was serving less than 13 months, I boosted his spirits.  If he adjusts well in prison, and has a series of productive team meetings, he would likely serve the same time.

Prisoners who surrender to prison can do themselves and their families a great service by talking with someone who has experienced the system before they self-surrender.  Those are the most troublesome months.  It’s one thing to receive advice from the criminal defense attorney, but as Richard and so many others have found out, the defense attorneys don’t have the requisite knowledge or experience to discuss the intricacies of prison life.  The anxieties that precede confinement can feel paralyzing.  I know. Seeking expert and honest guidance through federal prison is an essential requirement to thriving through the system. Without such guidance, I know, prisoners drift, and spend their days in an endless fog of doubt and misery.

As I wrote in Lessons From Prison, before self-surrendering, I sought therapy with double cheeseburgers, chocolate shakes and cigarettes.  In-N-Out Burger was my second home! Others turn to vices like liquor or drugs. That’s not the way to prepare for such an important journey. Richard’s nerves were shattered when he called, and his wife and children were struggling as well.  My own mother was distraught with the same worry in the months preceding my confinement. I look forward to working with Richard and his family to create a plan before his surrender, while in prison, through the halfway house, and supervised release.

Consulting with someone who can offer guidance through federal prison is one way that soon to be prisoners can prepare, and I really recommend it.  Reading about prison can help, but there’s no substitute for the wisdom that can come through conversation.  If you were going to climb Mt. Everest, would you want to read about the journey or talk with someone who conquered it? Call me. I can help.

Justin Paperny

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Writing Openly About Your Criminal History

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September 20, 2014

Writing Openly About Your Criminal History

The old stoic Seneca urged the Romans to retire early so they could “find themselves.” That was prison for me. I found myself through reading, running, and writing.

Writing openly about my crime not only helped me come to terms with my conviction, it helped me stay connected to the world, and it helped me prepare for life upon release. Rather than spending my days lamenting over how my life had fallen apart, I took action. Naturally, there were moments I wanted to quit, but I also grew determined to accept reality, and to squeeze out every kernel of experience this prison term had to offer. Running helped, so did reading, but nothing trumped writing.

My writing career started a few months into my term when I began writing down whatever was going through my mind. I began securing moments in my life that could never be recaptured. I did it for posterity and me. My first blog from Taft Federal Prison (that has mysteriously gone missing) in October 2008 was the beginning. Since then I have written more than 100,000 published words. Each blog posting or book I wrote proved to me that I could become stronger through difficulty. May men talk about doing it, but too few follow through. Sleepwalking through your prison term is certainly one strategy. I would get more involved.

For years before my surrender to prison I shut out friends, family, and business associates thinking if I ignored them this would all go away. I only made matters worse. Paradoxically, writing openly about my crimes put me on the path back to success. Writing provided me an opportunity to both take back control of my life and reframe the narrative the Department of Justice had owned. Who owns your narrative?

Justin Paperny

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Sharing Your Expertise In Federal Prison

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September 18, 2014

Sharing Your Expertise In Federal Prison

A friend and client is preparing to surrender to federal prison on September 30. Like me, the judge hit him with a sentence of 18-months, and he was ordered to serve 3 years of supervised release. On a call earlier this week my client asked if I had any “last minute suggestions”. By now, we have covered most everything. “Once you are settled”, I said, “consider sharing your expertise in federal prison by leading a class or series of classes.”

My experience through Taft Federal Prison Camp taught me too many prisoners focus on the limitations surrounding their environment. For some they prove to difficult to endure. Rather than focusing on what they could accomplish, they become enmeshed in the daily “pity party.” These parties take place in the chow hall, tv room, or on that dusty track. These prisoners whine about all the outside forces holding them back, or the prosecutor that set them up, or the snitch that dropped the dime on them. Other than gaining a few minutes of entertainment, it was boring to hear, and worse, their worthless tirades added no value to their life or the lives of others. As I told one white collar offender, “blah, blah, blah. It is old man. Get a new shtick please.”

I encouraged my client to be different, to set an example that others could be proud of. Indeed, my client has considerable business experiences from which others can learn. If he were to teach a class, or mentor others individually, not only would he bring meaning to his prison term, he would be giving back to others.

So for some free prison advice on this Thursday morning, September 18, I say give back! Avoid the negativity! Not only will you thrive through prison, but you will avoid the misery and rancor that holds so many good capable men back.

Justin Paperny

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White-Collar Defense Attorney

September 16, 2014

White-Collar Defense Attorney

Through my prison advice services many of my clients and prospects seek my opinion on what white-collar defense attorney they should hire. Out of prudence I always recommend a handful of competent, experienced white-collar defense attorneys. In Los Angeles, clients of mine have had success with lawyers that include, Alan Eisner and Dmitry Gorin of Eisner & Gorin LLP, and Mark Werksman, of the The Law Offices of Mark Werksman.

This short blog cannot cover everything you should look for in a white-collar defense attorney. As a starting point, however, any white-collar defense attorney should have references you can check, they should have massive experience in federal court, and they should be sympathetic to your plight. You should access whether you have the budget and need for a big firm or whether a more boutique type firm would be better for you. Do they charge hourly or is the rate inclusive? Is it a conflation of both?

Moving on, please ensure they have not become so desensitized to the judicial process. In other words, this is your first go round through the system. For you, as it was for me, this process can be distuburing, painful, life wrenching. For most lawyers, however, they have been down this road hundreds of times. Getting sentenced to 24-months for you is life changing, but for them they see it daily–hence some desensitization to the process. They could be the smartest attorney in the world but if you do not feel comfortable around them your results will not be what they should. The lawyers I referenced above seemed to have cracked the code between showing expertise and compassion for their clients. That is a big deal.

When you call or email your white-collar defense attorney you should not feel as if you are “bothering them,” or “taking their precious time,” as so many defendants, myself included, complain. They have an obligation, a duty to advise and to tend your questions and concerns; never refrain from asking them whatever is on your mind.

As a rule, whomever you hire, make sure to work openly and honestly with them. Sometimes embarrassment about our criminal conduct leads one to sugarcoat exactly what happened. You are just wasting money while you work towards the truth. Sugarcoating or living in denial may provide some moments of solace, but longer term, I know, the consequences are disastrous. How can you expect a lawyer to defend you properly if you do not tell them everything? They cannot. Be prepared to purge and go all in with your white-collar defense attorney. Confronting reality can be tough, I know, but I assure you serving an extra three years in prison because of your failure to work properly with your lawyer is tougher.

Also never forget that while your white-collar defense attorney will prepare you for your defense, they are not prepared to prepare you for life in federal prison, halfway house, home confinement, federal probation and life after prison.  Just as I would never presume to disperse legal advice, a white-collar defense attorney should never dispense prison advice.

Justin Paperny

U-Shaped Prison Curve

September 12, 2014

U-Shaped Prison Curve

I received a message this week that pleased me. It said, “JP, my lawyer gave me your book. Read it all last night. I am going in soon, real soon. Been thinking about the U-Shaped Prison Curve you wrote about. Gotta be ready to ascend that U. My family too. Let’s chat tomorrow if you are available.” We spoke the next day, and this gentlemen is proudly a new client. Some wait to take action, others talk about it–some step up and make it happen!

For a longer summary of the U-Shaped Prison Curve I refer you to my book. For purposes of this blog, however, I will summarize: In prison I noticed a pattern emerge as I listened to more and more men express their anxieties about the obstacles awaiting their release. Whether they were serving a one year sentence or a ten year sentence, a new kind of anxiety seemed to set in as they were getting closer to home. My good friend, Michael, described it as the U-shaped prison curve.

Essentially, the U-shaped prison curve measures a man’s ease of confinement or adjustment. To understand the theory, Michael told me to think of society as being above the curve and the prison community as being below the curve. As a man enters the criminal justice system, he begins descending through the U. He feels himself leaving society behind and anxieties plague him as he moves deeper into the unknown world. Yet, the man begins to adjust to prison life and he acclimates to the world of confinement. He falls into a routine of exercise, cards or television. By the time the man moves halfway through his prison sentence, he will have adjusted in ways that sets him at ease with the prison community, which lies below the metaphorical U.

In advancing through the halfway point of his sentence, however, the prisoner begins to develop those anxieties again. The comfort level dissipates because he is ascending in the U, knowing that he will soon leave the ease of prison behind and he will return to society. Recreational activities and four-hour exercise days will cease. The time of rent payments, car payments, insurance payments and stress over paychecks inches closer each day. As a prisoner’s time moves beyond the halfway point, regardless of the length of his sentence, the theory of the U-shaped prison curve suggests that anxieties return.

In prison and in the filthier halfway house, it was difficult for me to see so many of my fellow white-collar offenders feeling helpless and scared. Rather than feeling excitement about returning home, too many worried about how they would “make it” again. In interviewing some of these men, I learned they all regretted the way they served their sentence. Many wasted the opportunity. I am thankful for the assistance I had in preparing for the journey. Indeed the data suggests the time served me. I was always preparing to ascend the U. Are you?

Justin Paperny

Bob McDonnell

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September 4, 2014

I’ve been reading about the former Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who are going through a criminal trial. In fact, earlier today I heard they were both convicted of corruption, and as a result they face decades in prison. I empathize with the former Governor, his wife and the rest of their family. Certainly, anyone who endures criminal charges encounters real struggle. It leads to costs that begin in the tens of thousands and frequently exceed hundreds of thousands. A high-profile case like the McDonnell’s will probably yield costs in the millions when all is said and done. That does not include the cost of an appeal which I presume they will file.

Financial costs do not take into consideration the enormous emotional toll.  The threat of imprisonment hangs over a defendant’s head like the sword of Damocles.  Every day feels like a rape, a total violation of the individual. I know exactly what it’s like because I’ve been through it.

My troubles with the criminal justice system began more than nine years ago, when I was a stockbroker at UBS. Bad decisions I made led to an imbroglio with the SEC, and the Department of Justice with a charge of violating securities laws. Years had to pass before I could find my way again. Ironically, I found my equanimity while I served an 18-month sentence at the Taft Federal Prison Camp.

I’m hopeful that the McDonnell’s prevail on their appeal. It’s a shame our criminal justice system would consider handing out a lengthy prison term to the both of them. Certainly, they have suffered enough. Why does our country think that imprisonment represents the only path to justice? Frankly, I cannot see any benefit to incarcerating either of them; whatever their conduct, I cannot comprehend how it would have been construed as victimizing anyone. Sentencing Bob and Maureen McDonnell to one day in prison would be disproportionate to any crime that was committed. It would be unjust. It would be wrong.  It would be stupid.

If the McDonnell’s judge determines that imprisonment is warranted, I have a few suggestions that might help their time inside. In my book, Lessons From Prison, I wrote about what I learned and observed as a federal prisoner. In my second book, Ethics in Motion, I wrote about the importance of leading a values-based life. Both of those books provide insight that those who face imprisonment may find of value.

In working with others who struggle with the challenges that the McDonnell’s are now going through, I strive to provide the type of guidance that I could have used. It wasn’t until I surrendered to Taft Camp that I began to accept my fate. First I had to hit bottom.  Then I used that experience to regroup, to begin building foundations for a better life.

I’m not suggesting that the McDonnell’s (or anyone else) are the same as I am. Yet if anyone wants to discuss the challenges of triumphing through a federal prison system, I invite a call.

Justin Paperny

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Football in Federal Prison

Football In Federal Prison

August 26, 2014

Football in Federal Prison

“Dude, what’s wrong?” I asked a friend the day after the Superbowl in February 2009.

“Just having a bad day,” my friend from the kitchen at Taft Prison Camp told me.

“Why? All okay at home, your wife missing you or your kids struggling at school, or you nervous about going home? What is it?”

“No, football season just ended and I have no idea how I’ll make it to September. The weeks just seem to fly by during football season—with college game day and my man Kirk Herbstreit to NFL Sunday to Thursday night football. I just feel the time fly, dude. Now it will be a brutal struggle to September.”

Admittedly, I love watching and playing golf. In prison, I took a whole day off to watch Tiger Woods win the US Open in a playoff in 2008 against Rocco Mediate. But until the Ryder cup later that year I didn’t watch again.

Aristotle suggested there is gold in moderation. All incoming prisoners must be mindful of this. Prison can be easy. One can too easily lose themselves in endless fun or mindless activities. I’m not begrudging someone from watching football. I’m just asking you to access how that activity relates to the obstacles that await your release. Watching golf for me or reading easy books were emotional releases. I needed them. The brakes helped me recharge.

My point again is these breaks or emotional releases should be short lived. Do not allow your happiness or well being to be contingent on football or mail call or how much halfway house/ home confinement time you get.

Persistence, like character, is an acquired skill—power through the need to waste the days. Please follow this prison advice and come home stronger and more prepared for the obstacles that await you.

Justin Paperny

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