December 12, 2014

Preventing Fraud & Other White Collar Crimes

The next three on the “list” that I’ll touch upon are:

  1. Strong sense of rationalizing away the wrongfulness of their actions and quick to justify the activity
  2. No prior run-ins with the law
  3. Didn’t think they’d ever get caught

3. Rationalization: Tackling the rationalization topic first, I think this is one of the most common aspects for us white-collar criminals (at least the ones I’ve met). Certainly for me, it was the defining characteristic that enabled me to commit my crime. “I know this is wrong, but am I really hurting anyone by doing this? I just don’t see how providing private information to benefit financially in the stock market is victimizing anyone else, etc.” That was my flawed line of thinking at the time. Others in here still sing similar tunes, “It wasn’t MY fault that those people trusted me with their money” or “I was going to make things right eventually!” or “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone!”

This is just such a dangerous line of thinking, when we start downplaying our vices and weaknesses while simultaneously justifying (somehow) that we “deserve” the fruits of our nefarious behavior. Some guys in here rationalize that their criminal activities were on the same level as a person earning money legitimately in a career. Somehow to them, ill-gotten/stolen money = earned money. It reminds me of a famous exchange from the Presidential election back in late 90s. Political pundits were saying that Joe Liebermann had the same political beliefs as George W Bush. Liebermann’s reaction to the attempted comparison was a witty one: “That’s like saying a taxidermist and a veterinarian are the same profession. Just because you get your dog back at the end of the day, doesn’t mean they’re equivalent.” Same theory applies to people in here who refer to their illegal activities as “earnings”.

4. No prior run-ins with the law: This one doesn’t need much further explanation. The white-collar felons in federal prison are all experiencing this side of the law for the first time. Of the ~15-20 guys in here that are white collar, maybe 1 or 2 of them have had brushes with the law in the past. Other than that, all have had squeaky-clean pasts (including myself). This may run against the grain of what culture thinks when they read about a white collar criminal in the news. People like to assume that if you did something wrong, then you must be a bad apple. You’ve apparently had a criminal mindset your whole life and the law finally caught up with you. This may apply to some people, but I’d say it’s the exception rather than the rule. Most of the guys in here that committed a white-collar crime were law-abiding citizens and simply made an extremely poor decision which got them here. I’d love to know what the recidivism rate is for white-collar criminals but I can only imagine it’s drastically lower than the 60-70% statistic that we hear so much about.

5. Didn’t think they’d ever get caught: No one planned to come here. No white-collar criminal in here thought that they would be in prison. I’m in this group as well. Perhaps it was delusional, maybe even a bit of wishful thinking, but I genuinely never imagined that I’d be in prison. I thought that, at worst, the consequences of my actions would get me fired from my job. But I never really envisioned the course of events that took place actually happening. Willful ignorance? Perhaps.

I’ve heard enough cases from guys firsthand and about others secondhand to now know: the government can and will prosecute you if you commit a crime. And 97%+ of the time, you will be found guilty. And you will go to prison. It won’t matter whether you’re a family man, whether you’ve been assisting with the community, or whether this is a complete aberration of your life. Once the government sets its sights on you, they will not go away. I will get more into this aspect in the next part but this experience has opened my eyes to the very serious, very tenacious nature of the Department of Justice.

I hope this has been somewhat informative and interesting. I’ll wrap this series up next week with my final installment.

Brian Jorgenson

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