“Affinity Fraud” A Popular White-Collar Crime In Hard Times


A difficult economic year has brought a flurry of white-collar crime cases in Indiana, including one that made a fraud suspect a household name, says the Indianapolis Star. Beyond Marcus Schrenker, who tried to fake his own death in a plane crash in January to dodge a state securities fraud investigation, a chorus of accused swindlers waited in the wings for their own turns in the spotlight. Many victims fall prey to “affinity fraud,” in which a swindler appeals to older people, the devoutly religious, or others by appearing sympathetic. Investors succumb to greed or a desire for unrealistic returns, particularly when they’re struggling financially. “The promoters will really bring out the worst in people,” said Chris Naylor, commissioner of the Securities Division.

The division’s Prosecution Assistance Unit chalks up most of the 44 cases it has evaluated since 2007 to the implosion of schemes hatched in robust times, rather than a recent uptick in fraud. “The one good thing the economy has brought out is the bad guys,” said unit investigator Charles Williams.

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