What Goes Through White Collar Criminals’ Minds


People in Washington, D.C., where the local government is going through a series of major thefts, is wondering “what goes through the minds of workers who scam and steal and defraud the government of money that is not theirs?,” says the Washington Post. Experts who study those who defraud, embezzle, and steal from the government say they are no different from other criminals. Terrance Lichtenwald, a clinical psychologist in Illinois who has written profiles of white-collar criminals, says that when they are caught, they may prey on the public’s sympathy for white-collar criminals. “They give this notion that we could all be in that situation,” he says. “Typically, in white-collar court cases, everybody puts on a tie and goes to court and they say, ‘Look at me. I am just like you.’ That is called the chameleon effect. They try to blend in. They hope the jury will say, ‘She’s like me. She is okay. She just flipped.’ ”

Barry Webne, who now advises businesses about detecting fraud, worked as the controller for a small firm in Cleveland. His pay did not cover his bills. “I thought the only way out was to steal,” he says. His crime started small. “I doubled my pay.” Over four years, he secretly gave himself raises and bonuses. The stolen money eventually topped $1.2 million. The more he stole, the more he descended into guilt, shame, and greed. He couldn’t stop: “You have a money tree growing in the back yard,” he says. “Why cut it down?” I wasn’t thinking about consequences. I wasn’t thinking about going to jail. All I was thinking about was satisfying my financial need. After you do it for four years and get away with it, you start feeling you will never get caught.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/12/AR2007121202700.html

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