Over the past decade, the government has collected just 2 cents on the dollar in repayments ordered by federal judges against the nation’s biggest swindlers, says USA Today. Many of the criminals are close to broke, but some likely hid or squandered their money before they were convicted and ordered to pay. The records trend illustrates the difficulties prosecutors face in the coming years as they try to wring money from scam artists who profited from the nation’s housing and financial crises.
The paper examined 258 cases since 2000 in which courts ordered convicted criminals to pay $25 million or more in fines and restitution — huge sums typically reserved for the most financially damaging crimes. Although the biggest judgments totaled about $30 billion, the government has collected only about $660 million to date, and some criminals have paid less than the cost of a speeding ticket. By law, courts generally set restitution without considering whether the defendant has the money.