Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I’m Dreaming of a White Collar Christmas


Photo by Matthew Mendisana | Dr. Larry Siegel lecturing about the crooked history of scammers.

The Holidays are here, a time where many have been preparing for their early and/or late shopping spree. During this time, however, many notorious and crooked individuals see the season of giving as an opportunity. Many unsuspecting citizens of Marco have fallen victim to the lies and deceit of scammers, the most common stemming from a form known as “White Collar Crime.” 

On December 10th at the Marco Island Library, a collection of citizens attended a presentation given by criminologist Dr. Larry Siegel. Understanding criminals and crime is Dr. Siegel’s specialty, and with a wide selection of slides, he shared his knowledge with the curious crowd attending the presentation. 

He began his opening by discussing the nature and origin of white-collar crime. While it’s debatable when the first white-collar crime in history truly occurred, the origin of the name does have a source. The phrase “White Collar Crime” came about in 1930 by criminologist Edwin Sutherland. While there are various forms of white collar crime like embezzlement, fraud, money laundering, etc., it all comes down to a deceitful crime being committed by an individual(s) of high and/or respectable social status. 

Compared to crimes such as robbing a bank or burglarizing a house it might not seem that dreadful, but you might change your outlook when you find out that according to Dr. Siegel’s sources, the estimated cost generated from white collar crimes can reach as high as $660 billion per year! Suddenly, pulling a bank heist seems like chump change in comparison. 

Photo by Matthew Mendisana | “Juvenile Law: Cases and Comments,” one of several books Dr. Siegel has written.

Dr. Siegel delved into the history of notable White-Collar criminals like Charles Ponzi, a crook whose fraudulent ways literally led to the phrase “Ponzi Scheme” being named after him. Dr. Siegel even went into more modern examples like Bernard Madoff, the infamous market maker who stole billions from wealthy stock investors and is currently serving a life sentence. The moral of his story is if you’re going to steal, don’t steal from the insanely rich. 

The presentation then moved onto various forms of scams. To name a few, there’s fraud involving Medicare, Tax, Property and Embezzlement. Adoption Scams, Religious Swindles, Pyramid Schemes, and perhaps the worst offender in the world, Telemarketer Scams. That’s not even a joke! 

Throughout the presentation, however, the big question that was on everyone’s mind was one thing. Why do these individuals of high society do this? Well, Dr. Siegel had an answer prepared. To him, it all boils down to four words. 

 

  • Image provided by Dr. Larry Siegel | Charles Ponzi, the infamous swindler whose actions created the phrase “Ponzi Scheme.”

    Greed: Some people just want to take shortcuts to achieve success. Because sometimes what they already have just isn’t enough. 

  • Need: Whether it’s financial or psychological, some just have a strong NEED to improve/upgrade their status in life, no matter the consequences. 
  • Impulsivity: White collar criminals don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Some just act when they see an opportunity. 
  • Culture: Location is everything, and where they’re from affects their outlook on white collar crime. Most future criminals learn their views from their peers or elders, and the culture they thrive in will affect that outlook. 

Athe conclusion of the presentation, Dr. Siegel proposed a question to the audience, and that was, “What should be done about the criminals responsible for these white collar crimes? Should they serve jail time and just rot away with the murderers and perverts of society? Should the punishment fit the crime and they should instead serve a different sentence? Well, he left that to the audience to figure out. As for what this writer thinks, I’ll leave that debate to the opinion section of the paper. 

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