In light of the excruciatingly lenient sentence that Paul Manafort received, it’s important that we look at our broken justice system that methodically and consistently finds white collar crime socially acceptable, and street crime a bane on our society. White collar crimes were first coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939, as ” a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.” Sounds about right.
White collar crimes often refer to offenses like theft of wages, fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, labor racketeering, embezzlement, cyber-crimes, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery. The concept was introduced in response to the typical issues that law enforcement agencies across America have always faced…rising street crimes and their severity.
Here are some of the biggest cases of each, so you have a point of reference you can research later.
- Theft of wages – Google, Apple, Intel, Adobe
- Fraud – WorldCom Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
- Bribery – Kerry Khan and Michael Alexander
- Ponzi schemes – Bernie Madoff
- Insider trading – Martha Stewart
- Labor racketeering – Signal International
- Embezzlement – Lee Jae-yong (head of Samsung)
- Cyber-crimes – WannaCry virus hits the NHS, 2017
- Copyright infringement – The Associated Press vs. Fairey
- Money laundering – Sani Abacha
- Identity theft – Wells Fargo Employees
- Forgery – Donation of Constantine
Now, of this list of crimes Manafort has five convictions of tax fraud, which prosecutors say Manafort committed from 2010 to 2014, when he failed to pay taxes on millions of dollars he earned in income from Ukrainian political consulting.
He was also found guilty on two counts of bank fraud for lying to secure loans to maintain his luxurious lifestyle. Court filings showed that Manafort once bought an ostrich-skin jacket for $15,000 and spent more than $400,000 in just one year on designer clothing. He often paid for the expenses with international wire transfers. He was also convicted on one charge of hiding foreign bank accounts from federal authorities.
During the trial, the jury was unable to convict him on 10 additional bank fraud and foreign banking charges. Federal prosecutors later dropped those counts against Manafort.
What’s interesting, and MSM failed to talk about, is the case of Tessicar Karelle Jumpp, who appeared on Judge T.S. Ellis morning docket as the crowded courtroom of onlookers waited for the main event, the 9th day of Manafort’s trial in Alexandria, 7 months ago.
Manafort, who is wealthy, a mere “blame-less” Republican political operative, while Jumpp on the other hand, was born into Jamaican poverty. Note, Judge Ellis did not mention the type of life she led. No that does not excuse what she did. I abhor the mistreatment of the elderly and children. But this just goes to show how the system is stacked to socially favor those who steal billions and work in corporate America vs. those who commit street crimes. These two individuals could not be more different in upbringing and environment. In court, they were nothing more than two criminals and prevaricators, waiting to have to their day in court.
The guideline range in Jumpp’s case was 87 to 108 months. Prosecutors asked for 90, a “significant term of imprisonment,” they said, and a midpoint between the sentences received by the scam ring’s leader and a lesser player—a reflection of Jumpp’s role as leader in the theft.
Ellis took note of Jumpp’s repentance and how she’d chosen to leave the scam ring of her own volition. He balked at the prosecutors’ recommendation and gave her six years, 72 of the recommended 87-108, so he did not sway THAT far off, despite his “outrage” at the recommendation.
Judge T.S. Ellis
Mail fraud. Wire fraud. Tax fraud. Bank fraud. They were both being charged with the same felonies, they violated the same laws, (different statutes of the law), but basically, they committed the same crime. They stole through fraud and deception.
According to court documents, Jumpp, a 34-year-old Jamaican citizen, was sentenced to 6 years in prison for orchestrating a lottery fraud scam geared towards the elderly, and robbed her victims of approximately $385,000 in August. Jumpp (along with several of her family members) contacted elderly victims in the United States and pretended to be an agent of Publisher’s Clearing House. They savagely targeted the elderly, and one of their victims – Charles Bennett, a veteran of the Korean War who had once owned his own business – was swindled out of nearly $50,000. Jumpp pretended to be “Stephanie” of Publisher’s Clearing House and pretended to need Bennett’s financial information in order to send his winnings.
She then proceeded to rob a retired teacher in Virginia, who remained anonymous, referred to as simply, “Victim 1”, who was taken for $335,000, the crux of her $385,000 scheme. These people and their families sat amongst Manafort supporters and onlookers, waiting for their moment of justice. We know the outcome. Manafort received 47 months compared to Tessicar’s 71+ months. Same crime, different statutes, different race, different background.
Fraud and other forms of white collar crime cost the United States government and its corporations more than $400 billion dollars each year. That makes white-collar crime an enormous burden on the economy, as they add up over time. Let’s look at a few statistics about white collar crime.
- Median business losses caused by executives are 16 times greater than those of their employees.
- The most costly abuses tend to occur not in large organizations, but in companies with less than 100 employees.
- The average company loses more than $9 per day per employee to fraud and abuse.
- The average company in the United States loses about 6% of its total annual revenue to white collar crime that is committed by its own employees.
- Losses caused by managers are 4x the amount, on average, of those caused by employees.
- Men commit nearly 75% of the offenses and cost the company about 4x the amount in white-collar crime costs than women who commit a crime.
- The typical perpetrator is a college-educated white male who is working in some form of real estate.
- A higher proportion of white-collar offenders are female compared to other offender types.
- For every 100,000 people in the United States, there are 5,317 arrests that are directly related to white-collar crime.
- Of those arrests, the number that are related to property crime: 635.5.
- Embezzlement is one of the rarest forms of white-collar crime, accounting for just 6.5 arrests per 100,000 people.
- White collar crime accounts for approximately 4% of the incidents reported to the FBI.
- Writing bad checks, if included in white collar crime stats, would double the amount of crime that is reported.
- Individual victims are the most common targets of white-collar crime, accounting for nearly 75% of the total reported incidents.
- White collar criminals are 7 times more likely to target the government than they are to target a religious organization.
- The rarest form of white collar crime that is reported or investigated: bribery, accounting for less than 1% of all incidents.
White collar crime has been moving away from stealing money from companies to stealing money from people. The most frequently cited charge that leads a prosecution attempt is aggravated identity theft. This charge accounts for 18.6% of the total charges that were filed within the last month. Mail fraud or conspiracy charges to commit offenses that defraud the country are also popular charges that are filed. In total, however, bank fraud and wire fraud are still the most popular white-collar offenses that are investigated.
Why has there been a shift toward white collar crime? There are three basic reasons: 1) the returns are much higher than any other form of crime, including organized crime; 2) most people don’t report these crimes when they occur, preferring to deal with it on their own; 3) victims feel like they are to blame because they weren’t “smart” enough to notice a scam that took their money or property. This is why it is so important to make sure that white collar crime is reported.
Here’s something for you to consider: if only 11% of white-collar crime is reported to a law enforcement agency and the official statistics note 400 crimes prosecuted per month, then there are 3,600 white collar crimes every month that aren’t addressed in any fashion.
Why? Because white collar crimes are socially acceptable, and street crimes that violate different statutes of the same law, are not. There’s no reason for white collar criminals to be deterred, especially in light of Manafort’s sentence. The number of white-collar prosecutions is on track to hit a 20-year low under President Donald Trump, after reaching a high in 2011 during the Barack Obama administration, according to a nonprofit research center that analyzes government data. That’s not a good thing.
Reviewing figures from 1998, TRAC found that there were more than 9,000 white-collar cases filed during the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush until 2004, when the number fell below 9,000, according to the report.
Any serious survey of the evidence on white collar crime offenders lends strong support to the premise that the class-race-gender construct structures criminal opportunities and shapes criminal behavior. Class-advantaged white males, in particular, are uniquely situated to take advantage of an extraordinary range of opportunities to commit the most substantial forms of corporate and occupational crime. Conversely, class-disadvantaged nonwhite females are unlikely to be so situated.
Some criminologists have argued that the advantaged have stronger deviant motivations, enjoy greater deviant opportunities, and are subject to weaker social controls than the disadvantaged and the powerless. Anthony Harris (1991) has suggested that upper-class whites and underclass blacks may well have in common a pronounced lack of fear about committing a crime, in the one case due to a sense of immunity and in the other a relative indifference to the consequences. The victims of white-collar crime, particularly that which produces hazardous products and corporate practices, are often minorities, women, and the poor.
Federal sentencing guidelines, which have been in effect since 1987, require that sentencing follow a specific set of criteria in an attempt to eliminate disparities in sentencing. However, that does not account for the individual bias of the judge, as we have seen in recent cases. The judge has the discretion to lower or raise a sentence by 81 months.
Blacks receive approximately 10% longer prison sentences than whites when controlling for variables such as dependents, education, age, citizenship, sex, race, and whether or not a fine was paid.
Offense level calculations- base level points, adjustments for relevant conduct, and general offense adjustments.
Retribution? A drug dealer gets jail time for selling marijuana, yet the accountant that sets up a money laundering scheme, which allows a more serious drug dealer to continue profiting, is able to pay a fine for his criminal role
52% of blacks in the study made less than $10,000 annually.
78% made less than $20,000
Prosecutorial discretion on charges: money laundering vs. fraud
Why do we never hear about it or associate white-collar crime with anyone besides whites?
“Racial disparities in prison sentences for white-collar crimes are due in large part to the ability of different groups to pay fines,” (Schanzenbach, Yaeger).
It’s also heavily ingrained into US mainstream culture.
“A crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”
– Edwin Sutherland, 1939
We have to level the playing field. Here are some ways we can do that.
1.) Eliminate fines and design a criminal justice system that takes into account the offender’s ability to pay fines and make payments.
2.) Change the definition of “white-collar”.
As I close out this article, it is important that I restate the clear disproportion in the punishment and apathy towards white collar criminals compared to the average street criminal. There is not enough attention, documentation or data on white-collar crimes, and therefore many Americans are not fully aware of the impact of these crimes, in part because white-collar crimes are considered significantly more socially acceptable, simply through the laws that are created by the same rich and wealthy people that break them.
I also hold MSM (Mainstream media) and Hollywood’s feet to the fire in this debacle, for the sheer distortion of our perceptions towards the white-collar criminal. If you don’t believe me, watch “The Wolf Of Wall Street” or even “Fun with Dick and Jane”. If we require that major corporations not be allowed to control news media outlets, or even hold a majority of shares, we start to level the playing field a little bit. If the public is well informed and given access to the inner workings of corporations, those who would wish to do wrong would have to consider the consequences of their actions two and possibly three times, vs the 0 times they do now.
Police officers and local prosecuting attorneys need to be trained in the detection and prosecution of white-collar criminals. If white collar criminals have nowhere to hide, they will be forced to own up to their actions, and the dark figure of white-collar crime may become much more illuminated. If well-informed criminal justice students were regularly given the opportunity to investigate current cases of white collar criminals under the supervision of their professors, it may also prompt more interest in the field of law enforcement.
Regardless of the method elected to bring white-collar criminals to justice, if we act together to reduce the potential for white collar criminals to successfully perpetrate the various schemes and scandals afoot in today’s world we may see an improvement in the world’s overall economy.
Now is that all we need to do? Absolutely not, but it’s a start. What are your thoughts? What can we do to level the playing field when it comes to sentencing for white-collar crimes?
Leave me some thoughts in the comments and let’s dialogue about this important issue together.
Renee’ s Column, “Dem Words: Wednesday Words of Wisdom”, breaks down everyday issues from the perspective of the black community.
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