Friday, April 22, 2011
The White Collar Criminal Elite
One of the guys I felt great sympathy and friendship with at FCI, Morgantown was Jeff Williamson. Jeff, an orthodox NJ Jew was ensnared in the stings orchestrated by the epic fraudster, Solomon Dweck. Dwek defrauded tens of millions from inter alia federally-insured banks, then in an effort to avoid certain decades in the slammer set up some 100+ New Jersey public officials, rabbis, and lesser lights. Jeff was one of the lesser lignts, a building inspector who agreed to expedite inspections in exchange for bribes paid (recorded and videotaped) by Dwek. I wrote about Dwek in October of 2010. Let me add: being a small fish does not equal being a small heart, human, or mind. Jeff, a curmedgeon, was a spiritual guy with a giant heart. I'll go one step further committing a crime does not automatically one a . . .well, I think you know what I'm going to say.
Among the larger aggregations of white collar criminals at Morgantown are the crooks connected to the Cuyahoga County [Cleveland] corruption scandals which I wrote about endlessly last year, While I was at Morgantown, seemingly not a week went by without new arrivals from (or departures to) Cleveland of peple who are sentenced to prison time for offenses relating to Cuyahoga County political meltdown. By the way, it is not any justification if I observe that these men were caught and prosecuted for activities which were standard practices among business men, contractors, attorneys, judges, and other public officials in most municipalities in years past--it's just that these schmucks got prosecuted while in past decades many of the unprosecuted perpetrators of the pay-to play-practices had buildings, parks and other public places named after them.
Another one of my closest pals at Morgantown was the former Northeast Ohio Sewer Board lawyer, Bill Schatz. Schatz's crimes are summarized in this Cleveland.com article. Bill did some rotten crooked financial shit, but here's the thing, paradoxically, Schatz is a fine person. And even in his job as the Sewer District lawyer as far as I can see, Bill spent years meticuloously crafting the districts' contracts with builders and others who in turn created an excellent sewer system for the region. If Schatz was so rotten, why did he serve the district for decades? How did the district keep costs low while the services were reliable? Funny, huh? sure.
At Morgantown Bill Schatz is teaching GED classes to drug dealers. He helps borderline illiterate guys read and respond to legal paperwork they receive from lawyers and courts. [Disclosue: Bill used to wash the sweats Jeff Williamson lent to me]--I don't profess to be in a place to assess the scope of Bill's criminal offenses, or even the appropriateness of his sentence-- afterall, there are sentencing guidelines and reasons to depart upward or downward. My point is to question certain underlying assumptions, do long prison sentences for older white collar criminals involved in purely financial offenses serve a social or societal purpose? We are kidding ourselves if we think years in prison for someone like Schatz is corrective, redemptive, or adequately retributive. My guess is that long prison terms for guys who committed financial felonies is purely and reflexively political and counterproductive in any corrective or social sense (pun, intended.)
Dennis Dooley, another of my Morgantown associates is directly connected to the former Cuyahoga County Auditor, Frank Russo (a Big Cheese, in all of this.) The feds charged Dooley with trying to buy or bribe his way into a "no-show" job with the Auditor's office according to the article at Cleveland.com. Dooley argued in Court that he was doing what he learned to do, hustle. Dooley was a formerly a small business man, an entrepreneur, a networker. In Dooley's view, he was one of those guys out in the marketplace who conceived of ideas and innovations that created economic activity including jobs. Sure in hindsight, Dennis sees that the public officials with Cuyahoga County were crooked, but why is Dooley doing 3 years? How does putting this former business man behind bars (at age 60) achieve any public or social purpose. Setting aside the devastating impact on Dooley's familly, do we expect that others who learn of his situation to be deterred from trying to hustle benefits, contracts or work from local government. Yeah, good luck with that.
The president of Mont Granite, Dinesh Bafna, provided a granite counter top to an installer that ended up in auditor Frank Russo's house. The feds alleged that in turn Dinesh received a tax reassessment on his residence. He also got 6 months at Morgantown. Here's the Cleveland.com story. As I write, my friend Dinesh, a fine and decent man, bunks with drug dealers (and dogs) in a residential unit at Morgantown. The day before Bafna arrived in prison he was running a successful business employing people from greater-Cleveland and supplying much needed economic activity to the region. Jailing Dinesh Bafna makes sense, why?
As I go along the road of happy destingy, freed from federal prison I'll revisit the stories of these Cleveland and other white collar criminals, (Gene Dinatale, a Philadelphia accountant who is the head librarian at Morgantown comes to mind.) The point is that regardless of whether these gentlemen did or did not commit real financial offenses, large, small or barely worth mentioning should they be doing in some cases lenghty prison sentences. Each of the guys I met at Morgantown is paying the price, with their loss of reputation, careers, businesses, personal freedom, separation from their families, friends and fortune. Is there a more reasonable and rational reponse to white collar offenses than imprisonment on the taxpayers' dime?