The Fraudster Next Door (Update)

When they came up with the idea for a sex offender registry, tapping into the mythic fear of stranger danger to give the appearance of doing something to protect the public, at least legislators had what appeared to be a rational basis. Sure, it was nonsensical and played upon baseless fears that some guy was about to snatch, rape and murder your kid, when the truth was that Uncle Sam was far more likely a culprit.

But it made us feel safer, so we applauded.

And we immediately started the inevitable slide down the slippery slope of calling any offense remotely related to a sex organ a sex offense, requiring that people be put on the registry for the neighbors to see. If there were neighbors, since we enhanced the laws to limit their ability to live anywhere except under a bridge far from the rest of humanity.

A permanent underclass was created, and it could include the drunk college kid who peed against a wall, the 16-year-old who had sex with the 15-year-old, as well as the pedophile. But hey, who wanted to point out these problems and be the champion for sex offenders? No one ever got elected for being the voice of reason.

And once the public warmed to the whole registry notion, feeding its salacious desire to know who the bad guys were, we forgot why there was a registry, fallacious though the reason was, and embraced the whole concept of registries as a permanent punishment and warning for us good people to shun those bad dudes.

Utah, having returned to the fire squad after they just said no to drugs, has finally upped the ante.

 With just a point and a click, you can browse a face book of felons, a new government website that will warn of the danger these criminals pose to society.

Only these are not the faces of sex offenders and serial killers. These criminals are mortgage schemers and inside traders, most likely armed with nothing more than an M.B.A. or a law degree.

Their faces will soon appear online courtesy of the Utah Legislature, which on Wednesday approved a measure to build the nation’s first white-collar offender registry, appending a scarlet letter of sorts on the state’s financial felons.

Yup, the White Collar Offender Registry. Keep your stocks and bonds locked up in their room, as the neighbor might lose control and fondle them if he can.

“White-collar crime is an epidemic in Utah,” said Sean Reyes, the state’s attorney general who formulated the idea for the registry when he was a defense lawyer, “representing some of these bad guys.” A former mixed martial arts fighter who has a metal plate lodged in his eye socket from a basketball injury, Mr. Reyes noted that while violent crimes were devastating, many “physical wounds heal,” whereas white-collar crimes “can forever deplete your life savings.”

Serious blows to the head can do lasting damage to one’s ability to think.  Whether that’s the cause of Reyes’ problem with connecting dots is unknown, but it’s painful to learn that he came up with this ridiculous idea while a defense lawyer.  His clients at the time should parse their case files for an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.  Or maybe just a “my lawyer was a blithering idiot” claim.

Whether an epidemic of white collar crime exists in Utah isn’t clear.  There isn’t much of an epidemic of any type of crime these days, but that only serves to lower the bar on what’s needed for hyperbole. Regardless, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the need for a registry.  Are white collar criminals (which covers a vague but broad panoply of offenses) so prone to recidivism that we must watch them, know where they are every minute of the day, keep them away from our children portfolio?

And then there’s the tear inspiring characterization of “many ‘physical wounds heal,’ whereas white-collar crimes ‘can forever deplete your life savings.'” It’s time for a remake of the old TV show, “Queen for a Day,” but with crime victims explaining why they’ve suffered more than victims of other crimes.

But then, why not add White Collar Offenders to the list?

The pornography registry was created after every state in the country built a sex offender registry. And according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several states have formed drug-offender registries and even a database of arsonists.

And I would be remiss not to mention that animal abuse registry, built on sham statistics that legislators sucked up blind.

“There are sick individuals out there who are preying on innocent animals,” said Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor), sponsor of the bill.

Well, yeah.  That’s why it’s a crime, Jon.

And indeed, offenses like fraud are a crime as well.  If someone commits a financial crime, they should be prosecuted and, if guilty, convicted and punished appropriately. And when they’ve served their sentence, paid their debt to society, they are released so that they can get their world back together and move forward to lead law-abiding lives.

In part, the registry is aimed at recouping cash from the convicts. Indeed, to disappear from the attorney general’s registry, the offenders must pay full restitution to their victims.

Aside from the wide variety of other mechanisms available to obtain restitution, the lunacy of this excuse is that offenders on a registry can’t get jobs, meaning they can’t earn a living so they can pay restitution.  Or feed their family.  This is the sort of rationalization that makes registries palatable to the clueless.

For a first offense, an offender will appear on the site for 10 years. By the third offense, the offender’s picture will live there permanently.

Only ten years for a first offender? That certainly won’t impair their transition back to law-abiding citizen and pillar of the community. Ten years is a very long sentence of shame and shun, beyond the sentence imposed by a court.  But then, registries aren’t sentences; they’re civil and regulatory, putting them beyond the reach of constitutional protections.  Of course, if a court pretends a decade of punishment is merely civil, the fiction rules.

Plenty of harm can be done with an MBA or law degree, and some of it is, without question, criminal.  But there is no purpose to a registry for White Collar Offenders other than to hang them out to dry in perpetuity, because we hate them too.  In Utah, this apparently is a good enough reason.

Update:  As I’ve just been informed by Mike Paar, Florida has a registry for all felons.  It would seem more efficient if Florida has a registry for all non-felons, just to save space.

21 thoughts on “The Fraudster Next Door (Update)

  1. William Doriss

    How about a registry of stewpid legislators? Methinks it would be a v. long list. I can think of all kinds of registries. But a registry of “white-collar offenders”? That takes the cake. I’m thinking of starting a registry of Blue Collar Offenders. Ha. (You knew that was coming!)
    P.S., White and Blue Collar offenders unite! You have nothing to lose but Face,… and a few shekels.

  2. EH

    I would think that the motivation came from a different place:

    We currently treat white collar criminals far, far, better than their blue collar equivalents. If you looked into the mortgage fiasco and what happens when millions of people lose all of their money, you could probably find some sort of resulting death or injury which would be no less tenuous than some of our wonkier criminal conspiracy charges, but (probably for good reason) we treat them differently.

    This levels the playing field a bit. It also, for what it’s worth, makes the people with more of the money have a bit more recognition about the problems caused: it is no longer something that happens to “those people.”

    1. SHG Post author

      The “millions of people who lose all their money” causes some imaginary death or injury because . . . why? You’ve got SJW in your eyes, and it’s blinding you with stupid.

    2. traderprofit

      We don’t treat white collar “fraudsters” better. They still get long sentences: Koziniski, Stanford, Madoff, Rothstein, Dreier, among many. Insider traders, maybe a different story.

      1. SHG Post author

        No, no, no. Don’t get into a tit for tat argument over nonsense. EH’s comment is ridiculous, comparing apples to oranges and making a bald, baseless assertion. It’s an idiotic position, mired in SJW ideology that has no tolerance for financial crimes because the defendants don’t belong to a favored group. To SJWs, there are criminal defendants worthy of fairness and criminal defendants unworthy. It’s an insufferable position.

  3. delurking

    Since it is pretty well established that registries are never eliminated, and the rules for getting on them are never loosened, perhaps the optimum achievable solution is to have so many registries that no one can be bothered to check them anymore.

    1. SHG Post author

      There is a lot of merit to that. Burying a needle of improper information under a haystack of crap has its virtues.

      1. David M.

        Alas. There’s already a cottage industry in sifting through crap/profiling job candidates. Soon, your much-maligned friends in Bangalore will know whether you pee on sidewalks in Florida.

  4. Charles Platt

    The registry concept is abhorrent but I’m not sure it makes much difference at this time, as so many online services will provide a “background check” listing not only convictions, but arrest records. In my own case, all charges dismissed with prejudice, but the arrest record prevented me from renting an apartment. I consulted someone who works in database management, and he told me that it was pointless to try to get any kind of privately maintained record expunged, because the services all sell their data to each other, and as soon as I cleaned up a source, it was liable to become reinfected by the others.

    1. SHG Post author

      While there is overlap, they raise significantly different issues. Just because one is harder to stop doesn’t mean we ignore the other.

  5. Edward Wiest

    Other than getting the official government more in the way, the Utah white collar registry, would, in great part, merely duplicate information already either available to the public and/or used as justification for denying required licenses in the financial services industry. Mere _allegations_ of fraud and other misconduct must be placed on the public record of registered securities representatives, and often cannot be expunged even if the alleged fraudster is exonerated in arbitration proceedings. I can’t speak with as much certainty as to insurance salespeople and real estate agents (and anyone in the residential mortgage business must carry a similar license), but I’m sure prior allegations of fraudulent conduct must be reported on license applications and likely block participation in licensed activity. Even corporate officers nailed for fraud must already disclose their history if working for publicly traded companies (and likely have already been exiled from that sphere in parallel SEC proceedings. Utah may be in the old Wild West, but I’m sure all of these practices are already in place there.

    There are very few places in the economy where someone accused and convicted of white-collar crime will not already have his record made subject to disclosure (all I can think of is face-to-face private business transactions and the sale of investment tips), and one would think that anyone looking to place substantial amounts of money in anyone’s hands would at least engage in a little due diligence before putting assets at risk. (Then again, we all know how carefully some folks vet their lawyers.) There’s already enough information out there to permit an expectation of caveat emptor to work–_if_ the potential victim was willing to make the effort to look in the first place. Another registry would be just a duplication of effort with very little real effect.

    1. SHG Post author

      I assume your purpose is to explain why the official rationale is silly, rather than deal with the real justification for registries, which is so the neighbors can dig up dirt on each other and have something to talk about over non-alcoholic brewskies.

      Obviously, licensed occupations don’t require a registry, as they maintain their own records, so no justification can be found there. This is just a show put on for the pleasure of the public.

  6. Bartleby the Scrivener

    As they are, offender registries are a disgusting pustule on our legal system and need to end.

    “Oh, you were convicted of a crime, served your time, and are trying to re-integrate to society? Yeah, well, too bad! You’re forever branded with the letter ‘F’ and cannot work at a decent job, live anywhere in safety, or otherwise have a decent life. Too bad.”

    Frankly, for the vast majority of crimes, I’m not even in favor of tracking whether or not they’re a felon after a certain period after they are finished with their sentence and any parole or probation.

    I suppose if we want to have registries that prevent Gary Glitter from working in a day care, Michael Milken selling bonds, and Bernie Madoff from running an investment fund, I’m okay with that, as long as it’s a simple act of submitting an inquiry to a database, asking, “My SIC is this, is person ABCDEFG with SSN 123-45-6789 legally eligible to work in my industry?”, and getting a response that says yes or no…but otherwise, they stink!

    1. SHG Post author

      One a person pays his dues to society, he gets the chance to live a happy, productive, law-abiding life. If that’s not what it means to complete a sentence, then no sentence is ever complete.

  7. Jason Peterson

    Will there be exclusion zones?
    No living or loitering within 2500 feet of a bank or place where investors are known to gather?

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