Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grabity.

Probably dangerous to draw too broad a conclusion from a single (alleged) embezzlement case, but I'm trying to make a point.

An office manager for a local clinic is charged with stealing 214,000.

It happened from 2005 to 2009.

She bought herself a Audi AA s, and a Cadillac STS, and had "extensive remodeling performed on her Bend home over the past few years..." (Bulletin, March 21, 2009).

I'm wondering if we aren't going to be seeing a lot more of these kinds of cases than usual.

It seems to me that our entire country suffered from a mass delusion. Watching the Home and Garden channels, you'd think that marble counter tops and wood floors were an absolute necessity. Didn't everyone live this way? Didn't everyone drive a late model luxury car or SUV? Didn't everyone experience fine dining on a regular basis?

The money was flowing, and no one was really paying attention. No one was questioning how an office manager managed to buy not one, but two luxury cars.

Lots of people were doing it. But -- if they had modest incomes, and they didn't embezzle, I suspect they went deep into debt. That scenario, it seems to me, still has to play out.

Credit card debt is sneaky. You can make minimum payments for a long time after you're underwater, which of course just makes it worse.

Again, you're not going to have people admit to these things.

You'll see the outward signs, which will be explained by other motives.

Sudden moves, sudden job shifts, divorces, sudden conversion to a 'simpler' or 'greener' lifestyles. People will be starting up businesses, or taking on consulting jobs, or 'retiring.' Recession Chic will give everyone cover to start to fall back to earth, both rich and middle class and poor. (The difference will be, the rich will be mostly lip service and will immediately go back to living high when they can.)

The poor and middle class will be left wondering what happened.

But it's just reality sinking in. Grabity is catching them.

7 comments:

BilboBend said...

'Individual' embezzlement is quite old. Anybody with access to the 'books' can create fake accounts payable and funnel money to an account.

What is fascinating in these times is 'collective' embezzlement, or better yet 'collective theft'.

Take Made-Off, not even his secretary's made less than several $100k/yr, ... think about that everyone was getting paid astronomical sum's, no wonder nobody saw the 'ponzi'.

Collective like our Bend-1031, which involved dozens of Bend's respected lawyers, cpa's, and church icon's. Sawyer is a collective. Neuman of Bend-1031, had one of the most expensive homes in Bend up in Highlands@BT.

Go back and read 'grand popular delusions, and madness of the crowds' mcKay, South-Sea bubble, everyone was living beyond their means, and eventually when the final crash came, in the following years tons of people were sent to prison, what is most interesting is that if you stayed out of prison, it was who you knew.

Always during the post collapse of a bubble, society must punish, but those punished are generally people not smart enough to pay off the right people, or to re-invent themselves soon enough. In the south-sea bubble, if you were very early in accusing others, you could avoid prison.

This is why in the same book (delusions) there is also a chapter on witch-burning, as those who accused a witch, not only had them executed after trial, but shared their assets with the court.

So in every bubble or mania, the collective ones are always the worse. What the survivors do is blame those with assets, and then make a deal with courts to share. Quite often its not in the systems interest to go after paupers, its best to go after those who still have wealth post-bubble.

Your going to see lots of people in Bend 'outed' in the coming years, but its COSTA&MOSS and gang that really need to be examined, but like the south-sea or witch-hunt, COSTA&MOSS will be sitting at the court acting as the judge, all the while being engineers of the mania.

MrBruce said...

During the last 20 years Wall Street has had its way with us.

[ City-Hall, City-Staff, and the Boss-HOGG's of Bend have also had their 'way with us' ]

On a bipartisan basis it provided the Treasury Secretaries, filled the regulatory agencies, paid itself unconscionable bonuses, and stuffed the campaign coffers. The greed knew no bounds. The distortions of public policy - right up to Greenspan's infamous decision to leave financial regulation up to the firms themselves - have wrecked the world economy.

The fascinating thing about this greed is that it is so deeply ingrained that neither the bankers themselves nor our economic leadership understands just how disgusting and dangerous it is. Even after the music stopped, to use Chuck Prince's now famous simile, the bankers keep dancing - with our money. They continue to grab billions of taxpayer dollars (in Merrill's case) or at least hundreds of millions of dollars (in AIG's case) with giddy abandon, in full view and with a straight face. And our economics officials declare that this is unavoidable or too dangerous to curb. Contracts are sacred, unless of course it is union contracts, in which case we should demand that wages and benefits be cut as conditions for government help.

MrBruce said...

On the subject of witch-burning, it must never be forgotten in Bend, that the practice of witch-burning didn't come to and end until people started accusing the 'judges' of being witches, then the practice was quickly halted.

BilboBend said...

Here you go dunc, several new words to add to your 'grabity' vocabulary, ...

ponzipallooza, and ponzimonium, so in Bend, we can have grabipalloza, and grabimonium, I especially think that grabimonium is quite prevalent in our Bend.


U.S. regulator probing "rampant Ponzimonium"


Fri Mar 20, 2009
By Jason Szep

BOSTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of people in the United States are under investigation for financial scams, many involving Ponzi schemes, a U.S. regulator said on Friday, calling the phenomenon "rampant Ponzimonium."

While none are as mammoth as disgraced financier Bernard Madoff's $65 billion fraud, multimillion-dollar "mini Madoffs" are proliferating from New York to Hawaii, the head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said.

So far this year, the agency has uncovered 19 Ponzi schemes, which depend on an influx of new capital instead of investment profits to pay existing investors.

That compares with just 13 for all of 2008.

"Because of the economy, people are seeking redemptions more than they ever have and that's making a lot of these scams go belly up," Bart Chilton, commissioner of the Washington-based Commodity Futures Trading Commission, said in a telephone interview.

In the last month alone, his agency has pursued investment fraud in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Iowa, Idaho, Texas and Hawaii.

Chilton called the problem "rampant Ponzimonium" and "Ponzipalooza" -- a play on the word "Lollapalooza," an American music festival featuring a long list of acts.

Many of the financial scams are small but grew fast to support lavish lifestyles, like the suspected $40 million, five-year Ponzi scheme that came to light last month when a North Carolina man, Bruce Kramer, committed suicide.

Claiming he was an expert mathematician, Kramer is accused of persuading 79 people to invest in what he said was a foreign currency trading operation, Barki LLC. He promised monthly returns of at least 3 percent to 4 percent, the CFTC said.

Instead, he funneled money into a Maserati sports car, a $1 million horse farm and artwork while holding "extravagant" parties, according to a CFTC complaint released on Wednesday.

As the economy soured, Kramer struggled to find new clients to keep the scheme going. In the days before his suicide, his investors demanded their money back and grew suspicious when they couldn't access their own funds, said Chilton.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission shares oversight of financial markets with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which also faces a swelling casebook of Ponzi schemes, including charges against Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, who is accused of bilking investors of $8.8 billion.

The SEC has taken emergency action in 24 cases this year "to halt ongoing fraud," said SEC spokesman John Heine.

The FBI is also ramping up probes of financial wrongdoing. The agency has 43 corporate fraud cases under way directly related to the financial crisis, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole told a Congressional panel on Friday.

The CFTC, which set up a task force last year to pursue foreign currency Ponzi schemes and fraud, discovered about $80 million invested in four Ponzi schemes this month. That followed 10 such schemes in February totaling about $1.46 billion, and about $450 million in such scams in January.

Michael said...

Corruption is based on access and to a lesser extent need. Greed is a deadly sin but if you asked the greedy person why they stole, went into debt, or simply why they needed more they would have a very good rationale. Many would point to everyone around them and the material wealth we all display. I had to keep up with the Jones family is a very real argument when what you own defines your self-worth.

There is American society in a nut shell and when the inevitability of acquiring more on a borrowed dollar comes to a screeching halt many people will find any way possible to continue the charade. Transpose this viewpoint upon our country and you have a small window of truth as to why the insanity continues at the highest levels of our corporations and government.

Owning and running small businesses for years gave me one gem in regards to human greed:

"Only the people you trust can steal from you." Love the irony.

kelly said...

As a Certified Fraud Examiner working for a Sheriff's Office (not Deschutes County) I can tell you that we are starting to see a lot more embezzlement cases. Some people think it is the economy. I tend to think it is that people have not been paying attention to the books and now that they have to pay attention to the books they find the funny business.

We did a recent case where the office manager had moved to Bend and started stealing there. She just received 76 months. That does not include the Bend charges. Hopefully those will happen.

Lots of people don't want to press charges. They just want to get their money back (which is always dubious at best) and civilly compromise.

I eventually want to work for myself over in Bend doing fraud work. Unfortunately for business owners I think there will be plenty of work.

Duncan McGeary said...

Thanks for the confirmation, Kelly.