And just the other day I placed my order for Girl Scout cookies!
Toward the end of January, Holley M. Barnes was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $87,976.70 in restitution. Wow!
It seems that Ms. Barnes used her position as Girl Scout leader in Pea Ridge, Florida to obtain personal history information from the members of the Girl Scout Troop. Barnes created a fraudulent “Girl Scout Medical Release” form in order to obtain this information which, among other things, included the individual children’s Social Security Numbers (SSN), informing the parents of the children that the Girl Scouts required this information in order to take trips. Barnes used the SSN’s of the children to prepare and file electronic federal income tax returns with the IRS, submitting false information regarding income and employment using the screen names of “Hotmama983″ and “Freewoman74″. The false refunds were then transferred into five different bank accounts which Barnes controlled. Barnes filed false claims totaling more than $187,000 from which she obtained more than $87,000 from the IRS as a result of fraudulently using the identity of these children, including her own children.
Guilty she was of nineteen (19) counts of filing false and fictitious claims for refund to the IRS, fifteen (15) counts of unlawfully using the identification of another person to commit an unlawful activity (Identity Theft), and one (1) count of theft of government property.
So get this – the theft of government property took place like this: Barnes also admitted to taking merchandise from the Pensacola Navy Exchange and returning it for a refund without having purchased the items. Barnes was able to obtain store credit for the value of the items even though she had no receipt. She made 32 separate returns with no receipts since April 2007.
Go Figure! Over the years, as a business ethics and white collar crime speaker (www.chuckgallagher.com), I have studied the “normal” process of how a fraud is committed. Most of the time there are three components. Even generally honest people can get caught up in a fraudulent transaction when all three are present. They are (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization. Now notice I said that honest people, when faced with all three can make wrong choices. That is exactly my background and the price paid was extraordinary.
However, in her case, one might wonder if there was a more serious problem. This goes well beyond the “perfect storm” for fraud. Rather, it borders on a psychological problem as the actions are so bizarre that it leaves you guessing – WHY?
For her sake, I hope her experience in prison helps…but somehow, I’m just not sure.