Prison – Choices, Consequences and Compassion – Comments from a Reformed White Collar Criminal

The Beginning: It’s funny how everything in your life can lead to just one moment. Starting that day was the beginning, but it felt like the end. Never in my wildest imagination did I perceive this day as a beginning. I felt my life was ending. I never wanted this day to arrive; yet time has an odd way of forcing certain issues and today this issue was forced. There was nothing I could do to prevent the arrival of this moment.

Having traveled for a short time, as I opened the passenger door, time seemed to change. Everything was in slow motion as if to etch this experience in my memory forever. I took my first steps into this new life. Visions of my family filled my heart and my mind – they seemed lost to me. I took more steps with thoughts of my ruined career. Yet more steps, with a strong knowing that I literally had nothing. I was experiencing rock bottom and the experience was not pleasant.

On the 23rd step I extended my hand, opened the door and took my first step into Federal prison. As I walked toward the entrance I was “Chuck Gallagher” – what some from my community would have, at one time, called a “somebody!” As I walked through the door I became 11642.058 – a convicted felon – what most people would call a “nobody.”

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I would never in my wildest dreams have conceived that in five short years I could so completely destroy my life. As a Tax Principle in a CPA firm in the mid eighties I exuded success. I had been published in National tax publications, testified before the United States House Ways and Means Committee on tax legislation and become an instructor to CPA’s in 30 states. I was, in my mind, a “somebody”. I had made “it”. It was only an illusion – a shell. It wasn’t deep within me. I didn’t know that at the time. I believed the illusion. I believed I was “somebody”.

We all have many rivers to cross as we journey through life, but this one left me wondering how I would ever find my way back and who I would become through this part of my journey. For me, this was bottom…rock bottom. By stripping away, in a very public way, an identity founded on ego, pride and illusion, I was embarking on a new experience with an uncertain outcome and I felt afraid and alone.

The Journey: During our lives we will all be faced with temptation many times. It’s not the temptation that is at issue, but rather, how we respond to temptation that determines the measure of a man. I did not respond well. Out of fear of having the illusion of success exposed and through a series of choices, I set into motion the outcome that took me 23 steps to receive.

I committed fraud. I stole money. I had a need. I must make the house payment or risk losing favor in the financial community. As a trustee of a client’s trust, I had opportunity – opportunity to divert funds without anyone being immediately aware. Lastly, I could rationalize my action by calling my theft a loan. My response to temptation – theft.

 

I lived at that time in what seemed like a parallel universe. On one hand, I was truly making choices that brought about legitimate success. Yet, at the same time I lived this shadow existence making choices that ultimately brought about my downfall. Every choice has a consequence. The outcomes of the choices we make can be extraordinarily positive or extremely negative. The one fact we must all live by is that we reap what we sow. The consequences of our choices may not manifest immediately, but we will harvest the outcome of our choices and actions. That 23rd step propelling me into Federal prison was proof positive to me that there is a consequence for every action. It was my actions that got me there.

Time in prison seemed to move in slow motion as if to allow me all the time necessary to evaluate my actions, my choices, my behavior and to learn many lessons about my identity, my purpose, my focus. If I had to be there surely there should be an outcome worth the time. While I didn’t know what that outcome would be, one thing I was committed to was to remain open believing that God’s plan for my life could rise from even this lowly place if only I were open and willing to learn, grow and receive.

Following Release: Within eight months, after taking the same 23 steps out of that prison door, I was recognized for the choices I had made and offered the opportunity to take a management role. I had no expectations that this would happen, but accepted with gratitude the opportunity placed before me.

As spiritual beings, whether we like to admit it or not, we create our reality. The multitude of choices made each day following my release from prison created the offer and opportunity I was to receive. The abundance, opportunity and prosperity continue to multiply. Within three months, following my reentry into management, I was presented with another opportunity –divisional management supervising two states.

Never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that one year from my prison release date, I would be managing a $6 million sales organization. But, a clear pattern was beginning to emerge. Choices made with integrity – self integrity – provided positive consequences. I was living proof of both sides of the choice issue. Choices made without integrity or ethics certainly yielded extraordinary negative consequences. Those choices made from an ethical framework with the foundation of integrity were yielding results far beyond my expectation.

Life’s Purpose: From my experience in prison it is clear to me that for the remainder of my life, I am to (try) to help others see the connection between choices – their consequences – and the outcomes that follow. More often than not, the message is well received. People seem to respond and understand that someone who has made bad choices and recovered perhaps can provide some inspiration to others who – themselves – would like to recover as well.

But, I am reminded in the most unusual ways, that all people can’t move past their issues to claim the joy in life than can and should be theirs. I am learning the awesome power of the internet, as well as the unique forum it provides to people who have less than honorable intentions. Recently, I posted video clips on YouTube and received many positive comments. Now, at age 50, I am learning about this medium. I must admit my kids know far more than I.

Anyway, three days ago I began to see a series of comments that were made by a person that I had to dismiss due to their unethical behavior. Interesting the venom that exists when one points the finger at another blaming them for their circumstances. The reality is – and I have lived it – we are responsible for our choices and the consequences that follow. The videos, which you can see on the right of the screen, are to serve as an example of what I say and how I say it. They were not designed as a place for disgruntled former employees to speak their dissatisfaction. After three days, I decided to remove the comments – as they were not germane to the purpose of the videos.

Following the removal of the comments, I received, yet, another. Here it is reprinted in it’s entirety:

How ethical is it to censor embarassing comments from your YouTube page, making it appear they never happened? You can wipe your comments clean, but you can’t erase the past. Karma is a bitch. Oh and by the way, good luck with that cancer when it comes back for a second round.

How sad it is when someone wishes ill of another. I am a prostate cancer survivor and speak to mens groups about avoiding and/or overcoming issues with prostate cancer. Perhaps, there will be a point in this persons life when the light bulb will come on and she’ll realize that wishing another ill does not change the consequences of poor choices.

As I close let me say – look past the illusions of life, make productive choices and claim your success!

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