Banking Embezzlement! What Motivated Rebecca Dawn Long to Commit Fraud?

As I prepare to write this entry, I must start out by saying that I know exactly what Rebecca Dawn Long is going through here in 2008. I went through the same thing in 1990 and I know how painful the process can be. I, too, (not proud of this) embezzled money and had to expose myself – to my family, friends and the community I lived in – as a liar and a thief. The experience was humbling, terribly painful, and a turning point in my life. So, for those who read – my motivation is not in any way to tear down Ms. Long, but rather to explore – for the benefit of those who read – what motivates someone to commit a fraud and subsequently destroy a life (at least for a time).

First, let’s define fraud: “A knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment.”

According to the US Attorney’s office, Ms. Long, between December 2004 and September 2008, devised andistock_000002775172small executed a scheme to obtain money from The Peoples Bank of Ewing by establishing a line of credit under a fictitious name. After establishing the false credit line, Long allegedly withdrew $487,685.23.

The indictment also charges that Long created and faxed a fraudulent loan document to an office of The Peoples Bank for the purposes of disguising the fact that she had embezzled over $487,000 from that financial institution.

Assuming the indictment is true – that meets the definition of fraud. The broader question is motivation!

THE FRAUD TRIANGLE: Fraud arises when three elements exist simultaneously: (1) need or unsharable financial pressures; (2) Opportunity or perceived opportunity; and (3) Rationalization or the ability to convince yourself that what is wrong is right.

NEED: Need generally comes from an (a) excessive lifestyle; (b) gambling or drugs (in the case of men -perhaps women); (c) debt, poor credit, financial losses; or (d) pressure to succeed from family – job – peers or company. In my case, the need arose from (a) and (c) – too great a lifestyle and too much debt. For those who may know – in Rebecca’s case which was the motivating factor?

OPPORTUNITY: Here’s a fact – “Potential fraudsters who think they will get caught rarely commit crimes. Therefore, for those of us who have been catagorized as “fraudsters” – the opportunity most likely was poor or insufficient internal controls. Now I doubt that the bank will admit to their role in the fraud scheme, but insufficient internal controls creates “opportunity.” More important was what loophole did Rebecca choose to effect the crime she is charged with?

RATIONALIZATION: In order to break past the ethical boundaries of right and wrong, most fraudsters justify their questionable conduct as something other than fraud. Here are some examples of what might be used as rationalization: (1) I was only borrowing the money, I intended to pay it back; (2) I work hard and they don’t pay me enough here, so this is just what I deserve; (3) It’s no big deal, everybody does it; and (4) I have no choice, it either I do this or I lose my house, etc.

QUESTION: While the above data is general, the question is what motivated Ms. Long to take the actions she took. She is innocent until proven guilty, however, in my experience, the US Attorney’s office does not indict someone unless they feel they will secure a conviction. What was Ms. Long’s need? What loophole in bank procedures did she take advantage of in order to access that sum of money? What was Ms. Long’s rationalization?

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME…might I suggest however, that we focus on the issue and allow Ms. Long and her family the opportunity to heal. No personal attacks will be approved.

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4 Responses to Banking Embezzlement! What Motivated Rebecca Dawn Long to Commit Fraud?

  1. A comment was left on another threat about this entry. I am reprinting it here as I feel that it was thoughtful and relevant:

    “Normal” people (clinical term, not mine) make choices with their hearts, minds, and spirits. Every single thing we do is done to fulfill a combination of emotional, intellectual, and behavioral needs — and is guided by a set of personal values. The more “basic” the need, the broader the set of values that we will apply (for example, I’d consider it okay to use physical force against someone if he was holding my head underwater trying to deprive me of air, but not if he was a competitor who did something sneaky to deprive me a potential new client).

    So all human behavior is situational. Although not everyone will make the same decision or take the same action in a given situation, a “normal” person (again, that’s a clinical term, not mine) will tend to make the same decisions and take the same types of action when facing similar situations. In other words, behavior in normal people is relatively predictable — which is why employment interviews, background checks, reference checks, pre-hire testing, etc. are relatively reliable indicators of future job performance if done properly. A normal person doesn’t commit fraud out of the blue — there will be a history of having lied, cheated, deceived, etc. to fulfill personal needs (perhaps not on such a grand scale as embezzlement, but lots of smaller incidents).

    Beyond that, mental illness, drug or alcohol problems, etc. can cause a person to misperceive or misinterpret the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of a situation — and therefore behave abnormally and unpredictably.

    Likewise, a “significant emotional event” can induce someone to radically modify his/her set of values — and behave abnormally and unpredictably. (That one is a favorite movie theme — perfect husband and non-violent gentleman becomes a stone cold vigilante executioner when criminals take his family from him).

    Chuck, you noted that you only saw “black and white” in Diva’s posts, yet the dichotomies that stood out most to me in all the dialogue above were in your comments regarding a “good” person and a “bad” choice. There are just people and choices — “good” and “bad” are situational. Fraud, on the other hand, is against the law — and that seems very black and white.

    Regarding controls (or lack of), controls on the banking industry overall, and controls at the branch level to prevent or reveal fiduciary fraud, are completely different issues. In my experience with banking clients, there were about 160 investigations into suspected fraud — that turned out NOT to be fraud — for every one case that actually was. How many of us run our businesses that well? Do you have a certified third party that double checks and verifies the work of all your employees and contractors — and not only catches and reports the things they occasionally do wrong, but monitors them closely enough to catch and report 160 things they MIGHT have done wrong (but actually did right) for each one thing they do wrong? I certainly don’t.

  2. DomainDiva says:

    Chuck,

    Obviously you and I have gotten off to an incredibly bad start over at the BofA Small Biz Board.

    Instead of calling you out over there, I am going to use the opportunity presented to me here to respond to some of your charges regarding my character and thought processes.

    #1 Yes I am a true Diva. I have to be in order, as a heavy maintenance consultant to walk into any heavy aircraft maintenance facility in the world and take charge of a project.

    #2 Yes, my thinking is very black and white. It is not however as you present it some sort of a disease. In my world, that of the aircraft maintenace and records/regulatory world things ARE black and white. As a pilot (remember YOU confessed this), you of all people should know that there are no grey areas in some professions. Do you try to find the grey area in an aircrafts’ operation in an emergency? I don’t think so. In that vein of thought then you need to realize that the thought processes in each of us are not the same.

    Mine is a world of rules, regluations, requirements and statistics. My technical start up is a world of code, formulas and design (thanking my stars I am not in charge of THAT!!!). So my world is black and white, that is how I think. It’s not a bad thing to have different thought processes. Having different thought processes and disagreeing with someone should not make them the brunt of public ridicule such as you did to me on the BofA Biz Board.

    Not fishing for an apology, just wanted to give you some information that you did not already have.

    I am a leader. Leaders do not have time to ‘figure out’ what is right and wrong. A true leader must always forsake their own self interest, know what is right for the team and go from there.

  3. DomainDiva…

    Glad to have your comments. Please note I was in no way attacking your character…rather I was just pointing out the differences in how we see things.

    You are 100% right…when I get behind the yoke of my airplane I want to have the confidence in knowing that it is safe and the folks who worked on it knew what they were doing and did it right.

    You are an ANALYTIC and thank God for them in this world.

    I, on the other hand study people, who are as you know much less “black and white” in our choices and actions. With no offense intended – you have been an interesting study as the strong ANALYTIC forces come out clearly in your opinions and comments.

    In very – VERY – general terms – people can be classified in four catagories: Analytics, Dominates, Expressives, and Amiables. Depending on where you fall will determine the interaction one might have with another.

    Regarding our posts…I asked one of my students to catagorize you and they said from post one…that you were an ANALYTIC – DOMINATE. While we both know that you have not, nor likely will, submit to a test to determine the accuracy of her assessment…your comments here confirm that she (the student) is likely correct.

    I applaud you for who you are and what you do. I in no way meant to offend. It is funny however, in that EXPRESSIVES are the opposite of ANALYTICS and hence often don’t communicate well. And, you guessed it, I am a dominate EXPRESSIVE.

    My best to you! Oh, and I hope you got that 747 out of the hanger. The next time I fly I’ll think of you and thank you!

  4. Most people who break the law in an elaborate, well thought out way like this, rationalize or justify the act in some way. At the time when I defrauded the US Government, I reasoned that really no one was getting hurt. Now I realize that my actions were foolish and cost the American tax payer. I imagine that Ms. Longnow has a similar understanding and similar regret.

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