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 and 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.