Reverend Raleigh Trammell – Southern Christian Leadership Conference Dayton head – home raided by FBI on Embezzlement concerns!

February 11, 2010

Early this month, national officials of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference requested criminal investigations by authorities in Georgia and Alabama, alleging embezzlement from the civil rights organization by Dayton’s Rev. Raleigh Trammell, the national board chairman, and SCLC Treasurer Spiver Gordon.

Today, Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation seized a computer and several boxes from the home of Reverend Raleigh Trammell, according to Dayton police.

Agents searched the Dayton offices of the SCLC looking for any information or evidence that could like Trammell to the alleged misuse of the group’s funds. They also raided the home of Trammell’s daughter Angela Goodwine, taking boxes and a computer from her house as well.

Trammell declined comment after the agents left his home. However, neighbor John Wilkins said: “After all of the accusations, I’m not surprised (by the searches). I feel sorry for the family that they have to go through this. Mrs. Trammell is a very nice person and I feel sorry that she has to go through this — she and her husband both.”

According to reports, the group’s treasurer, Spiver Gordon of Alabama, is also under investigation for involvement in the case.

U.S. Justice Department spokesman Fred Alverson said the searches are in relation to an investigation in to SCLC financial activities. No criminal charges have been filed.

“I don’t have any reaction to that nonsense,” said Trammell, chairman of the board of SCLC’s Dayton chapter. “I have nothing to do with the finances of the organization.”

He said the SCLC finance committee is investigating the allegations.

“I’m sure when they make their report it will clearly exonerate me. Until then I’m just prepared to say it’s a bunch of hogwash,” said Trammell, who also is executive director of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance in Dayton.

Trammell and Gordon are accused of unauthorized expenditure of SCLC funds in excess of $560,000 since 2006, according to a Jan. 29 letter to Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard. The letter was written by Dexter M. Wimbish, who is on temporary paid leave as SCLC general counsel.

“The embezzlement includes the use of a board account with Citizens Trust Bank (in Georgia) whereby personal expenses have been paid as well as loans to Raleigh Trammell,” Wimbish wrote in the letter.

“As these persons have been reinstated, there is a fear they will continue to mismanage funds and destroy or alter records to cover up their theft and conversion.”

According to an internal review of the SCLC national board account obtained by the Dayton Daily News in a report issued earlier this month, SCLC officials questioned payments of more than $27,000 to Trammell and the Dayton SCLC chapter he leads between 2006 and 2009, including two wire transfers to a Trammell-controlled National City Bank account.

“I’ve never been paid any $27,000,” Trammell said.

In a Jan. 19 interview he denied the allegations and said “I have absolutely no knowledge” of transfers of SCLC funds to his control and “I don’t believe any such bank accounts exist.”

In a phone interview, Gordon said he only signed checks from the national SCLC account after the expenditures were approved with vouchers signed by other officials, including Trammell.

“Some of the allegations that are being made are just ridiculous,” Gordon said.

In presenting the documents in Alabama, Rocker said he was joined by Wimbish and Ron Woods, who is on temporary leave as SCLC executive director.

The two were placed on leave by the Fulton County judge who on Jan. 20 granted a temporary restraining order restoring Trammell and Gordon to their jobs until the SCLC board could meet. Trammell and Gordon had agreed last year to step aside while the SCLC investigated complaints of financial impropriety against them.

Three SCLC board members, including Rev. Wilburt Shanklin of Dayton, sought the restraining order after the investigation was publicly announced in December. Shanklin is president of the IMA and a member of Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell’s Leadership Council.

The Dayton SCLC and IMA in 2009 received at least $304,952 in taxpayer funding for local programs, including money from the Montgomery County’s human services levy; county job and family services money funneled through the Dayton Urban League and federal funding for food and emergency shelter, a program administered by the United Way of Greater Dayton.

Every choice has a consequence.  Keep in mind people are innocent until proven guilty.  However, where there is smoke there is fire…so if guilt is established there will likely follow a prison sentence.

COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.


Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva pleads not guilty by reason of a “Spending Disorder?”

February 4, 2010

With her attorney again signaling that he will mount a mental-illness defense, a former Koss Corp. executive pleaded not guilty Friday to accusations that she embezzled $31 million from her longtime employer.

Sujata “Sue” Sachdeva, 46, of Mequon, Wisconsin, pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges she embezzled as much as $31 million from Koss Corporation, a publicly traded head phone manufacturer where she had been employed as Vice President of Finance, Secretary, and Principal Accounting Officer. According to the indictment, Sachdeva authorized numerous massive wire transfers of funds from company bank accounts to pay for her American Express credit card bills and obtained cashier’s checks to pay for personal expenses, among other things. The scheme dates back to at least 2004, according to reports.

Michael F. Hart, her Attorney, said in a brief interview, “As this case proceeds . . . we intend to show that Ms. Sachdeva’s mental and emotional health played a significant role in her conduct.”

Asked whether that was the basis for Friday’s not guilty plea, Hart declined additional comment. Later, he issued a statement reiterating his remarks in the interview and added, “This is the beginning of an ongoing process, and our focus will be on the arguments we make in court. However, the issues of Ms. Sachdeva’s mental and emotional health are essential to this case.”

In court, Hart agreed to a new condition of release requested by prosecutors that prevents Sachdeva from disposing of assets that might be confiscated if she is convicted. According to the indictment, the government will attempt to seize her $800,000 Mequon home, her 2007 Mercedes Benz E350, a Hawaiian vacation timeshare and other assets if she is convicted.

The U.S. Marshals Service also is working to inventory approximately 22,000 items FBI agents gathered at the Sachdeva home and from local luxury stores and resale shops.

Several stores kept paid-for clothing in their storerooms for Sachdeva. She also sold thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise through local resale shops, according to several retailers.  The government expects to sell the items, probably in an online auction, and return the proceeds to Koss.

Sachdeva also was ordered Friday to refrain from using alcohol and to submit to drug and alcohol testing.

If Sachdeva is convicted, she faces up to 120 years in prison plus fines, restitution and forfeiture of merchandise.

Her trial is scheduled for April 19th.

COMMENTARY:

I know there is a vast difference, but Sachdeva’s defense is a bit like the fellow who killed the abortion doctor – there is a justifiable reason?  Clearly stated…I am unaware that using a spending disorder as a defense has been successful in achieving a verdict of “not guilty”.   Certainly this case will be watched closely, as there are many white collar criminals who have either embezzled or created Ponzi schemes and lived lavish lifestyles who would welcome the opportunity to be found not guilty by reason of a “spending disorder.”  If this defense wins…I would suspect that Bernie Madoff would be regretting his guilty plea.

IF I were a betting man, I’d bet she’ll face time in prison…but?

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!


FBI Posts Warning about Haiti Relief Contribution Scams – Tips to avoid being Ripped Off

January 14, 2010

How unfortunate, but at a time when folks need help the most – at that same time – there are those who find the greatest opportunity to take advantage of those kind enough to offer help.  SCAMMERS are in full force concocting schemes to take money that you would give to help and instead help themselves.  Whether it’s 9/11 or Katrina – the disaster makes no difference – Scammers have one goal – DEFRAUD YOU.

More than 400 Internet addresses related to Haiti have been registered since Monday’s devastating quake, Internet security expert Joel Esler said. The names reference Haiti and words such as “earthquake,” “help,” “aid,” “victims” and “survivors.”

Here are tips offered by the FBI, Better Business Bureau and Scam.busters.  Also click here for a video on the subject.

SUMMARY TIPS:

  1. Be skeptical of email through Social Networking sites.  Don’t click on Links or attached files.
  2. Ask for the name and phone number of the charity or request that they put information in writing.
  3. Do Not give personal financial information – You’d be vulnerable to identity theft.
  4. Don’t be mislead by a “Sound Like” Charity name
  5. Ask if the Charity is registered with any organization and get the registration number.  Check with CharityNavigator.org.
  6. Ask what percentage of your gift actually reaches the needy.
  7. Don’t ever donate cash and DO NOT give out your credit car number to telemarketers or use it with a charity you have not checked out.
  8. If the person asks for more…that may be a sign something is wrong

If there is ever a time that the Haitian people need help it is now.  That is not true for Scammers.  Don’t fall prey to a scam.  Make sure your heart felt contribution goes directly to those who need it the most.

Here’s a link to a list of charities that are providing relief to the Haiti effort and have been signed off on by charitynavigator.org.  HAPPY GIVING TO YOU!

Read the rest of this entry »


Bernie Madoff in Jail! It’s Not “Club Fed” I Know – I’ve Been There…

March 12, 2009

madoff-cp-6397978There was cheering from the crowd when Madoff was immediately taken to jail.  Emotions are running high and will do so for years to come.   But this is not a joyous day.  Many victims lives have been radically transformed by the financial crime Madoff effected.  Likewise, Madoff’s life as he knew it is over.  Leaving the comfort of normal life to go to prison is a radically different experience as well.

I know – regretably I have been there for exactly the same crime Madoff plead guilty to today.

Every choice has a consequence.  Many were victimized by Madoff et al and both the victims and Madoff, himself, are facing the consequences of choices made.

Madoff made the following comments in court today.

“I operated a Ponzi scheme.  I thought it would end quickly, but it proved impossible.  I am ashamed for these criminal acts. I always knew madoff_sketch_09031203this day would come.”

I was asked today on CBS radio – KRLD – by Ernie and Jay about the mentality of how something like this could happen.  Is it possible that Madoff just was out to steal from folks?  The answer is simply – NO.

While I don’t personally know Bernie Madoff, I know the thought process that ends in federal prison.  Madoff is a smart man.  In fact, I would say that he was brilliant in his ability to effect such a scheme successfully for so long.  That is rather amazing.  But, for a time, I suspect when he first got started, Madoff was legitimate.

To effect a fraud like this, there must be three components: (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  My best guess is that Madoff had two needs that came together when he began this in the early 90’s – (a) emotional need – he would not admit that he was faliable; and (b) money – in that he likely lost money and was unwilling to admit that fact.  Hence, he entered into the second  part of creating such a fraud – he took advantage of his name and notariety to gain more money – more investors or more victims.

CNN reported: Madoff admitted that he never invested his clients’ money, and that he deposited the funds into a “Chase Manhattan” bank.

At that point, Madoff crossed the line of investing and became an outright fraud.  Amazingly, instead of continuing to invest clients money hoping for the big win, Madoff just deposited the money in the bank.  Of all revelations, that was the most amazing.  Effectively he just gave up, committed the crime and waiting until the house of cards fell.

TONIGHT FOR MADOFF:

As I type this I can speak first hand from experience, Madoff just entered a phase of life that is totally foreign and for which he is unprepared.  Likely, as he was removed from the court room, he went to processing where he removed his clothing and was issued prison issue clothing.  It is doubtful that he was madoff_jail_cell03allowed to keep much other than one set of “street” clothes that might be used for limited visiting privileges or meetings with legal counsel, etc.  He would have likely been handed his bed linens and escourted to his holding cell.   Unless because of his age he was assigned a lower bunk, he would be given the upper bunk as those with more time in the facility get the privilege of lower.  His meals would be a step above a Swanson’s TV dinner – maybe – and the routine is strict.

Counted multiple times per day, Madoff will soon find that he’s no more than anyone else incarcerated, an inmate.  Inmates will likely acknowledge him, but not consider him any more than they.  In fact, it is likely that many will avoid him fearing that what they might say to him will be used against them (they fear he’d become a snitch) in order to gain favor with the judge for a lighter sentence.

Tonight will be one of the longest nights of Madoff’s life.  He will wonder to himself – time and time again – what he has done and why.  Those thoughts will haunt him for the rest of his life, which from a free man’s perspective, has ended.

THE VICTIMS:

Now here’s where I should stop, but for whatever reason, I can’t.  I understand the anger, and desire for revenge that many feel.  It is natural as your trust has been violated.  This is no different than feeling that one has when a marriage ends with the distrust created by adultery.

Many would say that I am the least to offer advice.  Perhaps that is true, but I’m going to try.  First, from a practical perspective seek the legal help you need to recover what you can.  Know that there are possible sources for some recovery including the application of IRC Section 165(c)(2).  I am not an expert in that area, but I have a guest blog from someone who is.  Go there it might be helpful.

Beyond the legal recourse against Madoff and those involved – and I suspect that others will fall from this as well, may I say – with respect – put your loss into perspective.  We come into this world with nothing and leave that way as well.  Money – security – certainly are important, but it is afterall only material.  The longer one harbors anger or hate, the worse life becomes.  Finding the ability to recognize that Madoff will suffer and reap the consequences of his choices is significant.

Your life has changed – so has his.  No one walks away from this feeling good or whole.  The ultimate outcome, however, for you and your well being will, in large part, be a function of your ability to forgive.

IN THE LONG RUN:

Having been there, I know the pain of prison.  Some learn from their experience and others never get it.  In Madoff’s case we may never know what the true effect of his life changing experience will bring.  In my case, prison was life changing.  While I am thrilled with freedom, I understand that my time there changed my life and gave me an opportuity to do something positive today that, in fact, helps others.

Sometimes you can actually get lemonade from lemons!

As always – COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.

HERE is what Madoff read to the court.


Bernie Madoff Will Plead Guilty! Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Speaks Out

March 9, 2009

In what will likely become the biggest investment fraud in US history, Bernie Madoff is set to enter a plea of guilty at a US District Court in Manhattan on Thursday.    According to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Marc Litt and Lisa Baroni a plea hearing is scheduled for March 12, 2009. artmadoff

According to a CNN report:

Madoff’s attorneys Ira Sorkin and Daniel Horowitz confirmed to CNN that Madoff is waiving his right to a grand jury indictment and that there have been ongoing negotiations regarding a possible settlement.

“We obviously have talked to the government,” said Horowitz. “And we have been professional with each other.” The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had no comment.

Frankly, it would make sense that Madoff would enter a plea.  Anything beyond that would likely result in a sentence or punishment that would be less favorable to Madoff.  Let me, however, say, I don’t think the punishment will be anything to laugh at.  Madoff’s alleged crime is substantial enough that it will earn him many years in federal prison.  Based on his age, I have stated on more than one ocassion that Madoff may never see freedom again.  But, that is just speculation.

PERSPECTIVE:

As many of my readers know, I have been through what Madoff is facing now.  Here’s a reality check – if you fight the federal government, you will likely end up with a substantially longer sentence.  The government (for the most part) will do whatever is necessary to gain a “win”!  The governments role is not to make the victims whole or even to discover who or how many people have been victimized.  The role of the government is to bring those who break the law to justice.  And the easier you make it for them to “win” the more likely one is to receive a moderate to light sentence.

Now, having said that, I also know that there are victims who get angry when they discover that the government doesn’t really care about their loss or their plight.  If a victim can help the government win, then the government is interested.  But, when the US Attorney has sufficient evidence to win or gets an admission of guilt on a plea agreement (which is exactly what Madoff – through his attorneys – will enter on Thursday) they are done.  The rest of victims claim will come in other legal suits that will be brought against a multitude of organizations.

In Madoff’s case – gaining a guilty plea should be easy since Madoff basically admitted guilty publically.  CNN reported:

It was “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme,” Madoff said, according to the government’s criminal complaint. “There is no innocent explanation,” Madoff told two FBI agents, according to the complaint, which states Madoff expected to go to jail.

With a statement like that – it’s an easy win for the goverment.  The issue in the plea agreement is not guilt, but what Madoff will plead guilty to and what sentence has basically been agreed to in advance.  The government will get it’s win, but will the sentence be sufficient to satisfy the victims?  By the way, starting at 10:00 a.m. victims will have a chance to be heard by the judge.  Not that it matters all that much as I would guess that it’s pretty well decided.

REALITY CHECK:

Having been through it, (wish I could say other wise) the process will likely be fairly straight forward.  Madoff pleads guilty to “securities fraud”.  The judge hears from the victims.  The judge accepts Madoff’s guilty plea.

WHAT’S NEXT:

Hum…now that’s a good question.  Thus far Madoff has been under – shall we call it – “house arrest.”  Whether he’ll be allowed to continue that form of confinement or whether the judge will require him remanded to some form of federal prison awaiting sentencing remains to be seen.  Certainly this is public outcry for Madoff to be imprisoned.

There is little chance that Madoff will be sentenced on Thursday.  If this hearing is true to form, it will only be an admission of guilty.  Once entered and accepted, Madoff will have more time to wait until his sentencing hearning.  In my case I had to wait almost six months before being sentenced and then another four months before being required to report to federal prison.

I doubt it will take that long for Madoff, but it will likely take time.

According to the New York Times:

If Mr. Madoff does plead guilty on Thursday, it could nevertheless be several months before he is sentenced, several former prosecutors said. The single count of securities fraud that he faces now carries a prison term of up to 20 years.

The one thing I do find interesting in this case if that the government is only seeking an admission of guilt on ONE count of securities fraud.  With so many victims, it would seem that the government could easily win multiple admissions of guilt on items other than just ONE count of securities fraud.  It makes one wonder if the government isn’t being cooperative due to the backlash that could come if Madoff exposed the incompetence of the SEC?

Just a thought!

QUESTION:

1.  Assuming Madoff Pleads guilty – how much time do you feel he should serve for his crime?

2.  Should Madoff’s sentence be reduced if he helps locate available funds to help with restitution?

3.  Should charitable organizations get preferential treatment when it comes to restitution?

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


Stanford Financial Group Chief Investment Officer – Laura Pendergest-Holt – Arrested! Stanford Won’t Go Down Alone…

February 26, 2009

The third ranking executive of the Stanford Financial Group – Chief Investment Officer Laura Pendergest-Holt was arrested by the FBI on charges that she stanford_financial25obstructed a government proceeding.  Appearing before a federal magistrate in Houston on Friday, Pendergest-Holt is accused of making “several affirmative misrepresentations” to SEC investigators who were seeking to learn about a scheme to defraud investors and account-holders of billions of dollars in deposits.

The FBI and IRS are actively conducting a criminal investigation(s) of Stanford’s allegedly fraudulent dealings, which was confirmed in court documents.  A CNN article reports:

“Since June of 2008 I and others on behalf of the FBI, special agents with the Internal Revenue Service, and postal inspectors have been conducting an investigation into allegations that executives of Stanford Financial Group … have defrauded investors and account-holders of more than $8 billion in deposits,” said FBI agent Vanessa Walther in an affidavit filed with the charges against Pendergest-Holt.

“We have been conducting this investigation parallel to an investigation being conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” the affidavit says.

Bloomberg reports:

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Pendergest- Holt, Stanford Chairman R. Allen Stanford, and Stanford Chief Financial Officer James M. Davis on Feb. 17, accusing them of misleading investors about $8 billion in certificates of deposit in Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.

Keeping in mind an arrest is not a conviction, her attorney stated:

“She is extremely disappointed in the path the SEC and law enforcement are taking,” said Pendergest-Holt’s lawyer Dan Cogdell. “She has been cooperating for weeks, and now she is falsely charged for a crime she didn’t commit.”

The full Bloomberg report is here.

Thinking that at one time she might be the one to topple the house of cards and send Stanford to prison for a very long time, one might ask if her arrest is just a ploy to put pressure on her to provide exactly what the government wants.  Perhaps she did withhold data – which one can go to prison for – or perhaps it’s a power squeeze.  Either way, the choices made by Pendergest-Holt in the past are surely producing consequences today – and likely will for years to come.

As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, one this is sure – there will be more to come….

O.K. SO HERE IS SOME MORE…

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports on the Pendergest-Holt criminal charges.  Pulling from a story from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the WSJ Law Blog reports:

A bit strange, however, is the story’s several mentions of Pendergest-Holt’s looks. The story notes that while the Baldwyn, Miss., native, now 35, “had no financial services or securities industry experience” before joining SFG in 1997, “less than a decade later she was managing more than $15 billion in assets and running a worldwide team of equity, policy and sector anaylsts.”

According to the story, Pendergest-Holt had a “killer combination of beauty, brains and connections,” was was “an expert number-cruncher” and “has been described as strikingly beautiful and statuesque.”

Wow…I’ve heard that one should look the part, but $15 billion under management…well one would assume that there would be a string of credentials that would support such responsibility.  But then, reality check, it seems that it really was all part of a big illusion.  Maybe striking looks just makes the illusion easier to pull off.

YOUR COMMENTS WELCOME!


John A. Yanchek Pleads GUILTY to $82.8 Million Mortgage Loan Fraud Scheme – Fraud Prevention Expert Chuck Gallagher Comments

February 24, 2009

Every choice has a consequence.  As a business ethics and fraud prevention speaker, I state that during every presentation.  Regardless of who you are or what station you may hold in life – you cannot avoid the consequences of your actions or choices.  Sure, you may avoid the consequences for a time, but in the end we must always face the consequences of our choices.

On February 4th, 2009 – John A. Yanchek – a licensed Florida attorney pled guilty to conspiracy, making false statements in connection with bank loans, and money laundering.  The consequence – Yanchek could face up to 45 years in federal prison (although his sentence will likely be much less).  prison-hands

According to the US Attorney’s news release:

YANCHEK entered into a conspiracy to make false statements to federally-insured banks in connection with applications for commercial  loans to fund the purchase of vacant land in the Sarasota/Manatee area for development.  The object of the conspiracy was to obtain a loan from a bank in an amount that was sufficient to allow the conspirators to purchase the property without contributing any equity of their own and to receive excess loan proceeds for their personal use and benefit.  To influence the lending decision of the various banks, YANCHEK, acting in his legal capacity as the closing attorney, made false statements regarding the financial resources of the borrower, the amount and source of equity contributed by the borrower, compliance with the seller’s obligation to provide marketable title to the property, and distribution of the loan proceeds.

The question now is not one of guilt.  Yancheck has made it clear that he is guilty.  Rather the question is one of motivation.  Why would a licensed attorney risk his license, livelyhood and freedom?

An article written in the HearldTribune.com (linked here) states the following:

Between January 2005 and March 2006, Husani, whose business dealings are being scrutinized by the FBI, completed seven real estate transactions in Manatee and Sarasota counties, buying land for a total of $43 million, reselling it to partners for $117 million and helping them obtain $84 million in bank loans, according to records filed with county courts.

Yanchek, by contrast, bought seven houses for $3.45 million since 2001. He then resold them to companies or trusts he controls for $5.55 million and got $4.46 million in loans from three different banks.

In his most expensive transaction, Yanchek bought a house at 101 Seagull Lane on Bird Key from Christopher and Courtney Campbell for $1.16 million on Dec. 4, 2002.

He then sold the house the same day to 101 of Sarasota Inc., a company he controls, for $2.15 million and got a $1.25 million mortgage from First State Bank.

As a side note – Husani fled the country in 2006.

From external appearances, Yancheck figured out how to defraud banks by watching too many episodes of “Flip That House.”  Frankly, however, the three components of a fraud are (1) need; (2) opportunity and (3) rationalization.  While I can’t address the orginial “need” motivation, I suspect that over time “need” became money.  From the perspective of a fraudster – once one gets the taste for money it becomes nearly impossible to divorce oneself from that need.  In Yanchek’s case the “opportunity” component was found in the license and position of trust that he had.  There is a fundamental understanding that an attorney is a trusted advisor and ethically should abide by the law.  Somehow here that point seems to be missed.

Where from here?  Well, Yancheck will be sentenced and considering the financial magnitude, I suspect that he will receive 5 years or more as an active prison sentence.

IF YOU KNOW JOHN A. YANCHECK – and would have any insight into his motivation, feel free to contact me as I am interested in what would motivate such behavior.

YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!


When the FBI Comes Knocking – A Guest Blog by Jon May, Esq.

February 18, 2009

GUEST BLOG by Jon May, Esq.

It is part of our nature to be cooperative. That has been the key to the success of our species for the past 12,000 years. It is part of our upbringing to obey authority figures. From the time we are young, we are told to comply with orders from our parents and later our teachers and employers. So it is not surprising that when the FBI comes to our homes or offices, we feel compelled to answer their questions. After all, we did nothing wrong, we have nothing to hide. But this very natural response to authority is precisely the wrong response when dealing with federal agents. Just ask Martha Stewart. She wasn’t prosecuted for insider trading. She was prosecuted for making false statements to prosecutors.

When we read the headlines, our first inclination is to believe that the person charged with a crime is guilty. But while this is not always the case,  our willingness to assume guilt insures that his or her personal and professional life will be ruined  even if he or she is eventually vindicated at trial or on appeal. This holds true of businesses as well as people. Consider what happened to Arthur Anderson. Long after Arthur Anderson imploded, its employees scattered to the winds, its investors devastated, the Supreme Court held that no crime was committed. Sorry, our mistake.

The potential for wrongful conviction is greatest in white collar cases. This is because the difference between guilt or innocence has little to do with the accused=s conduct and everything to do with the accused=s state of mind: what they knew, when they knew it, what they intended. Just ask Frank Quattrone; wrongfully accused.

When the FBI shows up, they are counting on shock and awe. They don=t call you ahead of time to make an appointment. They don=t give you the opportunity to speak to your lawyer. So when confronted by their questions, you have had no time to prepare. Your mind races. Your ability to recall and reason is clouded by fear. In these circumstances, people react in unexpected ways. Some will automatically deny facts that are demonstrably true. Others will confuse dates or events. Some will be overcome by feelings of guilt for actions they did not take or are not even criminal. When it is over, many  will not be able to recall anything that they said.

But you can be sure that whatever was said can be used against you. It can be the linchpin in the government=s prosecution for a substantive crime or your statements can be the basis for a prosecution for making a false statement to a government agent. It can be the dagger the government pulls out to impeach you when you testify at a civil, administrative, or criminal proceeding.

When ever there are major financial losses, the public cries out for blood. Hindsight bias causes prosecutors to believeBsincerely believeBthat what might have been predicted, was predicted, that what could have been known, was known, that what was not disclosed, should have been disclosed.  They also believe that those in a position to predict, know, and disclose are guilty of federal crimes for their failure to do so. Jurors, who have little knowledge of complex business or financial transactions are easily infected with this same point of view. And to be fair, many people in good faith can look at the same transaction and reach very different conclusions. If you doubt this, you have never been married. This is why the only rational response to a visit by government agents is to tell them that they will have to speak to your lawyer. Don=t even let them into your office or your home. Not because you have anything to hide. But because you are in no shape to answer questions accurately and intelligently.

Keep this in mind. If speaking to the agents is truly in your best interests you will always have another opportunity to do so. But it will be at a time and a place of your choosing and under circumstances where your rights are protected and your decision informed and intelligent. Regardless of what the agents tell you, looking after yourself, your family, and your business is the right thing to do.