As I leave Pittsburgh, PA from a speaking engagement on ethics and fraud, I couldn’t help but stop when I read about a 38 year old Simpsonville, SC woman and her attempt at fraud. A “Bernie Madoff” she isn’t as her fraud lacked creativity and ended quickly.
Every choice has a consequence. That is a statement that I speak often as I address groups nationwide. Whether it is Bernie Madoff, his accountant (now charged with fraud), Robert Stanford, Gordon Grigg or a host of others, the reality is whether the fraud lasts for some time or is short lived – in the case of Stephanie L. Mayer – there is a consequence for choices that we make. If those choices are unethical, then the consequences can’t be good.
According to the US Attorney’s office:
In February 2008, Meyer opened accounts at four brokerage firms including the ultimate victims, The Vanguard Group and Ameriprise Financial. Meyer then deposited worthless checks into the accounts, which resulted in fictitious or “phantom” balances. Meyer then withdrew $175,000 from the credited Vanguard account and $130,000 from the Ameriprise account before the fraud was detected.
Without intending to sound judgmental, the “real impact” of the current recession wasn’t felt till late summer ’08 or certainly the fall ’08. Therefore, the question is – what motivated Mayer to take such radical action. She had to know that passing worthless checks to set up brokerage accounts was a venture that had a short life.
Of course – as reported in the Greenville News – “Until June 2008, Meyer deposited $5.4 million in checks spread across the firms from bank accounts that didn’t have sufficient funds to cover the checks, according to the charges. She also pleaded guilty to mail fraud charges for mailings to Minnesota and Pennsylvania, according to the charges.”
BACKGROUND OF A FRAUD:
Frauds, regardless of type, need three things in order to take life – (1) Need; (2) Opportunity and (3) Rationalization. The question related to the Mayer fraud is what was her (1) need and (2) rationalization? The obvious opportunity was the method of execution of the fraud – which was amateurish and dumb. How Mayer effected her fraud shows her lack of experience and hopefully will be taken into account in her pre-sentence report.
Her guilty plea could result in a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.00 on each of the two counts to which she pled guilty. While, I would suspect that Stephanie L. Mayer is an amateur fraudster, in the current environment, I would not be surprised if she received a prison sentence of well over three years.
If you know Stephanie and might comment on her motivation – please know that YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.