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

November 4, 2008

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.

Virginia Banker – Rebecca Dawn Long – Charged with Embezzlement. Hard Economic Times Means More Fraud on the Way!

November 1, 2008

I suppose it will become a sign of the times – the economic times that is, but fraud will rise over the course of the next several years as we begin to see the “perfect storm” unleash its fury.  As the need to survive increases – or at least maintain as some see it – the inclination to find means to “have” will tempt otherwise honest people to make choices that will have far reaching consequences.  Fraud is being uncovered at increasing rates and, in my opinion, will only get worse.  Ethical choices are thrown out of the window when faced with severe need.

Facing a federal indictment, a southwest Virginia woman – 35-year-old Rebecca Dawn Long of Jonesville – has been indicted on federal charges that she embezzled nearly $488,000 from the bank where she worked.

HOW:  In Ms. Long’s case, she used “opportunity” as her method to create the fraud.  She is accused of falsifying loan documents.  According to the indictment she established a line of credit under a fictitious name.

According to the indictment, between December 2004 and September 2008 Long 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.

POINT OF INTEREST:  In many of the current mortgage fraud cases, falsification of loan documents is common and, has in the past, almost been encouraged in order to meet the qualification standards from the loan underwriters.  Underwriting standards have tightened significantly, but that does not stop the practice.

U.S. Attorney Julia Dudley said Tuesday that a grand jury in Abingdon indicted  on charges that included bank fraud, bank embezzlement, money laundering and making a false statement on a loan document. She faces a maximum penalty of 120 years in prison and a $3 million fine if convicted.

QUESTION:  Does anyone know Ms. Long and what might have motivated her to make such a foolish choice?  If so, please feel free to comment.

Every choice has a consequence.  In this case, Ms. Long is at the beginning of the phase of facing her consequences.  I know what she is facing.  I have faced it myself.  While I am not proud of my past, I have to be honest as an ethics speaker and writer – I, too, spent time in federal prison for embezzlement.  The experience was less than pleasant and the consquences linger to this day…and I have been out for 12 years.

While Ms. Long has made a grave mistake, as a wise man once said to me – You are not a mistake.  Neither is Ms. Long.  To all who seek justice…Ms. Long will stare justice in the face and likely face time of reflection in federal prison.  However, to her family and friends, let me say, my thoughts are with you and I know that with the right approach there is recovery after an event like this.

White Collar Crime – The Aftermath for Families! Ewing, Trebert and May – How Can Healing Occur?

April 2, 2008

Three men have been convicted and all await sentencing. All understand that they will be facing substantial time in federal prison. Their lives will never be the same. Neither will the lives of those who, through family or choice, are connected to them.

Ewing, Trebert and May will find their new environment much different than the world they came from. In their past, they lived a life of intensity. To clarify, “intensity” doesn’t denote good or bad, rather “intensity” means that it was anything but common. Regardless of the reason, they made choices that will have profound and far-reaching consequences.

Years past, the three, in their own way were in the midst of the choices that earned them a prison sentence. They did not elect to obey the law. Funds, which should have been sent to the IRS were diverted and used in a manner that was inappropriate. Who was the mastermind behind this scheme – we may never know. Those who are free to speak are quick to point fingers as they find themselves embroiled in their own set of consequences – consequences which are tied either directly or indirectly to what Ewing, May or Trebert did.

What was their motive? Again, we may never know. Each, more than likely, were making choices for different reasons. Over the years I have observed many who made similar choices. The magnitude of the crime is generally irrelevant. The motive behind the crime varies but the bottom line is it becomes lying and theft in its purest form.

Do you suppose that any of these men, some well educated, would have ever said, “I can’t wait to grow up to become a liar and a thief.” Not a chance would be my guess. Certainly, I had no concept that I would ever utter those words. Yet, much like Ewing, Trebert and May, there came a point when I had to face my partners, my family and sadly, and most importantly, my wife and speak those words. That was the saddest day of my life.

Much like the “trio” here (Trebert, Ewing and May – hereinafter referred to as TEM) I made choices that I never expected would have the consequences they had. No one would have ever picked me out of a high school yearbook as most likely to be in prison! Yet, 13 short years ago I was facing prison much like TEM. The only difference was I was allowed to self-report and I’m not sure they have been given that privilege.

Having asked about the background of TEM, I’ll briefly share mine. I grew up in a single parent home as my father died of diabetic complications when I was two. My mother did not have a high school degree, so there were only certain jobs that she could do with little education. Yet, she was a great mother, full of love and encouragement. I recall many times she told me, “Son, do not be concerned with our station in life. Get a good education and know that – YOU CAN BE SOMEBODY.”

I never forgot those words – “You can be somebody.” I took them to heart. While we didn’t have much money, we always seemed to have our needs met. In high school I recall living in what today would be called “the projects.” Most of the people there saw it as a one-way ticket to nowhere. I, on the other hand, never saw the limitation. It was a place to live. If I wanted to be “somebody” I could and never felt the limitation of poverty. Perhaps, though, those years had more of an effect than I have given them credit. Perhaps.

After college and a master’s degree, my career blossomed, much like I suspect that the careers of TEM grew. I suspect that all were well respected by their families and those who were around them. They, like I, had the trappings of success – position, influence, power and money. While the May group on prior blog postings were quiet, I have found that most people who come into success find it comforting and pleasurable to share their success. Helping out those less fortunate whether family or friends can provide immense satisfaction. Speaking from personal experience, not only was doing good positive, but it boosted my ego – I felt more a “somebody” when I was able to share the wealth. And, mind you, those who received were pleased with the generosity spread their way.

Speaking candidly never did anyone whom I helped, have a clue that my generosity was from ill-gotten means. I recall on instance where my mother-in-law was confronted by one of her dear friends who questioned my rapid success. They suggested that something was wrong. They were right. Yet, the nature of people is to believe in their best, and my mother-in-law believed in me. To an independent observer it was clear that something was amiss, as most people don’t have such a meteoritic rise. Yet, my mother-in-law, a recipient of my generosity, was too close to the situation to have a clue. She defended me – to some extent at the cost of her friendship with the other person.

Years later, I was faced with admitting I was a liar and thief. The friend was right and to her credit never rubbed it in the face of my mother-in-law. Both were saddened by my choices and how I disappointed those who surrounded me. In the end, my mother-in-law became my ex-mother-in-law as my wife could not bring herself to stay in the marriage. Once trust is broken it is hard – and sometimes impossible – to rebuild.

What happened after it became public – my crimes that is? First, beyond the legal issues, which resulted in prison – enough said, my family and I had to deal with the aftermath. This is where those connected to TEM are today. My close family was angry with me, but more importantly they wanted to find someone to blame. It had to be someone’s fault. My mother wanted to blame my wife. After all she thought, if she hadn’t had the need for such an extravagant lifestyle I wouldn’t have been “forced” to make the choices I made. My mother-in-law wanted to blame my mother for a poor upbringing and my partners in my former accounting firm. In her mind, they should have known better than to let me get by with the theft…and they should have paid me more. I recall her saying, “Surely they could have just paid it off and swept it under the table.” And, my wife blamed anyone she could point a finger at.

My wife was mostly concerned with what other people would think. How would she be perceived? It’s obvious that the one committing the fraud paints those around him or her with a broad brush of guilt. She didn’t want people to think that she condoned my actions. She didn’t want people to accuse her of contributing in any way to what I did. I embarrassed her as my choices – now public – changed out status in the community and social status is important to some people. It was to me at the time, although when I had to come clean (mind you it wasn’t by choice) status was the least of my concerns. Then it was survival.

In my former blog on this subject it is crystal clear that the pain associated with the criminal choices made by TEM is expressed through the comments made by others. But a word of caution, when you point the finger at someone else, notice – THREE ARE POINTING BACK AT YOU. I say that so that perhaps, in a moment of quiet, you might reflect on how you truly feel and what you could have done to prevent this unfortunate outcome. Mind you, NO ONE, other than TEM had complete control. It was their choices, made many years ago, that brought them to where they are today. They made them and they will ultimately pay the supreme price.

So where from here? That, to those who read this, is the best question of all. First, it takes time to heal and healing only comes to those who want it. For years there are those who hang on to “victim hood” like it is a badge hard fought and earned and never find healing. Many who have read the former blog have expressed themselves with little kindness. I understand. Expression of anger is a process and begins healing; yet, it also fosters more hurt, which requires more healing. Consider what you say, whom you blame, and why blaming someone is necessary. All, who are interested, have suffered. Suffering will stop when you elect to see reality for what it is and move on.

Second, it’s impossible to move forward with out accepting responsibility. Today, while I acknowledge that I am a convicted felon, I live a happy and fulfilled life. The title “convicted felon” is meaningless to me. It holds no value. I am the result of the choices that I make daily. I become “somebody” when I recognized that being somebody is not a reflection of the cars I drove, the home I lived in or the position I had. Being “somebody” was a function of the lives I touched while here on this earth. We each come to earth for a reason. Through a series of bad choices I found mine and am better for the experiences I have had.

But, back to accepting responsibility, if you are connected to TEM then you, too, will likely learn to accept the responsibility you have had in the drama that has unfolded. As an example, my ex-mother-in-law did. She came to understand, that while she did nothing wrong, she expected a great deal from me and, while the choices were MINE, she contributed to the pressure I felt. In no way was it her fault. Yet, hindsight being 20/20, she later told me that she wished that she had never accepted the gifts (of sorts) that I lavished on her.

Even my ex-wife (a person with whom I have an excellent relationship today) has learned that status isn’t everything. Those friends she had years ago – her true friends – stuck by her side and are there today. Likewise, those who bolted were never true friends anyway. Today, she is well respected for who she is, for the work she does as an educator and for the excellent job she has done in rearing our children. She has earned respect far beyond what any amount of money could have ever provided.

Lastly, and most importantly, healing comes through forgiveness. The word “forgiveness” is easy to say and hard to do. In my life, many have forgiven me. I have, in order to earn that, made myself easy to forgive. I have opened my life – bore my soul – and exposed my weaknesses, believing that God’s purpose would somehow shine through my ego and become worthwhile and apparent to others. I found that as long as I fought – trying to make myself right – I blocked the healing power of forgiveness. But beyond me, I found that those who forgave found healing in themselves. They were able to let go of their anger, resentments and victim mentality. The power that forgiveness brings is incredible.

As I close, while my ego would like to slap the hand of those whose comments have been hurtful to others from the other blog, I understand that the experience that TEM are going through is not isolated to them. Yes, they may be the ones who will face years in prison, but those who have been touched by them – either directly or indirectly – are dealing with their own issues and demons.

Let me say – the road ahead will not be easy. Trebert and May will likely have a long prison sentence and, I suspect, that Ewing may face ever longer. They (TEM) will change. They will likely feel isolated, alone, hurt and in pain. Holidays won’t be the same and to many their presence will be missed. Most will find that your lifestyles may change – that’s to be expected. That, in and of itself, isn’t easy. Further, you’ll find it strange to talk to TEM, as they will only be allowed to make collect calls. And, it’s possible that their final place of incarceration won’t be near, making visits difficult. The game has changed and all will have to learn to adapt. But, this is a process and healing is possible.

The choices you make today, and tomorrow and the next day, are the choices that will shape your life in the future. Every choice has a consequence and YOU control, by your choices, the future life you live. Make your choices wisely and know that, just like mama said, “You can be somebody!”