Nun Sense – Sister Barbara Markey Pleads Guilty to Theft!

April 1, 2008

White collar crime takes a different look when a Nun commits the crime. Apparently she had a “habit” of gambling and broke one of the ten commandments to fund the need.

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Every choice has a consequence. Fortunately, Sister Barbara Markey, age 73, elected to plead guilty to theft and agreed to pay $125,000 in restitution. Fired in 2006 as director of the archdiocese’s family life office, Markey faces up to 20 years in prison when she is sentenced in July 2008.

Markey, N.D., Ph.D., co-wrote a popular marriage-preparation program for the Catholic Church. Originally, defense attorney John Stevens Berry Sr. said the case stems from a disagreement about ownership and funding priorities related to the FOCCUS marriage preparation program, which Markey helped develop. Obviously, Markey has changed her mind about the ownership and funding priorities.

The Archdiocese of Omaha is satisfied with Sister Barbara Markey’s guilty plea to theft by deception today in Douglas County District Court. The case relates to funds taken from the Archdiocesan Family Life Office and FOCCUS, Inc., a Nebraska non-profit corporation affiliated with the Archdiocese, while Sister Markey was the director. Financial irregularities discovered in 2006 resulted in Sister Markey’s termination.

The Archdiocese is finalizing a settlement agreement resolving civil lawsuits related to the case. Under the agreement, Sister Markey will make restitution of $125,000 to the Archdiocese and the Archdiocese will not object to any recommendations that Sr. Markey be sentenced to probation.

Rev. Joseph Taphorn, Chancellor of the Archdiocese, says it was clear that the Archdiocese would not recover all of the missing funds. Taphorn added, “Sister Markey’s willingness to plead guilty and make some restitution will hopefully bring this matter to a close. We’re ready to move on.”

Every choice has a consequence. As a white collar crime and business ethics speaker, I speak from first hand experience about the truth about consequences. Reality is – no one escapes the consequences of their choices. Most frauds are comprised of three components: (1) need; (2) opportunity; and (3) rationalization. It seems here that all three are present. Markey needed the money to fund her addiction to gambling. Due to her position she had opportunity. Likely, she rationalized her actions by disputing (at least at first) the ownership of the FOCCUS program she co-authored.

What will be the outcome? Prison is no fun and should she be sentenced to a time of incarceration it will prove to be a dramatic change from her prior activities.

If anyone reading has any background on Markey and the services she provided – feel free to comment as I study the behaviors and backgrounds of those indicted and/or convicted for fraud.

White Collar Crime Speaker – Chuck Gallagher – signing off…


Georgia Man – Anthony Christou – Convicted of Massive Mortgage Fraud Ponzi Scheme!

February 25, 2008

Christou was a gambler, in more than one way. But every choice has a consequence! It is like the law of gravity. The bold statement above is factual – you will reap what you sow. The question is here – what will the final consequence be for Anthony Christou, age 57, who was just convicted on charges of wire fraud and money laundering relating to an investment fraud scheme.

According to a Department of Justice News Release:

“This defendant personally met with dozens of victims, telling each that he would use their money to underwrite legitimate mortgages. He knew at the time that he had no intention of using his investors’ money legitimately, but rather that their funds would be put to use in keeping a massive Ponzi scheme afloat,” said United States Attorney David E. Nahmias. “Mr. Christou racked up more than $29 million in fraudulent investment in just two years, a significant portion of which was diverted to his gambling activities. The jury’s verdict after only five hours of deliberation and the likelihood of a long prison sentence in this case should send a clear message that this type of fraud will not be tolerated.”

Note: Christou has been convicted but not yet sentenced.

Between January 2004 and January 2006, CHRISTOU, who was at the time president of his own mortgage company, “Atlas Mortgage Inc.,” engaged in a scheme wherein he and others acting on his behalf solicited individuals, including business associates, personal friends and members of his church, to invest with him. CHRISTOU informed his investors that he would use their money to underwrite safe and secure “bridge loans” for wealthy individuals who were selling a house and needed funds to use as a down payment on newly acquired real property or to assist real estate developers with their short term capital needs. CHRISTOU entered into short term promissory notes with his lenders, the terms of which were dictated by
CHRISTOU, to memorialize their investment.

CHRISTOU falsely represented that his investors’ money would be secured by his borrowers’ equity and would be repaid, with substantial interest, in a short period of time. Between January 2004 and January 2006, CHRISTOU took in more than $29 million from investors, purportedly to fund bridge loans. Instead, he used his investors’ funds to repay his principal and interest obligations to earlier investors and, unbeknownst to his later investors, laundered more than $7 million of their assets to fund his gambling activities at casinos in Nevada, Mississippi, and New Jersey.

So how can such a fraud be accomplished? Easy! First there have to be three components present for a fraud like this to work. As a white collar crime speaker, I speak to groups nationwide about ethics, fraud and how to avoid it in your organization. What gives me the credential – training and experience. As a former CPA – trained with a Masters in Accounting – I am also (regrettably) a white collar criminal – having been convicted and spent time in federal prison for a ponzi scheme just like the one shown above.

The components of the crime: Need, Opportunity and Rationalization! Obviously, Christou needed the money. He needed it to fund his addition – gambling – and pay off the former folks defrauded. As long as he could pay them off he could continue the scheme. It appears that he made his own opportunity by using his skills in sales to convince others to invest in him. Rationalization – well I can’t begin to speak to his mindset. In my case, however, I convinced myself that it was a loan and even set up fake loan documents to support that illusion.

You cannot avoid the consequence of the choices you make. Consider wisely your choices and know that – stated again – Every choice has a consequence.