Thursday, May 22, 2014

Victimless Crimes

A few weeks ago I reposted a story about someone I knew, someone who had defrauded numerous people, someone who served time in prison for a couple of those crimes, someone I liked, someone I had questions about, someone who was charming and engaging, someone who continues to defraud people, to con people out of their money, someone who is friends/acquaintances with people I am friends/acquaintances with, someone who has unfriended and blocked me on Facebook. I accepted the unfriending and the blocking because that is his right. I even accept the same mutual friends and acquaintances questioning my actions and going so far as to make me feel bad about reposting and reporting on the person's crimes. I get it. They are angry. I do not get why they have decided that I am the villain here while rushing to protect the person against what has been proven to be true: the person is a criminal and continues the same criminal activity to steal money from people.

The white collar criminal is someone people often like and admire and people get angry and up in arms over the discovery of their actions. After all, a white collar criminal perpetrates victimless crimes -- unless you look at who actually gets/got hurt. Not just their families and friends if the criminal has moved to another city, state, or country but their friends who trusted and stood by them -- and continue to stand by them. Friends and acquaintances demonize and vilify the person who tells the friends and acquaintances the truth. Their hearts are in the right place, but they are not thinking things through.

No crime is victimless. People always get hurt, from the families and close friends to acquaintances and the reporters and people who uncover and publicize the truth. If the person was a politician, many would jump on the band wagon and spread the news, but even the most venous and heinous of politicians have friends and family and supporters.

People always forget the people the criminal defrauded. Well, it's only money, they will say, except when the money is attached to a person, like a widow on a pension who has lost everything or a teacher whose retirement savings have been wiped out. Put a face on a crime and the victims multiply. The money has a name and a story and a face. Like starvation and poverty and illegal immigration, a face makes everything different. Putting a name and a face to the story makes it real, puts the facts into a new context, settles the crime in our own back yards. That is what I did to that person and why people are getting angry at me.

I have been characterized and smug and self-righteous and satisfied that my story has done its dirty work. I have ruined a person's life. I have exposed the person to public ridicule and turned the world upside down. Spouses, cousins, children, grandchildren, and neighbors will look at them differently. They might not even be able to con fewer people because the truth is out there with links and photos. The hometown newspaper ran the story and exposed the lies and the crimes to the local community. I have, in one person's words, ruined a life. I have made the criminal a victim.

Isn't that the way things usually go? Let's forget for a moment that I didn't call the editor in chief of the local newspaper with the story or that I didn't expose the story in the first place. All I did was share what I found and subsequently reported that I checked out the story and it was all true. I related how I doubted many facets of the person's story but brushed it aside because they were charming and intelligent. Aren't all successful con wo/men charming and intelligent? Isn't that how they get us to part with our money and our trust? Isn't that how they win people over to their side when their crimes are exposed? Isn't that how they get away with their crimes?

So why did I throw a rock when I live in a glass house? It isn't all that surprising when you know that I have stood while others threw rocks at me when I made mistakes or that I own up to my past with all its mistakes in public. I hide from nothing and no one. I don't air my dirty laundry on Facebook and stir up public sentiment about how the world has done me wrong. I am a victim of life and I've been a victim of con men before. I admit that freely. I'm not smug. I'm not self-righteous. I'm not even satisified that I have been at some very low points in my life and I turned it around, and not without some struggle on my part. I am not, however, begging for money or compassion or even help. I am a survivor. I've been through tough times before and I will be in tough times in the future. Life is messy. It's life.

I am not, however, a victim. I refuse to stay down when I'm knocked down, even by people I like and respect. Not even when they vilify and demonize me for speaking the truth.

We go after rotten politicians all the time. That's okay; they're public figures. They should expect it. Well, the person I reported on is a public figure too and reporting the story is not vindictive nor does it give me pleasure. It's  a story and I reported and continue to report the facts.

If you are going to go after me to support your friend, do it with the full knowledge that by attacking me in public on Facebook you are putting it all out there and keeping the fire stoked on the boiling pot. That keeps the person and the story alive. If you want it to go away and contiue being friends with the criminal, shut up and don't comment on updates to the story. It will die sooner that way.

Be aware that if you attack me, I will respond and I will continue telling the truth. Demonizing me might win you some points from the criminal and make you feel better, but it doesn't change the facts.

If the criminal wanted to protect the family and the community, s/he should have thought about that before defrauding all those people and stealing their dreams, their money, and their futures. S/he should have considered the consequences of continuing to lie and cheat and defraud people in a world connected by the Internet and gossip and Facebook that circles the globe at the speed of light when old crimes are searchable on the web and pointing the way to photos, court documents, newspaper articles, and arrest records is a click away. Singling out one or two people spreading the news only ends by spreading the news even farther.

We live in a connected spider web of light and sound where the past can be unearthed in a matter of moments and our crimes and misdemeanors comes alive at the click of a keyboard and mouse. No crime is left unearthed and no victim without some form of retribution. Everyone gets their due.

There are no victimless crimes. Someone always gets hurt. Today it's me. Tomorrow it might be you. Next week it will be someone else or someone you love. Tread lightly and live as if you are surrounded by cameras and witnesses . . . because you do.