This article is the companion to the introductory article on Embezzlement on the Articles Page of this web site and should be read after that article. The reader will be assumed to have read and digested the contents of that article prior to this one.
As is readily apparent from the earlier article, the key to successful cost benefit recovery from an embezzler is to seek to short cut the prolonged, expensive and complex the full audit and conviction by circumstantial evidence that is so difficult in the usual embezzlement case. Embezzlers are seldom akin to real criminals though the damage they cause a business can be catastrophic. While criminals can be violent or anti social, embezzlers by their nature have to blend into a business or trusting relationship and spend most of their time being good employees or fiduciaries. Many become criminals due to unusual stress or financial crisis in their lives. Some begin to steal as a “game” or to obtain vengeance as to perceived wrongs dealt them by a superior. Many think of their embezzlements as temporary “loans” from the company to be repaid as soon as things “improve” in the embezzler’s bank account.
Few are professional criminals or violent and few consider themselves as inherently dishonest or vicious. Even embezzlers who repeat the offense at company after company rarely consider themselves hardened criminals.
This fact can be vitally important to a victim who seeks both recovery and justice for it gives to the victim tools with which to convince an embezzler to make restitution IF artfully and carefully crafted. Unlike hardened criminals used to dealing with police or the threat of incarceration, the embezzler is usually a “civilian” to whom the threat of time in jail, much less prison, is a terrifying possibility. Most embezzlers have “normal” family lives, often with friends and family who have no idea of their activities. The danger of disgrace as well as incarceration can be a tremendous incentive to the embezzler to arrange a type of settlement but the victim must be very careful both in approaching the embezzler to obtain the confession and in creating the enforcement documentation necessary to assure recovery.
This article shall discuss what this office normally recommends to clients who have discovered possible embezzlement, have not yet confronted the embezzler, and who seek to minimize the damage, maximize the recovery, and punish the wrongdoer as appropriate.
THE INVESTIGATION STAGE
TASK: COMPLETE THE INVESTIGATION FIRST AND THEN “THE STING.”
Most clients come to us with suspicions based on financials that do not make sense or warnings from other employees and have not yet confronted the embezzler who may be oblivious or, at worse, only suspicious of the attitude of the employer. We normally advise clients NOT to confront the embezzler until we can determine if we can both seek access to the books before they “disappear” thus obtain written proof of fraud and, as well, we often recommend intentionally seeking to “set up” some opportunity for theft so that obvious flaws in the resulting accounting would make the proof of wrongdoing easily accomplished. Most embezzlers use a particular method to steal and repeat that method over the months and years. Our goal is to create a “sting” operation so that clear evidence is achieved of their wrongdoing at least once…so that the “open and shut” example can be used to make the embezzler confess to the entire history of thefts.
Keeping the Books Available for Evidence
Embezzlers face a truly difficult problem in how to account for their thefts. As one told me, “Keeping books is easy. Keeping books wrong is easy. But keeping books so they look right but are wrong…that’s hard. I should get a medal for intelligence.”
What this necessarily means is that the false books are normally kept by the embezzler available in the business since the embezzler is required to keep the appearance of normalcy in record keeping. These books, in the hands of a skilled auditor, can normally be recreated to demonstrate the thefts. If the books disappear, that task is nearly impossible or, at the least, very expensive since the victim will have to go to the sources to recreate the accounting. If an embezzler suspects capture, the books are usually the first thing to be destroyed. Thus, before any confrontation, and usually in secret at night or on weekends, the books must be removed, copied, and returned, using a system that will assure that the copies are admissible into evidence if the originals later disappear. Be sure to consult with legal counsel about “chain of possession” issues on evidence.
Typically, if an embezzler is taking a portion of cash receipts or mis-depositing checks, we create either marked bills or an allocated payment that can be easily traced as to its disappearing into the pocket of the embezzler. If vendor deliveries or inventory are stolen by the embezzler, we trace shipments of incoming product and inventory the same that very night to determine if product is disappearing.
The key is to discover the method of theft and set up the embezzler to engage in one such activity that is easily proven. Remember, the embezzler will normally falsify records over time and quite often the books are in such a state that proof is nearly impossible. Thus, the sting operation, if created correctly, can shortcut weeks of attempts to prove thefts in court.
This can lead to late nights and weekends as the employer checks inventory, books etc. when the embezzler is not present. In one case our client exhausted himself by checking his inventory each night for over a month before he caught the embezzler stealing fixtures that had been ordered. In another instance, the vacation of the embezzler allowed our client to gain access to the books without difficulty and a week of late nights reviewing the books revealed destroyed checks and invoices on a regular basis.
Such a sting operation must be carefully crafted to avoid issues of “entrapment” which can bar a criminal prosecution and confuse a judge or jury in the civil case you may bring. Essentially, entrapment only occurs if the idea of the theft was put into the head of the wrong doer. (Typically, the defense is used in a drug case in which the defendant was pestered by the undercover policeman to sell him drugs that normally the defendant only used personally.) Entrapment would not consist in making theft possible: but if the victim encourages the theft by suggesting false books (to avoid taxes, etc.) it is unlikely the embezzler will be convicted.
Example of Successful Sting.
Perhaps an example best illustrates a successful sting. It was a travel agency we represented and the office manager had been pocketing perhaps thirty percent of all cash purchases for a decade as well as retaining for her own use most “free travel” coupons delivered as incentives to the agency. With our help our client had already obtained access to all the books, delivered them to a forensic accountant who during weekends reviewed them, copied relevant portions, and formed a written opinion as to the thefts, and we decided to close the investigation by creating one or two examples of the theft to present to the police.
Our office simply had two clerks, over a ten-day period, pay cash for travel on specified dates using marked bills. Further, another travel agency we represented agreed to allow us to forward to the client’s address various reduced fair certificates over a ten day period, again carefully marked. As was her practice, the embezzler kept one of the clerks’ cash payments and most of the coupons and when the marked bills did not show up in the cash drawer and the coupons disappeared, we were ready for the “confrontation” meeting discussed in detail in our tactical section below.
Note that the sting was not complicated. Despite movies, stings have to be simple and direct both in terms of cost benefit and because, as a rule, the more complex the plan, the less chance of success. Further, be prepared to repeat the sting four or five times since the embezzler, perhaps with suspicions aroused, or perhaps tiring of stealing, may ignore the first chances of theft.
And, of course, if the sting does not result in theft, perhaps the prior analysis was wrong and the employee is not dishonest. It is vital to keep an open mind during an investigation. All too often the “hunting instinct” overcomes intelligent and fair investigation, a flaw seen in too many police investigations.
Lastly, it is important that the witnesses to the sting are credible witnesses to use in court. Relatives of the victim or enemies of the embezzler are inherently subject to challenges of bias. Even if the cost is higher, the use of professionals is recommended in any claim of large embezzlements.
When the Evidence Show No Theft
One client we represented was convinced his bookkeeper was stealing from receipts but both review of the books and one or two stings resulted in no proof whatsoever. At the same time, income of the company had dropped significantly about a month after she began work and during her vacations and one sick leave the income had oddly returned to its previous level. This investigation had lasted for years.
Our client used two different accounting firms to attempt to determine her methods, three different investigators, yet could not develop either an understanding of how she accomplished her thefts or direct proof of disappearing income. Ultimately, he simply decided to terminate her without cause, facing a claim for unemployment but concluding that the losses were sufficient to justify the move. Sure enough, his income did rise after she left and four years later, when she was arrested for embezzlement at a different firm, we contacted counsel to determine her methods.
She had actually worked in tandem with one of the people in his legal department who was fully aware of his investigation and carefully avoided wrongdoing during our investigations and actually put money back into the company when she knew that the accountant would be investigating the books. She was later arrested at the new company precisely because she had no other accomplice.
The point here is that conviction is nice but stopping the losses nicer. If strong circumstantial evidence demonstrates a corollary to the employee’s actions, which is enough to be illustrative but not enough to convict, it may be better to simply terminate without cause or accusation. Note that the employer was smart enough not to terminate “for cause” since even in a civil suit his case would have been weak and the cost benefit did not justify the fight.
THE CONFRONTATION STAGE: CONFESSION OR SIMPLE FIRING?
TASK: GET A CONFESSION IF YOU CAN: PROSECUTE THEREAFTER.
Assume that you have developed sufficient evidence to demonstrate theft and perhaps have one or two successful stings. At that point one can call the police or district attorney, present them with the evidence and request an arrest or, alternatively, call the employee in, confront them with the evidence, demand restitution and terminate them for cause and then determine if you also wish to call the police. If you simply call the police immediately, you will, of course, have to determine if arrest would eliminate your chances to receive restitution and, if your evidence is not overwhelming, would have eliminated your chance to obtain a confession before the police are called into the matter.
Our own office normally recommends an attempt to have the employee confess, but done in such a manner that a cross complaint for slander or false imprisonment is not risked, as described below. Police, as stated in our earlier Embezzlement article, are not inclined to arrest and prosecute such crimes but a confession in hand does two things: encourages the police to arrest if necessary and acts as an automatic bar to the typical aggressive reaction of the seasoned embezzler: claiming that the employer has slandered them and threatening to sue for slander or wrongful termination. (See our article on Torts.)
The confession can often be obtained if the tactical methods are sound. As discussed briefly in the Embezzlement article, the key is to presume guilt and immediately discuss means of restitution. An example of such effort derives from a transcript made of such a confrontation by the author (the conversation was taped) that occurred in the mid 80’s.
The bookkeeper was suddenly confronted at about ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning with the writer, the owner of the business, and a clerk (as a witness) and asked to come to the private office of the owner in the rear of the building. (Note: if she had refused to come no force would have been used…nor had any public accusations been made.) Once in the room the writer sat behind the desk, the clerk beside him (so NOT blocking the door and allowing claims of false imprisonment) and the owner left the room. The door was unlocked and the embezzler was seated closest to the door. The writer was careful to have a very large folder of documents, which he took out of the briefcase and placed on the desk in silence, not opening but showing that evidence existed in large amounts. Meanwhile the bookkeeper was trying to make small talk which was pointedly ignored by both the clerk and the attorney who slowly prepared the desk, then made eye contact for a moment and began:
ATTORNEY: You know we represent the company as the attorneys?
KG: Of course. We’ve used you for years. You…
ATTORNEY: Let me tell you what this meeting is not about. It is not about engaging in games or accusations or wasting time with denials. It is about paying back money that was taken from this company over the past three years and if we do not work this out right now in a way that is appropriate, the meeting ends and we each seek our own counsel as to what steps we intend to take.
KG: What do you mean? I don’t understand. I’ve done nothing…
ATTORNEY: I am not going to engage in argument with you. That’s for the courts later if necessary. (Patting the files on the desk). If you want to argue with this evidence, seek counsel and so be it. That’s how we make our living. You will need a very good lawyer. But I am here today because we are interested not in having the police immediately involved but in restoring to the company monies taken. Period. If that is not going to happen today, our meeting is over.
KG: This is absurd. I’m getting angry…How can you…?
ATTORNEY: No, no, no. If that’s how you want to play it, fine. The door’s open. If you want to make some amends and restore what you have taken, then there is a point in the meeting. I am not asking you if you stole. We know it. We can prove it. I am asking you if, with a sense of self-protection, you want to make restitution. If…
KG: (Voice raised.) Well, if you asked, I’d tell you that you are lying. This is outrageous…(rises in her seat.)
ATTORNEY: No, what’s outrageous is that Angie trusted you for five years, relied on you, helped you through that divorce, attended your next wedding, and all the while you were stealing from her for the last three years, maybe more. It makes me…but that’s not what we are going to talk about. But that’s for you to worry about late at night when you are awake. Up to you…Today we discuss how you intend to pay it back. I presume you know it’s over fifty thousand…indeed, (looking at files and some papers in them) about fifty three thousand. I presume you can’t come up with that much cash but we will need at least fifteen thousand down and a deed of trust on your home. Can you come up with fifteen thousand?
KG: (Long pause. Sits down again.) Well…I don’t know why I should…(pause.)
ATTORNEY: Because if you can’t even come up with that, we have nothing more to talk about and I think that’s being generous as it is. Angie still seems to have a soft spot for you.
KG: (Long pause.) But…Yes…I guess…uh…I can do that. It may take a month.
ATTORNEY: You don’t have a month. We would need a check from you for at least five thousand today or tomorrow and the rest within two weeks. Period. And you should know I am not recommending this to Angie, it’s her idea.
KG: Can I talk to her?
ATTORNEY: She doesn’t want to talk to you until we resolve this repayment thing. Can you give a deed of trust?
KG: Won’t my husband have to sign it?
ATTORNEY: If he is on title deed. Look, that’s the least of your worries, you know…
KG: Yes. (Begins to cry.) I don’t want him to know.
ATTORNEY: Do you have other security?
KG: My car. Some land in the country. (Discussion of Assets followed.)
ATTORNEY: If his name is on that deed, he will still have to sign.
KG: Am I going to be arrested?
ATTORNEY: We cannot link complaints to the police to this payment. That’s called extortion. We cannot even bring them up together since…
KG: I need to know. I can’t stand that…
ATTORNEY: We are making no promises one way or another. It’s up to Angie and she cannot make her decision based on whether you agree to pay her. I can tell you that if you don’t pay her we will sue both you and your husband for his community property portion of the thefts…
KG: I don’t want him to know. My God, I have children…(crying.)
ATTORNEY: Yes, well so does Angie. You should…It is too late for that sort of thing…The purpose of this meeting is to discuss repayment. The rest is for later. If you agree to repay we put it in writing right now, you deliver the right security papers in the next day, and Angie can decide what makes sense for her. The document will be a stipulated judgment so that if you don’t make a payment we can enter judgment and foreclose on your home…
KG: Will it have to be public?
ATTORNEY: Look, I don’t want to mislead you. For all I know Angie intends to ask the police to prosecute and that will be plenty public. This stipulated judgment will only be public, however, if you fail to make a payment and we file it with the Court.
KG: I understand…is she going to the police?
ATTORNEY: She has not yet. We make no promises. (Takes document from file.) This is a confession of judgment and note that it has a blank for the total amount which you took which you will have to initial after we fill it in. It also admits guilt. It is not complicated…
KG: Should I see a lawyer?
ATTORNEY: You always have a right to use a lawyer. I have to tell you that if this confession is not true you should not sign it. We also have no intention of waiting before we take action should you not sign it today. Up to you.
KG: I don’t know what to do…(cries again.)
ATTORNEY: (After a pause.) It’s simple. You sign it and provide security or you prepare to fight us. And I assure you that we have spent weeks preparing evidence and are confident in our case.
But you should feel free to do what you consider in your own best interest.
KG: (Pause.) Ok…
ATTORNEY: OK, what?
KG: OK, I’ll pay. I can put up ten thousand really, right now, today, can write a check and the rest…I mean in a day or two. Will that make a difference?
ATTORNEY: The more you can pay the better but I am not saying that it will stop Angie from going to the police. The law does not allow us to link that…
KG: Yes, yes, I get it.
The meeting lasted another two hours while we hashed out the details but note:
- We had a confession signed that day so that if we decided to prosecute the case would be much easier. Defense counsel might be able to keep the confession out but it is unlikely and the ease of the criminal case would have been greatly improved.
- We obtained security for the judgment.
- No public accusations had been made. The entire meeting was in private with the accused not being restrained.
- Efforts to discuss guilt were sidetracked by immediately discussing restitution, which allowed implicit admission of guilt.
- No promise had been made as to going to the police or not. No extortion had been committed, e.g. the crime of threatening to go to the police if not paid money.
- A transcript was made (and note that since it was not in her home or on a telephone a hidden tape recording of the discussion was perfectly legal.)
- The owner of the business was made the “good guy” who might allow some slack while the attorney was the bad guy, thus allowing interplay of two approaches to encourage the accused to confess.
- The meeting ended with a written confession, largely written out ahead of time, so that later retractions would be difficult, indeed.
- Counter claims for slander, libel, and the like are almost impossible to take seriously given the confession which recited the thefts and stated that no promises had been made as to going to the authorities.
Was this unique? By no means. This writer has engaged in substantially the same procedure half a dozen times and it often works. The goal is to obtain restitution, of course, via a confession of judgment that either pays the sums back in full or provides for a payment plan secured with a confession that can be filed if a payment is missed and any other assets owned by the defendant. REMEMBER: ONE CANNOT MAKE GOING TO THE POLICE DEPENDENT ON BEING PAID MONEY: THAT IS EXTORTION AND ILLEGAL.
Let us assume for the moment that no confession is forthcoming and the evidence, while strong, is not enough to interest the police or district attorney, as described in more detail below. It is a tactic used by many simply to fire the employee for cause, indicating to the employee that while you will take no further action at this time, there will be no severance and you will reserve your rights to seek legal counsel or commence action to recover the lost sums. In most such instances the employee is glad to be “released” and you will hear no more from them: they are, most probably, stealing from the next company in line.
The danger is that they can concoct a theory that you slandered them and sue you for wrongful termination. To avoid that, counsel should be sought to obtain an executed “exit interview” in which the employee admits that termination is for cause and justified, if at all possible.
In some instances, if the evidence is not enough to obtain at least a civil prosecution, employers will simply terminate the employee with or without cause, avoiding the counter suits and turmoil, but, of course, waiving any chance for collection and letting the employee “get away with it.” We seldom recommend that course: it is a dangerous precedent for other employees, undermines a sense of fairness and justice in the company, and encourages additional thefts by the same employee in the next company. Each company must determine what is in its best interest, of course, but with any decent evidence at all an attempt at a confession is usually worth while.
THE PROSECUTION PHASE-THE POLICE AND THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY: INTERACTION
Perhaps the greatest surprise to the victim is the relative lack of enthusiasm normally demonstrated by the police or district attorney. That matter is discussed in detail in the earlier article but the point to be stressed is that embezzlement cases are hard to prove and expensive to prosecute. If the police do arrest and the district attorney does prosecute, their lack of expertise in business matters often makes the prosecution ineffective, particularly if the embezzler has resources to hire competent counsel.
Further, embezzlers often “skip” during the months before trial, usually obtaining low bail or being free without bail due to their low likelihood of violence. This author had worked with an excellent district attorney for months developing a powerful case against an experienced embezzler who, the day before trial escaped to Germany and was never seen again.
The way to maximize the chance for a successful criminal prosecution is to gain as much evidence as possible ahead of time to give to the prosecutor so that their task is minimized, usually by delivering an entire package of evidence, statements and written accounting records with proof to the district attorney.
Recall that both the burden of proof and the requirement for valid evidence are much higher for the district attorney. Confessions or documents taken in violation of the Constitution are often not admissible into evidence in the criminal action but are in the civil action you may bring. It is thus imperative before you gather your evidence that you consult with legal counsel experienced in such matters so that the evidence is not “tainted” by how it is collected or stored. See our article on Criminal Law in the United States. Nevertheless, so long as the police are not directly or indirectly involved, a private citizen is NOT held to the same criteria for evidence admissibility as the police, so obtaining confessions or documents that would be a violation of the fourth amendment for the police may still be admissible in the criminal action if obtained by you and delivered to the police without their involvement.
Thus, the confession described in the previous section would almost definitely be admissible even in the criminal action and if delivered to the prosecutor would definitely influence his or her decision as to whether to prosecute.
In foreign jurisdictions it is common for the victim to actively assist the prosecution, often paying for experts to testify if necessary. This is almost never allowed in the United States, so the support and encouragement you can give to the prosecutor is to provide evidence and cooperation…and to keep pushing for a conviction. Restitution can be made a part of a plea bargain and often is: the problem confronted is that a fired employee with a criminal record is often unable to make payments since he or she can seldom find decent work again.
The police are often more cooperative than the district attorney since they do not have to prosecute the case, merely make the arrest based on your complaint. They will want to determine that you do have evidence of some sort and will normally cooperate on the method of arrest. One of our clients was determined to have the embezzler paraded out through the office in handcuffs as a warning to all his other employees and the police were delighted to comply. More often, the culprit is merely called into an office, arrested, and leaves privately.
Recall that once arrested the assets and attention of the embezzler are almost entirely directed at avoiding incarceration. The district attorney may or may not cooperate with you in determining how restitution is to be made or what sentence is appropriate. Their views of the case are likely to be different than yours: they have a hundred prosecutions at any time; many involving violent felonies and theft of money seldom strike them as a vital issue.
That does not mean they will not prosecute. It does mean that the easier you make it for them, the more they will like you and cooperate with you. And recall also that despite the movies and common opinion, the overwhelming majority of criminal cases…including embezzlement cases…end in guilty verdicts.
THE DAMAGES PHASE: THE NEED TO REPAIR THE BOOKS AND RECORDS AND RELATED DAMAGES
One client put it well: “The cost of the thefts was minor. It was the CPAs and attorneys that killed me…especially the CPAs…to recreate the books cost over a hundred thousand and took a month…right near tax season. I’d care little about the damage if the books hadn’t been so messed up.”
The need to repair what are often years of false books is a major undertaking requiring excellent bookkeeping and accounting services and is one of the elements of damages that must be sought against the embezzler. One of the reasons many victims decide not to prosecute is to have the ready assistance of the embezzler in recreating accurate books and it is an oddity in such cases to have the embezzler and the accountant closeted for weeks working together to create once again accurate records.
Recall that one problem is that tax returns, vendor payments, overtime records and much, much more may have been distorted and quite often it is found that significant sums of money were owed and never paid or paid and never owed. If taxes were based on such misinformation, it can lead to expensive audits by federal and state taxing authorities and possible interest and penalties. The IRS often forgives such penalties if proof of wrongdoing by an employee is shown, but be sure to factor into you demand for compensation the remarkable expenses incurred in such areas.
Related to this issue is the need to advise third parties as to the inaccuracy of records. If one has a trust or escrow account, that is a requirement of the law should the wrongdoing be related to those accounts. This can lead to very angry and, at times, expensive ramifications and quite often can injure one’s reputation. The victim is at times blamed for hiring the embezzler in the first place, and loses credibility with customers or clients.
Lastly, the time of management and employees in not only investigating and firing the embezzler but in reestablishing good records can be significant and in making demand for restitution should be factored in.
It is vital not to merely concentrate on the monies taken in computing damages and determining proper strategy. Above all, in discussing the matter with both other employees and customers, one must carefully structure what will be said and how and both legal counsel and appropriate customer service people must be consulted first.
THE CIVIL SUIT PHASE AND LIKELY CROSS COMPLAINTS
The reader should read the article on American Litigation on our website before reading further. Commencing civil action against the embezzler often makes good sense. Consider:
- Your burden of proof is easier than in the criminal manner…proof by preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt…and if there is a conviction or plea in the criminal matter, that is admissible and usually conclusive in the civil matter. (Thus many clients wait until the results of the criminal action are finished before deciding to file suit.)
- Even if the defendant files bankruptcy, a judgment predicated on intentional wrong doing can not be eliminated by bankruptcy and is good for at least ten years and usually longer, accruing interest at seven percent per year.
While cross complaints for slander and libel are quite possible, the simple fact is that they are almost always a “paper tiger” assuming any decent evidence exists as to the embezzlement and one should not commence legal action without such evidence.
Quite often to obtain insurance coverage or tax write off, “reasonable steps” to recover are necessary and legal action often constitutes that necessary step.
The disadvantages are the public nature of the dispute, which concerns some clients as discussed above, and the money and time lost in the prosecution. A close cost benefit analysis must be undertaken with experienced counsel and without emotion clouding the analysis. However, given the non-dischargeability of the eventual judgment and its ease if either a confession or criminal conviction is obtained, this action is normally recommended.
CONCLUSION: THE “SHAME” OF BEING A VICTIM
It was during one of the typical confrontations that had led to a confession we were hearing in detail that I noticed that our business owner client, who had come back into the room to hear the confession, was blushing and looking miserable. When later I asked her what was the problem, she commented, “I am so ashamed of being so stupid. How could I have trusted her so long and so stupidly?”
That is a common reaction and one which criminals rely upon to avoid prosecution.
Being a victim is not something to be ashamed of. Anyone can be the victim of embezzlement and those attributes of a personality that make a person a good person to know...trust, warmth, cooperative spirit, fairness, etc…are precisely those attributes exploited by the criminal in their efforts. It is the good people who are the victims more often than the “tough and stingy” bad bosses, for precisely that reason.
And quite often the embezzler WAS someone who was trustworthy who entered into a phase of their life…due to drugs, personal problems, bad influence…in which they weakened and succumbed to the temptation. In short, they once were trust worthy and later were not.
The real “shame” is not setting up checks and balances in the office to avoid such dangers and that is the subject of another article on this retainer website. The thrust of this comment, however, is that the “victim syndrome” is a common one in victims of crime, whether violent or property and should be resisted. Perhaps it is our movies and television shows which makes us feel that anyone can defeat a criminal, can outthink or outfight them: most movies have typical people or police routinely triumph over crime with criminals as stupid or foolish miscreants. To fail to live up to that image seems to make many people feel they are failures.
Nonsense. The “failure” is the criminal who, through viciousness or weakness preys on others, including those who trusted him or her. It is not foolishness to be a person open enough to be preyed upon necessarily or to trust someone who has performed for years without problems.
A client commented that the only way he could remain a boss and not be either a victim or a paranoid was to create a system that checked the veracity of his employees’ actions on an automatic basis and such a system of checks and balances can be created with intelligent advice from experienced accountants and attorneys.
But if you are feeling foolish, recall the following quotations:
A man’s most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe.
Euripides, 485-406 BC
The stupid neither forgive nor forget: the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.
Thomas Szasz (1920-)