Get ready for a new crime wave to sweep the nation. It may take a while for us to notice, but it will come. It’ll be sparked by the billions and billions of economic stimulus dollars being doled out by the federal government.
As an understated FBI director Robert Mueller put it during an appearance before Congress recently, the infusion of cash will “lead to an inevitable increase in economic crime and public corruption cases.”
Just as serial bank robber Willie Sutton said when asked why he robbed so many banks, “Because that’s where the money is.” It’s the same thing today. Any sudden windfall of money is like an aphrodisiac to the dishonest. It happened after Uncle Sam pumped a mountain of money into the South after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita…
We taxpayers were taken to the cleaners by fellow citizens and public officials who saw a gravy train. They hoodwinked the system with unsavory business practices; they submitted false victim’s claims and used government issued emergency debit cards for everything from Hawaiian vacations, NFL football tickets, adult erotica, even the services of a divorce lawyer!
Are you ready to digest some numbers?
The General Accounting Office now pegs the amount lost to the unscrupulous in the hurricane zone at as much as 1.4 billion dollars. The FBI’s Katrina Fraud Task Force has brought charges against 907 defendants in 43 districts across the country. Some are private citizens, others are public officials, accused of lining their pockets at the expense of the voters.
Now, take those numbers and do the math on the potential for criminality with the more than a trillion dollars that’s begun to pour into our economy. The possibilities for the criminally minded are mind boggling. A tsunami-like wave of embezzlement, fraud and outright theft is sure to be the result.
So, who’s watching to make sure the money – our taxpayer’s dollars – go where they are supposed to? At this writing only one state, California, has appointed a watchdog. Her name is Laura Chick, the
controller of Los Angeles, a woman who’s made a career of exposing waste and incompetence where ever she finds it. As California’s new Inspector General Chick will watch the flow of the $50 billion dollars her state is expected to get from the federal stimulus program to make sure the anticipated jobs are created.
Ok. That makes me feel better – for California! What about the other 49 states?! Think about it. Do you fully trust your state’s public servants to do the right thing with the massive influx of funds that’s coming your way?
More numbers: In the last two years U.S. courts have convicted 1,800 federal, state and local government officials on fraud and corruption related charges. Included were judges, state senators, county sheriffs, police officers, public school superintendents and, oh yeah, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Currently, the FBI has 2,430 other public officials under active investigation. In addition, pretty soon the FBI’s work on all that suspected mortgage and financial fraud is expected to come to fruition and more cases will be filed against more suspected cheaters. Whew!
FBI Director Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “While the FBI is surging to mortgage fraud investigations, our expectation is that economic crimes will continue to skyrocket (due to) … the unprecedented level of financial resources committed by the federal government to combat the economic downturn…”
But wait a minute. Does America even have enough FBI agents left over to watch out for the well-being of our trillion dollars? Sadly, the answer is no. It is likely that left unchecked lots more corruption will take place and years down the road the FBI will have another whole spate of cases.
Perhaps I’m being too negative. Maybe the dire economic straits we find ourselves in will galvanize and unify our population – even the criminals. Maybe the unscrupulous will behave themselves for the sake of our country and the trillion dollars will go to exactly where it was intended, to create jobs and stimulate the economy back into balance.
What do you think the odds are of that happening? The only way we can even come close is for every state to hire its own Laura Chick and for everyone who has control over the stimulus funds to realize we’re all in this mess together. It’s only our unity of purpose that will see us through to a better day.
I think we all need to demand peak performance here. And, it’s time for the President of the United States, along with every Governor, to announce that anyone caught diverting stimulus money will be enthusiastically pursued and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And when they deliver that warning they should mean it like their political life depends on it.