Justice, Maybe – Justice, Maybe Never – Justice, Never

Justice, Maybe:   Someone You’ve Heard Of

Actress Felicity Huffman is one of the people involved in the “nation’s largest college admissions scandal.”

She pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and honestscandal headline services mail fraud, which don’t sound all that serious until you add in words like “felony conspiracy,” “money laundering” and “prison sentences.”

Huffman is one of a group of 52 people charged including parents, coaches and others, and the first to be sentenced; in mid-September a judge gave her fourteen days in a federal prison, a $30,000 fine, supervised release for a year, and 250 hours of community service.

Huffman had paid $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT test score, an attempt to help her daughter get into a “better” college.  It’s widely believed that kids who attend prestigious colleges like the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown tend to earn more, make significant and long-lasting social contacts, and have more satisfying lives.

What parent doesn’t want that for their kids?

Huffman and daughter Sophia, 19.

Maybe not to the point of committing a felony, but still.

Part of me can see Huffman’s actions as an example of the road to Hell being paved with good intentions – Huffman was trying to help her daughter and didn’t personally stand to gain anything from this.

But the fact is that she broke the law, is being punished for it, and reported to federal prison October 15.

And that’s how our justice system works:

  1. Investigation.
  2. Accusation.
  3. Trial, or
  4. Guilty plea and sentencing.

That’s how it works sometimes.

So I say “Justice, Maybe” because of the stories that follow.

Justice, Maybe Never:  Someone You’ve Never Heard Of

Entrepreneur Richard Zeitlin is on almost nobody’s radar.

Almost nobody, except for the Center for Public Integrity, “an independent, investigative newsroom that exposes betrayals of the public trust by powerful interests,” according to its website.

I’d never heard of Zeitlin until a recent story on National Public Radio’s The Takeaway with this headline:

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The story’s intro says,

Nonprofit charities often raise money for important causes like cancer research and legislation.  But according to new reporting, lax legal oversight also makes them easy targets for companies looking to take money from charitable giving for themselves.

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This screen shot from the Center for Public Integrity’s website is the only image I could find of Zeitlin, with his brother Alan, though I don’t know which is which.

That’s what Richard Zeitlin appears to have done.  Zeitlin is the founder of two telemarketing fundraising companies, Donor Relations and the now defunct Courtesy Call, and he and his companies are the subject of a new investigation by the Center for Public Integrity.

The nonprofit charities and political action committees that Zeitlin’s companies contracted with reported raising at least $153 million since 2006, but Zeitlin’s companies kept about $133 million of that amount – that’s nearly 90 percent.

On the Center for Public Integrity’s website, the story notes that “…nonprofits and political committees are allowed to spend almost everything they collect on fundraising.  What’s not legal:  lying to prospective donors about how their money will be used.”

So let’s say you get solicitation letters from charitable organizations – and who doesn’t?

This is the Children’s Leukemia Support Network website:

“just cancer”?  Would you give money to an organization with this website?  People did, and do.

The letter you received from the Network says, in part, that it will:

“provide the parents of children stricken with Leukemia emotional support and information on new discoveries and cutting-edge treatments” and “continue the fight for further funding and research.”

The letter caught you at just the right moment, so you write a check for $100 and mail it.  You feel that nice little glow you get from doing the right thing, for no other reason than to help those kids with leukemia.

But, says the Center for Public Integrity, $84 of your donation won’t do anything to help those kids.

And therein lies the lying.

Here are some of the other “charities” connected to Zeitlin:

  • Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation, Inc.donate
  • The American Children’s Society
  • Disabled Veterans Services, Inc.
  • U.S. Veterans Assistance Foundation
  • International Union of Police Associations
  • Firefighters Charitable Foundation, Inc.

All these names sound legit.

And sadly, too many people donate to charities without verifying that the charities are legit, at websites like CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org.

The story on the Center for Public Integrity’s website ended with a Center reporter contacting Zeitlin at his office in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, NV:

zeitlin office cropped
Zeitlin’s office; a sign on the outside said “TRC” and “Results you can rely on.”

The reporter introduced herself to Zeitlin, who told her to leave, then told his receptionist to call the police.

He followed her out to the parking lot and threatened her:  “You’re coming at me.  I’m going to come at you.”

Maybe, someday, we’ll hear more about Richard Zeitlin.

But Justice?  Maybe Never.

 Justice, Never:  Someone You’ll Never Hear Of

Joe Cassano, Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld, Angelo Mozilo, Gary Crittenden, Arthur Tildesley, Jr., Fabrice “Fabulous Fab” Tourre, Ralph Cioffi, and Matthew Tannin.

Names we don’t know, so let me introduce you.

These are just a few of the many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives who brought us the Great Recession, which – officially – began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

“Ended,” though, is inaccurate – for the millions of people who lost their homes, their jobs and their savings.   Some are still recovering, and some will never recover:

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The Great Recession collectively destroyed over $30 trillion of the world’s wealth.

And not one of those many Wall Street bankers, traders, and executives went to prison.

Stories abound as to why none of them went to prison, like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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These and other stories offer many reasons about why these people never went to prison.

Plenty of reasons, but I won’t recount them because they don’t matter.

What matters is, the people who caused the tragedy of the Great Recession didn’t go to prison.

And they didn’t pay for it either – the banks paid:

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They didn’t suffer for it, but we did.

So for those of us who suffered, those who continue to suffer, those who will always suffer:

Justice:  Never.

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