Conspiracies can come in many different forms. Which scenario is considered a conspiracy?
The Francisco Conspiracy
Atlantic City, New Jersey
It is 1:36 a.m. and a silent, stealth helicopter lands behind a warehouse on the outskirts of the city. Rafael exits the aircraft toting a dark blue metal attaché case. He taps two quick knocks on the door, waits, then two more. A voice from behind the door says, "The eagle flies at midnight." Rafael responds, "Nocturnal" — the coded response.
The door opens. Francisco gives his partner Rafael a nod. He turns, withdraws a penlight and gives three short flashes to the chopper pilot who takes off. They close the door and descend the metal staircase where a half dozen computer monitors illuminate the basement.
Rafael sets his attaché case atop a waist high, wooden crate. From his shoe he produces a tiny silver key, inserts it into the lock and turns. The case pops open to reveal a clear plastic flash drive embedded in a block of foam padding.
Rafael withdraws the memory device and hands it to his partner. In low tones he says, "With these codes you'll be able to divert all wire transfers coming into the escrow company. The funds will be deposited into our offshore account. The codes are valid for the next fifteen hours."
Rafael turns to leave. At the stairs he turns back. "I'll see you in Costa Rica on Friday where we'll execute the final phase; laundering the money." Francisco replies, "Follow the river north until sunrise. Godspeed my friend."
The Mike and Joe Conspiracy
Fargo, North Dakota
Mike gets up from his desk and walks over to his processor's cubicle. "Hey Joe, do me a favor would ya? That one guy were doin' that loan for — Johnson — anyways, he lost his job." Joe replies, "Wait, he's supposed to close on the Monday. Now he can't."
Mike says, "I need it to close because I need the money." A bit confused Joe says, "But if he's got no job, he's got no income and then he can't well close on the Monday."
Mike pokes his head around the corner and sees they're alone. Mike whispers, "Okay, here's the thing. I think he's got a new job. But the whole thing is, the loan's already approved with the job he had. Nobody'll know the better if he closes on the Monday — 'specially if no one says nuthin' 'bout him gettin' fired and all."
Joe stands up and looks in the next cubicle to see if anybody is there, then replies, "What are you sayin'?" Mike rolls his eyes, "For cryin' out loud Joe. Just keep your mouth shut and don't be such an idiot. He's got the good credit. Come on. I'll buy you a real nice jacket or a new cat or something."
Joe sits down, turns back to his computer and says, "Okay then, I won't say nuthin'. Geez!" He pauses, "And I'll take the cat."
Both of these scenarios fall under the definition of criminal conspiracy. By definition a criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime at some time in the future. Even if the crime has not been committed the acts fall under the category of a criminal conspiracy.
In fact, the crime does not even have to be carried out or successful. Francisco could flub up his part of the crime. Perhaps he accidentally drops the flash drive in a hot cup of coffee and the data gets erased; it is still a conspiracy. In the mortgage scenario the borrower, Johnson, could wind up short on the cash to close and his closing comes to a screeching halt; still a conspiracy.
There does not have to be any profit or loss as a result of the crime. Maybe Mike priced the loan wrong and he loses his commission. Maybe Johnson's loan does close and he actually makes timely monthly payments for the next thirty years — a performing loan and no losses by the lender. No harm no foul, right? Nope. It is still a crime.
One never knows, with absolute certainty, the scope of the activity of the other players in a real estate transaction. In the event of an investigation, Mike, the loan processor's name will come up. The FBI will look at all his old loan files. If Mike and Joe were willing to break the rules for this transaction, how many cats does Mike have?
Guilt by association is a very real thing. We all want to think one is innocent until proven guilty, but face it; society has become pretty numb to headlines such as, "REAL ESTATE INSIDERS ACCUSED OF MONEY LAUNDERING." Most glaze right over the word, ACCUSED.
The accused is considered innocent in the federal court system, but to the public, the accused are guilty and should be avoided like the plague since the appearance of impropriety is as bad as impropriety itself.
If you are a mortgage broker and your name was substituted for the word "Insiders" in the above headline, do you think your favorite escrow company would continue to accept loans from you? Most would un–friend you and deny ever having done business with you.
Staying out of the murky area is absolutely critical. Always be consistent and diligent. You cannot cross the line because you think it will be okay just this one time.
By skirting the rules just once, not only are you susceptible to being involved in fraud, but the first time you justify unethical behavior, the next time becomes much easier — and the next time and the next time… It is a slippery slope.
It is not impossible to resist the temptation to commit fraud. It is possible and people do it every day. But, most people who commit fraud do not wake up one morning and say to themselves, "Today, I am going to commit a crime." It starts with something small — which seems insignificant. Fraud does not just "happen." You are in control and you are responsible.
Jerome Mayne concludes for what it is worth (coming from a convicted felon), stay on course. If someone tries to tempt you to the dark side, ask them if they will be able to give your kids a ride to prison on visiting days. Or find out if they can arrange daycare for a couple of years while your spouse gets a second or third job. And how about rebuilding your reputation, career, self–esteem, self–confidence…
Jerome Mayne is an international keynote speaker on fraud and ethics. In 1999, he received a 21–month prison sentence stemming from federal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
He is the author of the book, "Diary of a White Collar Criminal" and co–author of "Mortgage Fraud and Predatory Lending — what every agent should know" (Kaplan Publishing). He has worked with dozens of companies and associations around the country helping business professionals to stay out of prison.
Jerome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.jeromemayne.com
His books are available on Amazon.
© 2017, Jerome Mayne