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Archive for Friday, June 8, 1990

WHITE COLLAR CROOKS

June 8, 1990

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The Kansas City, Mo., school system has become nationally infamous for its problems, not the least of which are abuses and misuses of public funds by employees.

Now we learn that a woman who stole some $132,000 in public funds while working for the school system is going to get a mild probationary slap on the wrist and be forced to do public service. That might be appropriate, though that is difficult to imagine, if the abuses were not so blatant. But the woman used the money to help acquaintances acquire illegal drugs and to travel and gamble. The current evidence is that she will not spend a day in jail or be seriously penalized in any way.

Suppose she had stalked into a bank lobby and robbed the institution of $132,000. Would such kid glove treatment be the result? Granted, she used no weapons or threats to abscond with the school money, but the money was stolen just the same. And there is little evidence she will ever be able to repay it if, indeed, she is required to do so.

This is still another instance of a white collar crime for which the punishment is far from adequate. The Kansas City criminal's penalty, in fact, is a virtual encouragement to others to try the same.

It also has been noted that while too many white-collar criminals avoid jail or prison, citizens are less inclined to be upset when the guilty parties at least are required to make regular payments of restitution.

Trouble is, the U.S. Supreme Court by a 7-2 vote has decided that criminals may avoid making restitution if they file for bankruptcy, since the bankruptcy law makes no mention of an exception for court-ordered repayment. Will the Kansas City school board thief use this dodge?

If that is the way the law truly reads, then it is wrong and should be changed. Congress needs to close such loopholes before the courts are faced with cases of the white-collar criminals from the ongoing savings and loan and banking collapses. And it would be well if our lawmakers got on the ball in a hurry.

One way or other, crooks regardless of what color of collar they wear need to be held directly accountable for their illicit activities. Otherwise, we're going to see such behavior in growing numbers. As long as the word is out that ``crime pays,'' there will be more and more of it.

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