Robert Courtney wasn't the typical white-collar criminal.
When the Kansas City, Mo., pharmacist confessed to diluting cancer drugs, affecting as many as 4,200 patients, he showed little emotion, according to Robert Herndon, an FBI special agent who worked the case.
"He never expressed any real remorse for what he had done," Herndon said. "He carries himself a little bit different than most people think. He does not come across as being a warm and friendly pharmacist."
Herndon on Monday gave an insider's perspective on the case that shocked the region and grabbed national headlines. He presented Kansas University's 2006 Walter S. Sutton Ethics Lecture, "Diluted Trust: Moral Failure and White Collar Crime." The lecture drew a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people to Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union.
Courtney, now serving a 30-year prison sentence, pleaded guilty in 2002 to diluting chemotherapy drugs for profit.
Some never confess. But for those who do, the confession is often followed with an expression of remorse or regret, Herndon said. Not so with Courtney.
"I'd say he's atypical," he said.
Herndon gave insight into several cases he helped investigate, including the 1990s Archer Daniels Midland price-fixing scandal.
Herndon said white-collar criminals are united in their greed, often for money or power.
"They had a single focus in their life," he said. "They put the money part or the financial part ahead of everything else."
Joseph Reitz, KU business professor and co-director of KU's International Center for Ethics in Business, said the university invited Herndon to talk with students and send them a message about ethics.
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"I'm tired of hearing about white-collar crime," Reitz said. "I'm afraid our students are getting the wrong picture."
Sarah McGee, a KU business major, said the business school appeared to be focused on ethics - and that's a good thing.
Taking the easy, illegal way can seem tempting, she said, but it's not the right way to go.
"It's just not worth it," she said.
Herndon said the people he investigates come from good families and get good jobs, but greed leads them astray. He pressed the students to take the higher road.
White-collar criminals are similar to other criminals in their stupidity, Herndon said.
"I think all criminals are dumb," he said. "It doesn't make sense to commit a crime."
But their pressure points can be different.
While other criminals may like to brag about their crimes and accept, if not relish, the media attention, white-collar criminals fear the raising of the curtain, the newspaper headlines and the chance that family might find out.
"What they fear most is embarrassment," Herndon said.
White-collar crime was a top priority for the FBI for years. On Sept. 11, 2001, agents were meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller to discuss the Courtney case - at the time the biggest case for the FBI in the country. In the midst of the meeting, Mueller was notified of the terrorist attacks and the focus changed, Herndon said. In the wake of 9-11, the FBI turned its focus to terrorism.
Herndon, a KU graduate, grew up watching "The F.B.I.," a show that ran in the 1960s and early 1970s. An F.B.I. recruiter went to his church. A Secret Service agent lived in his neighborhood.
When he studied for a business administration and accounting degree in the 1980s, it was with the knowledge that the FBI often hired accountants. And when faced with the option of spending his days compiling financial statements or joining the FBI to help "save the world," Herndon said he opted for the latter.
He's working on a corporate fraud and a mortgage fraud case now, he said, but he would not give details.