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Monday, February 10, 2014

The Overlooked Victims of White Collar Crime, by Andrew Schwartz - Guest Blogger

Progressive Prison Project

Innocent Spouse & Children Project

Greenwich, Connecticut

The Overlooked Victims of White Collar Crime
by Andrew Schwartz - Guest Blogger

Andrew Schwartz is a friend & classmate 
from Union Theological Seminary.
A recent conversation in his office at
the seminary led to this important guest blog.

It’s easy to vilify white-collar criminals. Post the crash of 2008, the country cheers in unison when a banker or broker gets what is coming to them. Before 2008, the country either knew or didn’t care about white-collar crime, or they stayed mostly ignorant to the crimes that occurred on Wall Street. 

But in our post-2008 financial crash world, most all Americans know that bankers and stock brokers are criminals, and we Americans are ready to see justice done to them.

While this sentiment is justifiable, we must not let our lust for justice (revenge?) cloud our ability to differentiate between the criminals and their victims. In particular, we need to remember that the victims of these crimes are not simply the ones who were defrauded or stolen from. We must also remember the family members of the white-collar criminals: the wives and children of these men. 

More often than the not it is not just the banker or stockbroker who is punished. It is their whole family. On the heels of the release of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Christina McDowell, formerly Christina Prousalis, daughter of Tom Prousalis who was a former business partner of Jordan Belfort, wrote a scathing open letter to anyone who would listen. In the letter, she describes what it was like to be an eighteen-year-old girl who was unwittingly made complicit to a series of crimes her father had committed but that she had nothing to do with. 

Unbeknownst to Christina, her father had taken out multiple credit cards and opened several bank accounts in her name to use her as a front for his seedy dealings. When the DOJ came down on him, she was caught up in the tumult and came out on the other side, destitute and nowhere to call home.  She spent years putting her life back in order and now lives in relative anonymity in California. 

Ms. Prousalis is representative of countless others whose only crime was being family with a criminal. It’s something she couldn’t control, let alone stop. It is the same story for so many different wives and children who must deal with the repercussions of their husbands/fathers sins. The criminal’s fate is but for their family members there is often nothing but questions. Almost always, wives who share bank accounts and titles to their home(s) with their now convicted husnadas have their share of the property taken from them as well. The courts choose not to differentiate between the holdings of the husband and wife, quickly leaving the wife with very little. 

In one fell swoop, the life they once knew is gone and it is now up to them to make due with what little is left to the mother to make a life for her and her children. As is unfortunately typical with white-collar crime, the families of the convicted are alienated and shut out of the communities they once belonged to. The friends they once had will no longer speak with them and the church they once frequented no longer welcomes their membership. Mother and children are left alone to find their way by themselves in a world that now no longer cares for them or their well-being.

They deserve it, we tell ourselves, and we secretly revel in their fall from grace. But this is not justice and it is not right. If the wife and children were in cahoots with their criminal father in his criminal activities, then we should place the whole family into custody. Instead, we imprison them in our way through public disgrace and by placing them in the poor house. If the wife and children are truly innocent, though, then it is our duty to insure that they are treated like victims and not criminals. 

We should work to help them transition from their old life into a new one, and be willing to provide mental, emotional, and spiritual support along the way. As Christians, we are called to be with being when they are at their lowest, and to commune with those that the rest of society has deemed unworthy. It is a radical style of love that asks us to look beyond our comfort zone and to welcome “the least of these” into our lives, regardless of who they are or where they are coming from. It is a transcendent love that is willing to extend a hand where no one else will and say, “Welcome, you will find rest here.” 

Andrew Schwartz is a writer and blogger who focuses on
 social justice and interfaith relations. As a Christian Agnostic,he works to find common ground for justice between the religious and religious. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary, he is a staff blogger for the Huffington Postand is currently working on a book project.
You can follow him on Twitter @schwartzajs.

Lisa Lawler left this comment on Sunday evening, Feb. 17, 2014:

Thank you for your thoughtful post. I was a white collar wife and my son and I will forever have to live with the severe repercussions of having our lives pulled out from under us by the thoughtless mid-deeds of my ex-husband. I've been writing a book about our experience for the past few years and hope to finally finish it this summer. I've also written a survival guide for white collar wives and will hopefully also have that published as a companion piece. My goal with my book has always been to take it on the road to companies large and small in hopes that our story might serve as a cautionary tale. I started writing a blog a few months ago but as so many women suffer guilt by association they mainly seem to be in hiding and I've had no interaction. I do hope my book will help flush them out and bring them back into the light. Thank you for remembering that wives and children are victims too. Readers can find my blog @ White Collar Wives Club.

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  1. I know all to well what happens to these children and wives. Evan Dooley was convicted of a white collar crime. I hope that some families who are going through the same thing can be find some peace and strength through this writing. It comes from deep within my heart and I want them to know that through it all there are those who understand your struggles. Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless you and your families and may you have continued strength.

    Angels Without a Face by Lori Dooley

    As I walked into church during the Christmas holidays, there hung the tree of Christmas Angels to help those families in need. I would normally just grab an Angel in hopes to bring some joy to a boy or girl. I have always enjoyed being part of this gift giving, but did I really reflect on what it truly meant. These pieces of paper are not merely pieces of paper on a Christmas Tree, they are families who need us. I am gracious how much my church gives unto the poor and shows how important it is to give to those who are in need. This time, the Angel had a reflection and the reflection was my family. For the first time, my Angel had a face.

    This year, my church asked me if I needed any help with Christmas. As I took a deep breath and hesitated for a moment, I realized that they knew of my situation. That my spouse was incarcerated for a white collar crime, this was my daughter’s first year without her father, and my finances were scarce. My daughter just days before this conversation took place, told me she really did not want much for Christmas and I knew what she was trying to do. One of my greatest gifts is that I have been blessed with a really good child who never really asked much for Christmas even when times were better for us. I have brought her up to know the true meaning of Christmas and when I see her during this season, I realize I have done something very meaningful.
    This year my life completely changed. I have gone through tough times before even cancer, but this was different. No present can ever take the place of my daughter having her father home for Christmas or change what has happened, but what I am starting to see a little at a time is that there are many who want to help and put their judgments aside to bring some joy and peace to those that find themselves without it. As every day passes, one step at a time, I find myself able to come out of this shadow I have been hiding behind.
    There are two Angels that I will keep closer to my heart this year; my daughter and the one I picked from the tree.

    Lori Dooley

    1. Thank you Lori. Lynn and I were so touched when you shared this with us a few months ago, and we know you were waiting for just the right place to share it with others suffering in silence. We think that Andrew's blog is such a powerful piece - we think you chose wisely. Thank you to both Lori and Andrew.

  2. Lori thank you for sharing this!

  3. Thank you for bringing it to light.

  4. Great blog..........White-collar crime refers to financially motivated nonviolent crime committed by business and government professionals.Indecent Assault Lawyers Melbourne