Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Different Kind Of Role Model

The Crazy School

The worlds rejoices as The Crazy School is finaly released. Not only a great title but an interesting setting. We here at Naked Authors could not be more proud of Cornelia and her new book, which, I repeat, is on sale today. That means you could wait until the weekend to buy it but why would you?

With a name like "Read" how could she have been anything but a writer. we're just glad she has time to blog with us.

A Class of his Own

A few weeks before Christmas I attended a fascinating training course. This one did not involve guns, tactics, survival or terrorists. No matter what classes I go to my friends always want to hear about those subjects. This class was scheduled a day before my vacation on the island of Palm Beach. I was not in the best mindset to be taught about the least popular subject in all of law enforcement: Fraud.

The class, really more of a lecture, was taught by Frank Abagnale. A familiar name? It is if you saw the movie Catch Me if You Can. Leonardo DiCaprio played Mr. Abagnale as a young man who is relentlessly chased by an FBI agent played by Tom Hanks.

As part of his sentence, Mr. Abagnale was ordered to help law enforcement detect and investigate fraud. He has continued in this role for almost forty years.

In his lecture, which he has delivered all over the world, Mr. Abagnale brings up points that I’ve hit upon on earlier blogs. Naturally everyone thinks someone that agrees with them is brilliant. I’m here to tell you that Mr. Abagnale really is brilliant.

He pointed out that there is roughly $660 billion dollars lost to white-collar fraud in the U.S. every year. That’s $660,000,000,000. More than the country’s entire defense budget. ID theft accounts for $56 billion alone. These are astounding numbers and I still believe that fraud affects most Americans more than the higher profile crimes like murder. There are fifteen million victims of ID theft. Mr. Abagnale believes that punishment for fraud and recovery of stolen funds are so rare, prevention is the only viable course of action.

The troubling aspect of all this is that only about two percent of the crooks go to jail and restitution is all but non-existent.

Mr. Abagnale believes that one of the root problems of this issue is that ethics no longer has a place of high respect in this country. It’s not taught at most colleges, not considered important by most business people and not talked about at home like is has been in the past. He points out that no Eagle Scout, the highest rank of Boy Scout, has ever been convicted of a felony.

It’s entertaining to make jokes about outfits like the Boy Scouts or conscientious religious groups or civic-minded groups like the The Rotary Club but the joke may be on us smartasses who don’t get it. I make as much fun of people as anyone but I recognize and appreciate any group that sincerely works to give kids role models. I can think of a dozen Hassidic jokes but I’ve never seen one of them commit a crime.

I know it sounds odd for me to tout the accomplishments of a convicted felon. If you’ve read my column you know I agree with second chances in most cases. If forty years of helping the police defeat fraud schemes doesn’t buy you redemption for crimes committed as a teenager, I don’t know what does.

I’d like you to think of a group you appreciate for their work with kids and give them a shout out here.

Oh yeah, and I’d like to go to another of Mr. Abagnale’s lectures.


  1. That's an easy one. I work as the attorney for the local Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program. We represent the interest of the child in abuse and neglect cases in court. The GAL's themselves, who do the bulk of the work, are all volunteers, and let me tell you, they work their tails off: investigating, finding resources for families, appearing in court, etc. They occasionally have to deal with some pretty harrowing situations. I am in awe of these people.

  2. Oh, and congratulations, Cornelia!

  3. So, my son is getting his Eagle Scout, *and* he loves Cornelia. The trick is we have to raise kids who know when follow the rulebook and when to follow their instincts, more importantly, who to respect. Hint: it's not about how much power the person has over the kid. And guess what - the kids are smart enough to know that!

  4. The Los Angeles Police Department has two youth programs: (1) DAPS for ages 8-13. The kids meet at the station once a week and participate in events such as sports, field trips, and crafts. (2) The Law Enforcement Explorer Program was established to develop leadership and discipline in young people ages 14-21. The program provides hands-on volunteer experience in the working world of adults in law enforcement. Both programs provide extraordinary opportunities for these kids, some of whom are considered "at risk."

  5. Aw, Jim. Thank you!

    And I'm consistently awestruck by the courage and energy of the teachers at the Via Center School and the Ala Costa Center here in Berkeley in their work with developmentally disabled kids. They gave me my life back, and they love my kid, and I *love* them.

  6. Dusty, you're doing good work with GAL.
    Sophie, congrats on your son's Eagle Scout status. I'm impressed.

    Patty you'r right there with the LAPD. I'm glad your proud of them.

    Cornelia, good luck witj The Crazy school.


  7. I saw the movie and then read the book, which was even better than the film. I'd love to hear Abagnale speak sometime.

  8. I want to give a "shout out" to the amazing social workers at the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. Did some temp admin work there and met some very devoted and caring individuals who are making a real difference to children's lives.

  9. Jim: Thanks, but they're doing the work. I'm just standing up on my hind legs and yapping.