Top 5 White Collar Crimes: Sean Hannity's Freedom Alliance Charity Squanders Funds Meant For Veteran Families
Friday, April 2, 2010 at 7:00 am
Before we begin, we thought we'd share a fun little factoid with all of you!
Despite the fact that greed is as old as sin -- and arguably it's predecessor -- "white-collar crime" is a 20th century term. It was coined in 1939 by sociologist Edwin Sutherland to honor all those deceptively clean-cut looking folks who use their status for little more than ripping folks off. People just like Rachel Yould.
Yould's list of credentials don't read like that of a common criminal. Not only was she Miss Anchorage, but she was also a Fulbright and Rhodes scholar who studied at Oxford University. Glamour Magazine named her one of the most notable college students in America. She even worked with Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa!
But apparently, Yould's work with one of the most charitable women in history didn't seem to have much of an effect. On March 5, Yould was federally indicted on 10 counts of fraud -- each charge carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Authorities say that the 37-year-old created a second, fake identity in order to get two sets of students loans -- using one not for school, but for personal investments and as start up cash for a small business.
In 2003, Yould obtained a second Social Security number under special law that provides protection to victims of domestic violence. Apparently, she had filed a restraining order in Alaska against a man named Robert Hall in 2002.
Shortly thereafter, Yould moved to Japan, where she was doing research. But Japan is an expensive country, and Yould was running out of money. She'd maxed out her life-time borrowing limit on state-subsized student loans as well as her subsidized Stafford Loans.
But rather than use her incredible laundry list of talents to make money, she simply decided to start taking out more unauthorized loans under her new name. She provided lenders with fraudulent documents and income statements. Oh. And she also forgot to mention that she was no longer a student. She continued taking out student loans through 2006.
When she was first indicted, Yould tried to maintain that she was simply a victim of domestic violence with few viable options for income. She even tried to claim that the Social Security office told her to continue taking out student loans under her new alias.
But as her trial was approaching (it was supposed to start next week), Yould quickly changed her tune. Yesterday, she pled guilty to the charges.
As she awaits sentencing, she is also facing mortgage-fraud charges in a five-count federal indictment surrounding her purchase of an Alaskan condo. That case is supposed to go on trial in August.
4. Poly Implant Prothese
The problem with a lot of "white-collar crime" is that it is often considered "victimless" crime. No one's head is getting smashed in with a crowbar. No rape kits are being collected. And, after all, where would America be if it weren't for our great tradition of corporate malfeasance, right?
Tell that to the thousands of women with leaky boobs.
Since 2001, between 35,000 to 45,000 women have had breast implants provided by the Poly Implant Prothese company -- or PIP -- based in Southern France. Around 90 percent of those implants were exported out of the country. We're assuming they can mostly be found in Laguna Beach, California. Or inside Pamela Anderson.
Unfortunately, PIP's manufacturing methods weren't always above board. For the past nine years, they've been making their implants with an unsanctioned silicone gel that caused the implants to rupture at an alarming rate. Had the company simply used a universally-approved form of silicone, they could have avoided turning women's bodies into toxic waste dumps. But so the corporate world goes.
Luckily, in France, corporate malfeasance isn't dealt with lightly. After a year long investigation and intensive recall on its products, a French court ordered the company to close on Tuesday. It has also released a worldwide notice to women with PIP implants to immediately contact their surgeons.
3. Trevor Cook
We usually try not to judge a criminal by his looks. But since this is the Top 5 White Collar Crimes, our standards are bit higher. And we can't help but wonder who in the world would have trusted such a bulldog looking meatball as Trevor Cook with their hard earned cash?
Apparently, there are at least 1,000 people much more gracious -- and lot less shallow -- than us.
Cook had been running an investment firm called Oxford Global Advisors out of a mansion in Minneapolis. He used the nationally-syndicated "Follow The Money" radio show to promote his "foreign currency trading program," in which he promised investors 10 to 12 percent returns and little or no risk to their principal investments. He also held numerous investment seminars out of his Minneapolis mansion in order to recruit investors.
But, in reality, the only one who was going to gain anything was Cook himself. For years, he raked in money from more than 1,000 investors. He failed to tell them that he'd lost more than $35 million in bad trades he'd made between 2006 and 2009. Instead, he created fraudulent account statements that showed his investors earning profits and maintained that all their money was 100 percent liquid.
It wasn't until some Ohio investors tried to take out their $5 million that they realized it was a lie. In July, those investors filed a federal lawsuit against Cook.
Shortly after the filing of that suit, investigators realized that the 37-year-old had created little more than a $190 million Ponzi scheme and also failed to report over $5 million in taxable income for 2008.
On Tuesday, Cook -- who has been in jail since January 25 -- consented to charges brought against him by the federal government, which mean that he'll be offering a guilty plea soon. He is facing a maximum of 25 years in prison on one count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion.
2. Barrie Turner
The only thing worse than ripping people off, is ripping desperate people off -- something that Barrie Turner is all too familiar with.
While the 65-year-old hails from Delta, British Columbia, it was in the United States that he made his mark.
For years, Turner operated more than 200 different "executive dating" websites that targeted US customers. And there wasn't a lonely man or woman with cash that Turner wasn't willing to rip off. Among them were "Executive Catholic Dating," "Executive Gay Dating," and "Executive Seattle Dating."
A six-month membership to one of his sites ran consumers as much as $997. Turner raked in more than $1.2 million from clients for whom he never intended to find dates.
Turner probably figured that his scam was fool proof. After all -- if folks struggled to find love in the real world, maybe they wouldn't be so shocked to lose out on the Internet, too?
But Turner's customers soon caught on to his game -- realizing that they were being matched with entirely fictitious people. At least 100 customers filed consumer complaints, causing the US prosecutors office to finally investigate.
In the end, Turner had ripped off more than 1,000 people looking for love -- officially making him the meanest man in North America.
Last week, he was arrested in Washington as he was caught trying to cross the border back into the US.
1. Sean Hannity
If you think the RNC's $2,000 splurge on faux lesbian strippers is bad -- then you have no idea what grandstanding Republicans are really capable of.
Take Sean Hannity, for example. The Most Annoying Man In America has shouted loudly enough to convince millions of Americans that he is one of the few rich men who have their back. After hearing about his latest fundraising snafu, we're hoping you aren't drinking his Kool-Aid.
Hannity, along with Oliver North, run the Freedom Alliance -- a multi-million dollar charity that claims to raise scholarship money for the children of veterans who are either wounded or killed in action.
Each year, the pair raises money through it's annual "Freedom Concert" tour, in which they engage in all sorts of folksy posturing on stage as "Great American Bands" (read: marginally racist and totally white trash) play for the working masses.
However, just as Hannity and company were getting ready to kick off their August tour, news broke last week that Citizens for Responsibility And Ethics In Washington are now accusing the group of consumer fraud and abuse of its tax exempt status.
CREW's website gives an itemization of the Freedom Alliances expenditures and earnings. According to their report, Hannity's group spends more on postage (more than $1.4 million) than it does on scholarship to the children of poor veterans (less than $900,000).
In 2007, the charity collected more than $12.7 million in donations. Still, it handed out less than $900,000 in scholarships while retaining more than $19 million in "net assests" and paying out more than $1.4 million in salaries.
CREW filed complaints with both the Federal Trade Commission and the Internal Revenue Service last Monday. Of course, Hannity has dismissed their charges as little more than a liberal smear campaign.
However, it isn't just the Perrier swilling Left that is launching an attack against Hannity's misgivings. Conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel has also quoted inside sources who claim that Hannity has squandered his groups funds, using the children of veterans as little more than a personal fundraising ploy, claiming that he's used the groups' funds to pay for his private jets, luxury SUVs, and penthouse suites.