Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

So Who's the Shmuck?

The good news is that Ms. Terry Paxton has just been given a 10-year sentence. She embezzled over $140,000 from the law firm where she was office manager.

This in itself is not particularly unusual or remarkable. But two facts of this case that warrant comment are:

A. Terry's husband had helped pay off money which Terry had stolen when she had previously worked for another law firm; and

B. While she awaited trial, Terry got a job at yet another law firm. Law Firm Number Three, fully aware of Terry's tendencies, came forward to the District Attorney, gratuitously put up $2,000 as partial restitution for Terry's defalcations, and beseeched that Terry receive probation and not jail time. The partners of the third law firm was impressed with Terry's office skills, and wanted to keep her in their employ.

While one's immediate inclination is to brand Terry's husband as a shmuck, one must consider that if the gender roles were reversed, it would just be another case of a woman standing by her man.

The partners of Law Firm Three do not have that excuse.

The LF3 partners may be shmucks, but they are not unique shmucks. In 1985, Jane Amador embezzled from a succession of Miami law firms, including the Miami office of 300+ attorney law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. For her defalcations, Amador got 10 years probation -- and then was hired by the very lawyer who defended her in the criminal proceedings.

And the problem is not necessarily unique to the legal profession. In 1979, the Charleston real estate firm of Read and Read hired one Judy Bode as a secretary, said Judy Bode having been convicted and on probation for writing bad checks. Judy was quickly promoted and given additional duties and privileges, including access to the firm's checkbooks. Of course, Judy promptly went into business forging the signature of partner Emerson B. Read on the checks.

Okay, so Read should have investigated Judy Bode's background a bit more thoroughly before hiring her. Does that make him a shmuck? Not necessarily, EXCEPT that Emerson Read gave Judy Bode free access to his signature rubberstamp which he used to sign the checks. Why did Emerson Read use a rubberstamp to sign checks? Because he had a physical impediment which prevented his signing checks and other documents the regular way. How did he get this physical impediment? His hand was shot off in a hunting accident.

The record [Read v. South Carolina National Bank, 335 S.E.2d 359 (S. Carolina 1985)] does not specify, but it is entirely plausible that Mr. Read was such a klutz that he accidentally shot off his own hand.

Was Read a shmuck? You be the judge!


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