As the journalist no doubt intended, my attention today was caught by the fact that George Evans, sent down last week for eighteen years for drug dealing and money laundering, was 78 years old – a great-grandfather, no less. When Bernie Madoff was given 150 years for fraud, money laundering, perjury and more, he was 71. And starting his 110-year stretch earlier this year, Allen Stanford is 62. Mind you, years in prison might have looked good to Griselda Blanca, Colombia’s “cocaine queen”, who was gunned down last week, probably by a criminal rival, at the age of 69.
We all know that we’re living longer, and that a shrinking pension and healthcare pot means that inevitably we will have to work longer too. And that work might be on the side of the angels, or in bed with the devils. But surely one of the attractions of the criminal lifestyle is the fast buck – the opportunity to make more money more quickly, and retire early to your Mediterranean villa or float around the Caribbean on your gin palace. Of course, as Griselda found to her cost, you’re running the risk of making dangerous enemies, but if you can safely navigate those shark-infested waters, surely a long and peaceful retirement beckons temptingly? But criminals can’t have it both ways: they can’t work as criminals for many decades, and then expect leniency because of their grey hair. Before sentencing, Madoff’s lawyers asked for a 7-year sentence on the basis of their client’s advanced years, when some (including the judge, it appears) might argue that he was just lucky to get away with it for so long. And as for George Evans, the judge was keen to point out that his status as kindly great-grandpa would not help him now: “People should not think that if they take up drug dealing in their autumn years, judges will give them soft sentences.”