Sometimes, what with all the law and policies and procedures, it is easy to forget that every money laundering or white collar crime case is about people. Whether they are the perpetrators or the victims, the laundering or other crime is going to have a lasting impact on their lives. And this goes, perhaps even more so, for those around them: their families. As regular readers of this blog will know, I have now become friends – I am very proud to say – with the ex-wife of a money launderer, who herself has spent years trying to disentangle herself from her husband’s financial “arrangements” and to protect her children from his influence. At more of a remove, I am also aware of the trials (literally) and tribulations endured by a woman who blogs as “Otto’s Mummy” and whose husband was send to prison for theft from his employer. (It all started in March 2011, so you’ll probably want to read her blog backwards.) Now not for one second am I minimising or dismissing the crimes committed by these two men, nor indeed am I saying – given the minimal information I have about both situations – that they have much in common. Apart, that is, from families dealing with the fall-out.
And that’s why I was fascinated to read about Progressive Prison Ministries, an organisation in Connecticut dedicated to helping “individuals, families and organizations with white-collar and other nonviolent incarceration issues”. It was set up by Jeff Grant, a former corporate lawyer who served nearly 14 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2006 to wire fraud and money laundering, and his wife to provide guidance and help to those caught up in white collar crime, which often plunges them into dilemmas very foreign to them. For instance, one wife found that after her husband had been charged with white collar offences, the regulator froze her bank account and so she could no longer buy food; the Grants told her how to apply for food stamps and heating subsidies.
This is a typical problem, according to Lisa Lawler on her “White Collar Wives Club” blog. The ex-wife of a convicted white collar criminal herself, she writes: “White collar wives are mostly seen as entitled, spoiled and undeserving of pity and in most cases, are not considered victims at all… The truth is that wives and children are the FIRST victims of many white collar crimes as a result of the acute breach of trust and ensuing financial ruin that is brought upon them by a man whose primary obligation is to protect his family.”