We’ve had a couple of these stories in Detroit lately. They usually attract my eye with the police mug shot of a thoroughly average middle-age soccer mom. What did this saucy minx do? I wonder, and then I find out:
She stole some money. She stole some money in a stupid, obvious way that nearly always gets you caught. She was the bookkeeper for some organization, paid all the bills. And then one day she figured out how to set up a fake supplier, send an invoice and pay it, only the supplier is guess-who. Depending on the organization, these schemes can go on for months or years, but someone with eyes finally figures out how to see. The recent cases were fairly spectacular, as these things go.
In one, a woman made off with $934,000 from a hockey non-profit in Ann Arbor. In the other a woman and her husband stole $1.8 million from the Palace of Auburn Hills. I think the takeaway lesson is clear: Non-profits sure can have a lot of money in the general fund, but for maximum theft possibilities, steal from an entertainment complex.
What depresses me about these cases is how numbly predictable the details are: The money gets frittered away on such tacky crap. People have such tiny little desires, it turns out — they want cars and clothes and jewelry. Oh, and cruises. The couple who stole from the Palace are like a walking billboard of bad taste:
The McDonalds allegedly bought themselves exotic weapons, expensive tools and high-tech electronics gear and took lavish getaways to the Bahamas and Las Vegas — where they treated themselves to $900-a-night suites, casinos, and “Ultimate Fighting Challenge” exhibitions.
What, no Barcalounger upholstered in fetal lambskin? The woman in Ann Arbor was cut from the same cloth:
“Instead of going to Meijer and Kroger, they purchased items from an actual meat market,” Grigal said. “Instead of going to J.C. Penney’s or Macy’s to buy clothes, it was Saks Fifth Avenue, Von Maur or Nordstrom. Sometimes the withdrawals were daily. Ten thousand (dollars), $8,000, $6,000, $17,000.”
(Yes, I noted the oddness of putting “an actual meat market” in the luxury tier, but maybe the cash-drunk tart had the butcher french her rack of lamb instead of doing it herself.)
Because this is Michigan, internal combustion was involved: The couple bought “three motorcycles, a John Deere riding mower (and) a utility trailer,” the single woman a Cadillac Escalade and a dump truck. For the family business, it’s explained. This is where the question of charging the spouse comes into play. “Honey, happy birthday. I bought you a dump truck.” Shouldn’t someone be arrested, just on general principles? For all-around cluelessness and willful stupidity?
Like everyone in the world, I entertain windfall fantasies — lotteries, inheritances from unknown rich relatives. I like to think that if I had access to a big pile of money, and the sufficient moral elasticity to talk myself into taking some, I’d not spend a penny on a “designer bracelet” sold on QVC. I’d buy a ticket to the Caymans or Switzerland, open an account and make like a squirrel. Half these cases fall apart when someone else in the office wonders how quiet Karen the bookkeeper could make even lease payments on a Mercedes, and where did that cocktail ring come from? My only other purchase would be an open one-way ticket departing out of someplace like Toronto, bound for a major city with lots of middle-aged white women, and the minute, I mean the minute I thought the heat was coming down, I’d be wheels-up for Johannesburg or Vladivostok faster than you can ask yourself what an extradition treaty is.
Right before I left Fort Wayne there was a really strange case like this, involving a man who worked for the city or county, only instead of stealing cash he stole heavy equipment, which he squirreled away on his acreage near Decatur. I never heard of its resolution, but I remember the guy had stolen everything from Bobcat loaders to a goddamn road grader, and no, I don’t know what he used them for. Maybe he was operating a road-building business out the back door. I’d just like to know how he did it.
(On the other hand, a member of my extended family dug a pond on his property using heavy equipment belonging to the Army Corps of Engineers, which he “borrowed” on the weekends. So maybe no one raises an eye when Bob drives off on Friday afternoon behind the wheel of a city-owned asphalt mixer.)
Thanks to all who carried the ball during my mini-break. It was a fairly productive day, capped by a trip to Ann Arbor in the evening, always a morale-booster. Or a knuckle-whitener, as you have to become aware, once again, of the odd habits of the college-town pedestrian, all of whom behave as though they walk in a force-field bubble, and if you hit them with your car, it’s the car that will explode into a million pieces, not them. One is tempted to take them up on the dare, but, well, one resists temptation.
Oh, and the winter cyclists. No lights, no bells, no manners. But a nice tradeoff for those walkable streets, those ten thousand restaurants, the energy of thousands of students. A banner on the Diag for the local Democratic students’ club: “We won, but we’re not done.” Ha.
So, bloggage? Not much:
Headlines I don’t want to know more about. But go ahead and explore, if you dare: Bible, handcuffs, diaper in abduction baffle Toledo police.
Michele Bachmann, the dope who keeps on giving.
There’s more — there’s always more — but you’ll have to find it yourself today. I’m outta here.