22 August 2014

Bang, You're Busted

by R.T. Lawton

At some time or other, in the back of every criminal's mind lurks those dreaded words, "You're under arrest." He hopes to never hear any form of speech which includes himself and the word arrest in the same sentence, but every time he breaks the law he realizes that the possibility exists. And, he never knows when the phrase may be spoken. These fateful words could sear his ears in the middle of his criminal action or even years later, assuming the statute of limitations has not yet run.

Our criminal might be a mastermind who has carefully plotted out his crime and kept a very low profile in order to reduce his exposure and therefore the risks he runs, but sooner or later, he has to deal with other people. Therein lies one of his greatest dangers. You see, a counterfeiter needs someone to lay off his fake paper. A career thief needs a fence to receive the stolen goods. The fence in turn needs customers to purchase those same stolen goods. An embezzler has to deal with and fool auditors and supervisors. An inside trader has to get his valuable information from someone inside the business. And yes, even a murderer has to deal with someone, if not the person from whom he acquired his contract or murder weapon, then at least the victim of his crime.

In the case of conspiracies and RICO laws, it takes time for investigators and prosecutors to assemble and correlate all the needed witnesses and other evidence before presenting everything to a grand jury for indictment and subsequent arrest warrants. These type of indictments cast broad nets which may be able to roll up entire criminal organizations. Just when the criminal thinks his exposure to a particular crime in the past is safely put to bed and he can forget about it, he finds himself and his buddies swept up by the law. What's a smart guy to do and who can he trust?

The truth is, if you are a criminal, you can't trust anyone. You can't trust a spouse or other relative, your life-long best friend, the members of whatever organization you all swore allegiance to, not even the anonymous but intriguing person you met on the internet, much less the stranger your trusted associate just introduced you to. Naturally, your associate vouches for the guy. None of these people can be trusted, as many a convicted felon has found out to his chagrin. It seems an unhappy, pressured and/or betrayed spouse will give you up in a heartbeat. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. You may have long forgotten a particular incident, but your relatives may still be harboring a long-time grudge for the bad you once did them. As for your life-long best friend, if it comes down to you or him, he may decide it's going to be you. And, let's face it, the mafia has changed. Omerta is out the window. The big bosses didn't want to do big time, so they rolled on everybody. Bike gangs preach brotherhood, but the top dogs only look out for their own welfare. That anonymous guy on the other end of the computer keyboard could be anybody, even a vice cop. And that hard-looking stranger you just asked to kill your spouse, boss or worst enemy, how many videos of those meetings with incriminating statements end up on television news programs for the general viewing public? Don't those criminals ever watch television or somehow keep up with current events in their field of endeavor these days?

Some of the most embarrassed criminals are the ones caught in undercover operations. They have bought so far into the U/C guy's story that when it comes time for their arrest, their disbelief is interesting to watch. Some reactions have ranged from, "Are they arresting you, too?" to "Does this mean we're not going to Mexico" to the outright "I don't believe you." These defendants are the ones who usually plead out rather than have their stupidity revealed in open court.

And yet, the next generation of criminals is coming of age. Even though they have the opportunity to hear about recent and past arrests on television, see similar articles on the internet involving all types of crime, potential defendants don't steer away from making the same mistakes their predecessors did.

That leaves me wondering.

Are these people optimists in their thinking and planning for their crimes?

Are they wading in the shallow end of the gene pool?

Or do we just catch the stupid ones?

8 comments:

Robert Lopresti said...

One point you did not make, and it may just being my sweet naive self, is that criminals are very likely to have a lot of people eager to rat them out, because criminals tend to do bad things to everybody, including their alleged friends.

Fran Rizer said...

I agree with Rob's comment above, but I also answer your closing question, R.T. I think the majority of criminals are wading in the shallow end of the gene pool.

Anonymous said...

I’ve long wondered about the reliability of jailhouse confessions. A guy gets tossed in the clink and within 20 minutes he supposedly spills his guts to his new bestest friend. Consider me dubious.

Leigh Lundin said...

RT, it seems to me the ones just coming of age not only think they’re smarter than the cops, they think they’re smarter than the seasoned crooks too. Just no respect for the once venerable.

Herschel Cozine said...

I agree with Fran. Super criminals with superior intelligence, such as those we see in Superman and Batman movies don't exist in the real world. I wonder if there has ever been a study made which measures the IQ of "high ranking" criminals in any gang or group.

Dixon Hill said...

Great column, R.T. My luck is such that -- if I were a criminal -- I'd probably sweat bullets until the statute of limitations ran out on the crime I'd committed. At which point, I'd get nabbed, and learn I'd miscalculated by 24 hours! LOL

--Dixon

Anonymous said...

Maybe (speaking as a novice writer), it has nothing to do with intelligence or keeping up with TV shows. Maybe it's just part of that element all of us possess - to gamble.

We make wagers all the time with credit card payments, crossing the street against the light, lottery, eating greasy burgers & fries for a month and skipping them the next month figuring our system will balance things out, submitting stories, driving well over the speed limit, nabbing a few extra pens & legal pads from the office, you-name-it.

We still love a good thrill (or thriller) to see if we can beat the odds.

Or maybe I'm off base and it's just the shallowness of the pool.

Stephen Ross said...

Nice piece, RT. I personally think criminals do what they do because they simply think they can get away with it... like small children cover their eyes and think no one can see them.