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?