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Excerpt: "Here's another thing that boggles my mind: You get busted for drugs in this country, and it turns out you can make yourself ineligible to receive food stamps. But you can be a serial fraud offender like Citigroup, which has repeatedly been dragged into court for the same offenses and has repeatedly ignored court injunctions to abstain from fraud, and this does not make you ineligible to receive $45 billion in bailouts and other forms of federal assistance."

Matt Taibbi talks about US politics. (photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)
Matt Taibbi talks about US politics. (photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)



Woman Gets Jail for Food-Stamp Fraud;
Wall Street Fraudsters Get Bailouts

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

18 November 11

 

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

 

ad a quick piece of news I wanted to call attention to, in light of the recent developments at Zuccotti Park. For all of those who say the protesters have it wrong, and don't really have a cause worth causing public unrest over, consider this story, sent to me by a friend on the Hill.

Last week, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced a mother of two named Anita McLemore to three years in federal prison for lying on a government application in order to obtain food stamps.

Apparently in this country you become ineligible to eat if you have a record of criminal drug offenses. States have the option of opting out of that federal ban, but Mississippi is not one of those states. Since McLemore had four drug convictions in her past, she was ineligible to receive food stamps, so she lied about her past in order to feed her two children.

The total "cost" of her fraud was $4,367. She has paid the money back. But paying the money back was not enough for federal Judge Henry Wingate.

Wingate had the option of sentencing McLemore according to federal guidelines, which would have left her with a term of two months to eight months, followed by probation. Not good enough! Wingate was so outraged by McLemore's fraud that he decided to serve her up the deluxe vacation, using another federal statute that permitted him to give her up to five years.

He ultimately gave her three years, saying, "The defendant's criminal record is simply abominable.... She has been the beneficiary of government generosity in state court."

Compare this court decision to the fraud settlements on Wall Street. Like McLemore, fraud defendants like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank have "been the beneficiary of government generosity." Goldman got $12.9 billion just through the AIG bailout. Citigroup got $45 billion, plus hundreds of billions in government guarantees.

All of these companies have been repeatedly dragged into court for fraud, and not one individual defendant has ever been forced to give back anything like a significant portion of his ill-gotten gains. The closest we've come is in a fraud case involving Citi, in which a pair of executives, Gary Crittenden and Arthur Tildesley, were fined the token amounts of $100,000 and $80,000, respectively, for lying to shareholders about the extent of Citi's debt.

Neither man was forced to admit to intentional fraud. Both got to keep their jobs.

Anita McLemore, meanwhile, lied to feed her children, gave back every penny of her "fraud" when she got caught, and is now going to do three years in prison. Explain that, Eric Holder!

Here's another thing that boggles my mind: You get busted for drugs in this country, and it turns out you can make yourself ineligible to receive food stamps.

But you can be a serial fraud offender like Citigroup, which has repeatedly been dragged into court for the same offenses and has repeatedly ignored court injunctions to abstain from fraud, and this does not make you ineligible to receive $45 billion in bailouts and other forms of federal assistance.

This is the reason why all of these settlements allowing banks to walk away without "admissions of wrongdoing" are particularly insidious. A normal person, once he gets a felony conviction, immediately begins to lose his rights as a citizen.

But white-collar criminals of the type we've seen in recent years on Wall Street - both the individuals and the corporate "citizens" - do not suffer these ramifications. They commit crimes without real consequence, allowing them to retain access to the full smorgasbord of subsidies and financial welfare programs that, let's face it, are the source of most of their profits.

Why, I wonder, does a bank that has committed fraud multiple times get to retain access to the Federal Reserve discount window? Why should Citigroup and Goldman Sachs get to keep their status as Primary Dealers of US government debt? Are there not enough banks without extensive histories of fraud and malfeasance that can be awarded these de facto subsidies?

 

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+102 # lisamoskow 2011-11-18 10:09
Thank you, Matt Taibbi!

Think of the 50 million Americans in poverty, and then think of how every
one of those would be out of poverty
for the amount of money it costs to
keep people in jail...
 
 
+36 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-11-18 12:57
Yes, lisa, I thank Matt also.

What this brings to mind is what for some time I've considered a major flaw in our non-functional govt. - governmental immunity, inherited via common law's sovereign immunity in England.

A retired former top administrator in the food stamp office told me that while she worked there, the percentage of errors made by the office, causing food stamps to be withdrawn/withe ld, was less than 1%. Today, that percentage of errors is 18%, hardly accidental and surely causing grief beyond belief from resulting hunger.

But, is the govt. office and its 18% errorites held accountable/fin ed/jailed? No way, Jose. They are under the protective umbrella of govt. immunity. Kinda like the bought out, Kochsucking pols. and their coherts are also under that same umbrella.

WHAT DO WE WANT? ACCOUNTABILITY! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!!!

Go, OWSers, Go!
 
 
+83 # Capn Canard 2011-11-18 10:42
This is why the United States of America is finished. I realize that my statement may sound like a harsh statement, but before Ronald Reagan came around, a story like Anita McLenmore's would've made some waves ... people would've showed some real compassion. But we've been so dumb-ed down and made numb to feeling any empathy whatsoever for our fellow humans. By human, I am referring to human beings, the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens and not some cold inhuman Corporate overlords like Citibank or Goldman Sachs. Our country is in the complete control of money and Corporations.
 
 
+38 # ceesa 2011-11-18 10:43
Since corporations are now 'people' we should limit their tax code preferences, adjustments, deductions, credits....if they _______________ (fill in the blank with what irks. Take TARP money, ignore SEC rules & Regs, lie to shareholders, don't pay taxes on time, have tax liability adjusted under IRS audit, lobby congress....)
 
 
+58 # mwd870 2011-11-18 10:53
"Why, I wonder, does a bank that has committed fraud multiple times get to retain access to the Federal Reserve discount window? Why should Citigroup and Goldman Sachs get to keep their status as Primary Dealers of US government debt? Are there not enough banks without extensive histories of fraud and malfeasance that can be awarded these de facto subsidies?"

Please keep reporting. This systematic corruption is one of the main reasons the public is angry. Banksters will eventually be punished (with jail time) if enough people realize the immensity of this ongoing fraud.
 
 
+23 # Capn Canard 2011-11-18 11:13
HEY! mwd870, they paid bribes and therefore they've earned the right to screw our nation. What's your problem? It's only fair ... for them.
 
 
-54 # boudreaux 2011-11-18 11:00
I don't think that it was so much that this woman commited a crime but she lied on her application. I just had to file for them too and saw the same question and I called to ask about that when I checked on my claim and they said that no they do not hold food stamps from them, they just have to come in and have a face to face with them....I only had to do a phone interview with them....so some of this article is wrong...sorry Matt
 
 
+9 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-11-18 22:57
Not necessarily -- the law is state-by-state and in some states you do indeed lose your eligibility for food stamps (and unemployment benefits) if you have a felony conviction.
 
 
+6 # Texan 4 Peace 2011-11-18 23:00
Mississippi Goddamn
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkcuNX4vrS8
 
 
+50 # Christopher Warren 2011-11-18 11:01
I for one would like to see a Corporate DEATH PENALTY! Three strikes and they are out!
 
 
+29 # boudreaux 2011-11-18 11:01
But now that I read the article again, I can see what Matt is refering to...once again....sorry Matt...
 
 
+38 # sandstone 2011-11-18 11:14
This entire story infuriates me...but let's also not forget the sweet prison deals some companies like CCA have to make sure judges like this send as many people to prison as possible. How in the world someone deserves PRISON for Anita's crime is beyond me! If you feel the need to lock her up, do it locally for a couple months and put her on a very tight leash with parole afterward. It's much better for the prison companies to get ~$25k+ per prisoner to send them all away for years though!
 
 
+34 # gerryring 2011-11-18 11:33
But you can be a serial fraud offender like Citigroup, which has repeatedly been dragged into court for the same offenses and has repeatedly ignored court injunctions to abstain from fraud, and this does not make you ineligible to receive $45 billion in bailouts and other forms of federal assistance.

Well, as Romney said "Corporations are people." So by that logic Citibank should go to jail for a lot longer than Anita McLamore!
 
 
+44 # Okieangels 2011-11-18 12:02
Anita's "judge" is probably the beneficiary of some private prison company.
 
 
+31 # Todd Williams 2011-11-18 12:07
Where did the state place her children? This is so f****d up I can't believe it. Screw Mississippi!
 
 
+13 # tomo 2011-11-18 19:15
Lately, I've been studying the Mississippi in which James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered--and their murderers were allowed to go for four decades without a conviction; this is the Mississippi too in which Fannie Lou Mamer was beaten.

Sure, one should forgive and forget, and make room for a reconstructed Mississippi--bu t still Mississippi itself seems all-too-dedicat ed to some twisted sense of things. One can question too though if the other forty-nine states are any better.
 
 
+23 # panamericans 2011-11-18 12:08
Spot on!

Doctors, manufacturers and even 'Joe the plumber', that is, anyone who knowingly commits fraud is liable for criminal prosecution plus damages to the injured party..

Hang on, the banks are making a 'deal' with the Country's D.A.'s to absolve them from the FRAUD they KNOWINGLY committed!

The crimes they are directly responsible for and the suffering they caused are too politically sensitive to be addressed?

What politician can explain why the banks are above the law and can't be punished to the FULL extent of the law?...

What politician can explain why it is in the best interest of this economy to have foreclosures on such a massive scale?

How many politicians supporting the banks can stand up and say they never received campaign funding from the banks?

The truth is, the people are too big to fail... The banks can be replaced, after all, whose money is it anyway...the banks?

Ignoring the principals of sound banking practices is breaking the law. A banking system above the law,is the end of fair commerce and justice for all.
 
 
+22 # tuandon 2011-11-18 12:42
These corporate "persons" should be subject to the same laws as the 99%, you know, us non-corporate persons who can't buy the government. Prosecute them until they have to shut down.
 
 
+30 # Lannie 2011-11-18 12:43
To quote from Bob Dylan: "Steal a little and they put you in jail. Steal a lot and they make you king."
 
 
+22 # calperst 2011-11-18 12:48
Here's what's insidious about this. The high handed morality of the "haves" about the "have nots", institutionaliz ed as it is in regulations like this, is also what justifies removing citizen rights, i.e. the right to vote, after incarceration. This means, that all those disproportionat ely African American males between the ages of 16 and 30, who are usually in on drug charges come out and can't vote. Millions are being deprived of their voice as citizens, and we know their counter parts in the 1% are not serving time for the same kinds of offenses because they have money to buy effective representation. Their incarceration is big business for the for-profit prison industry that milks millions from the state and federal governments to build and operate prisons, which is all the more reason to put them there. So, when a judge issues a three year sentence, his self-righteousn ess is also a practical decision to milk the government of thousands of dollars to incarcerate, not to mention the cost, emotionally and financially of taking care of two children. And then there are the people who can't get food stamps or medicaid because they don't qualify because they are on unemployment insurance and it is considered earned income and not allowed. Laid off workers can't get food stamps or health care, why? Because they have the asset of unemployment checks.
 
 
+23 # Texas Aggie 2011-11-18 13:04
The first article I read about this case mentioned another Mississippian businessman who had committed fraud for several hundred thousand dollars and he only got 2.5 years. Of course, he was caucasian and you know what that means in the US legal system.
 
 
+8 # wilhelmscream 2011-11-18 20:04
That's racist of MS 2 do that. I agree with u on that. F**K MS and F**k Maine(Paul Lapage),AZ, and the Tea Party
 
 
+21 # calperst 2011-11-18 13:16
Many people who have joined the OWS movement have done so in spite of their long standing views because their life circumstances have forced them to see things differently.

Unemployment is the great leveler. Imagine being a single parent with two children and getting an unemployment check which is half your normal income and meets poverty guidelines and having to live on it. You use most of it to pay your rent and utilities, and you therefore can't afford COBRA to continue health benefits, and you don't have enough for food, clothing, gas, etc., and you don't qualify for the safety net programs which you should qualify for based on your income, because your unemployment check is considered "unearned" income. No one qualifies under that scenario, so the so called safety net for those who have just lost their jobs and meet poverty guidelines doesn't exist. So even when you play by the rules and don't lie on your application you don't have access to government programs to help put food on your children's table, or get you medical help.

I am guessing more than a few people manning the front lines of the "anarchistic" OWS movement have found out that obeying the rules isn't doing them much good now that they are not part of the "haves," and that makes them more interested in fighting for the "have nots."
 
 
+16 # angelfish 2011-11-18 14:19
Matt, never stop informing us of the double standards for the RICH Vs the poor. We MUST Vote the slimy Bast**ds OUT who refuse to hold Wall Street responsible for their crimes! Judges, as WELL as Congressmen, who favor the wealthy and privileged over John Q. Public, don't DESERVE to serve! The People UNITED, will NEVER be defeated! Justice is coming on Election Day 2012!
 
 
+15 # in deo veritas 2011-11-18 14:31
Those a-holes at Citibank keep sending me and my wife invitations to bank with them and get their credit cards. As much as I would like to call them and raise hell I won't. Why? I will let them keep on paying for the crap to be printed and pay postage to be sent. Then it goes in the recycling.I will never do business with the crooks.
 
 
+6 # Okieangels 2011-11-18 23:14
Take the junk mail, rip off your name and address and any numerical codes, and mail it to them, with the forms uncompleted. This gives their mailroom staff stuff to do, and they have to pay the post office for the stuff you've returned to them.
 
 
+11 # in deo veritas 2011-11-18 14:32
I wonder into whose derriere the "judge" has his nose stuck? Maybe the Koches? If this scumbag is elected I hope there enough decent people left in MS to bounce him out.
 
 
+14 # lcarrier 2011-11-18 14:55
Federal judge Henry Wingate is pond scum. He deserves to be tarred, feathered, and run out of town. Instead, he will retire on a pension. Shame on him, shame on us for continuing to support these troglodytes.
 
 
+10 # oakes721 2011-11-18 14:56
Heating fuel assistance applications grant 15 times more to petroleum companies than to one cutting, splitting, hauling and maintaining equipment to burn firewood. The oil industry saturates government agencies as well as our environment.
 
 
+19 # jwb110 2011-11-18 15:20
My grandmother was born in 1900. I was born 50 years later. She took me aside one day and said,"The only thing you need to know about living in America is that rich people do not pay for their crimes."
100+ years later and the old gal is still correct.
 
 
+15 # Aussieken 2011-11-18 15:21
That is simply disgusting - where is the Christianity in that. I bet Henry Wingate is the sort of creep that goes to church every Sunday too. Come the revolution his sort should be the first put up against the wall. (only kidding - sort of)
 
 
+15 # oakes721 2011-11-18 16:51
Want them in JAILS? Hell, they OWN the PRIVATE PRISONS now, judges too. We need a clean sweep.
 
 
+12 # tomo 2011-11-18 17:31
Let me add to Matt's list of oddities. I am upset over Bernie Madoff. Not that he is in jail. But that he should be regarded as aberrational. Rather he is the pure paradigm of modern money-making. AIG rakes in millions of dollars insuring others against credit defaults. It does not have the money to pay out should anything that catastrophic actually happen. When it does happen, AIG says: "We were kidding! Can't you take a joke?" And Obama/Geithner shovel them billions of your and your grand children's prospective wealth--from which AIG's executives promptly draw immense bonuses. This proves that something very like a ponzi scheme can work after all.
 
 
+15 # pernsey 2011-11-18 17:33
Its just sickening!

The rich are above the law, but the poor are not...its a double standard which should not be!

GOP stands for Greedy One Percent!
 
 
+7 # racetoinfinity 2011-11-18 19:52
A great book on this very two-tiered corrupt system of accountability and punishment is Glenn Greenwald's "With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful."
 
 
+4 # fdawei 2011-11-19 04:53
Can we get Judge Wingate's email adress and begin a write-in campaign. Also petition his boss to show clemency to this poor woman.
 
 
+5 # warrior woman 2011-11-19 05:36
This is ultimately an example of an eye for an eye punishment. That is, the term stems from the bible that the punishment should be commensurate with the level of the crime. They were fighting such things as a hungry boy steals a loaf of bread only to find his hand cut off. That is not "equal" punishment for the crime but onerous (understatment) and far outweighs the crime. OWS would be wise to incorporate this into their campaign against Wall Street. Matt, you too!
 
 
+5 # moby doug 2011-11-19 23:57
Mississippi continues its long and monstrous history of slavery, human degradation, and oppression, but this time it leads Wal-Mart Nation in an equal opportunity form of wage-slavery mandatory for all who don't have the almighty dollar, regardless of race, creed, or color. In this brave new dollarocracy, the job of the lower 90% is to service the 1% with jobs that don't pay enough for housing, food, medical care, clothing, transportation, or education and leave you ever deeper in debt at usurious rates. And if you don't pull your galley-oar hard enough you get the hammer. The job of the upper 1/10th of 1% is to constantly and righteously rob the rest of us blind, and to buy politicians and judges who will legalize the unrelenting crimes of the rich.
 
 
+2 # RLF 2011-11-20 05:46
Stop your whining Matt! This big bankers have a lifestyle that they and their families are accustomed to. It would be inhumanly cruel to expect these folks to clean their own house or toilet! They really need to keep some of these stolen and looted dollars! Do you really think they are bad people? How can anyone driving a Bentley be a bad person!
 
 
+3 # Cactusman 2011-11-20 20:10
It's too bad that Anita McLemore has to go to prison in order to get food, at least for the next three years. What's sad and unjust is that her kids, who presumably are not in prison with her, may remain food insecure, as we now call it.

And people wonder why poverty is such a destabilizing force in a society, while blaming the victims for "causing" the instability?
 

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