About 18 months ago an employee of a law firm, let’s call her Jane Doe, manage to steal over $1.2 million from my company Republic Title; my underwriter, Fidelity National Insurance, gave me the customary 24 hours to replace the money and so I did. Business went on as usual, no disruptions to our clients of any kind.
Months went by, legal proceedings and court appearances followed each other until on June 11, 2010 the U.S Attorney General indicated 485 individuals in a national operation called “Operation Stolen Dreams” and Jane was among 47 in the Chicagoland area who had taken money from loan pay-offs and other fraudulent mortgage activities via a very complicated scheme.
United States of America vs. Jane Doe was the complaint filed by the Justice Department and it made me realize that we were navigating in very serious waters; nobody wants a lawsuit but can you imagine having the U.S.A chasing you down? The majority of the others entered a no guilty plea and went back home after placing a bond. My evidence against Jane was so solid and well coordinated, thanks to my attorney Mark Belongia, that left her no choice but to pursue a guilty plea hoping for a reduced jail sentence.
August 31, 2010 in federal court, Jane is in the court room with her mom. The judge enters: Jane her attorney and her case worker approach the bench. For the next 50minutes or so the judges goes over the 19 page guilty plea agreement making sure that everything was in fact what had been agreed to by both sides prior to signatures.
“Ms. Jane” the judge said, “you are fully aware that the minute I accept this signed guilty plea from you I will take your passport, you will no longer be a free U.S citizen and you will lose all your right as a free U.S citizen. Based on the crimes you committed I can sentence you up to 20 years in prison and to $750,000 in fines…” the list went on.
It hit me that what I was witnessing, while great for my case to recover the money, was actually the end of a free human being. The end of what we have and so take for granted on a daily basis. Jane had committed crimes and should pay for them, we see it and hear it on the news every day but I guarantee you that until you see it live in front of your very eyes, until you feel it happening, right there it may not fully register in your mind.
As the judge was talking I could not help but look at Jane’s mom and try to understand how she felt deep inside; about the two teenage daughters from Jane’s first marriage and her 6 yr old son from her second marriage? A real life changing experience was taking place right before me and Jane’s life, along with that of her family, will never be the same from the minute she said: “I wish to enter a guilty plea on all counts.”
Why did I write about it? Knowing all the consequences, today, right now, many people are doing the same thing that Jane did thinking it’s no big deal; whatever their motive is, it’s justified to them. Then you end up in front of a judge, the whole world as you have known it comes crashing down on you: no reverse and no re-write of your life story.
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