September 14, 2018
In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Rene Chun writes “The third leading cause of workplace death ... is homicide.”
The first thing that comes to mind is the disgruntled former employee who comes to the office and shoots the place up or a workplace romance gone sour. Another more sinister reason for workplace homicide is the concealment of fraud.
White-collar crime is typically financially motivated, committed by business men and women bent on illicit financial gain. White-collar crime was coined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 to describe “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation”
The justice system has, for the most part, classified white-collar criminals as non-violent, giving them lenient sentences in “country club” prisons. White-collar criminals are often viewed as educated, “upper-class” workers who a made poor decisions.
However, in reality white-collar criminals are already adept at manipulation and have used deceit to exercise their criminality. White-collar criminals often have a lot at stake and may resort to violence to protect themselves and their “reputation” in the workplace and community.
Murder as a method of concealment is referred to as fraud-detection homicide. Violence is used as a means to conceal fraud through silencing the victim or witness who had detected or may be on the trail of detecting criminality.
Chun wrote about Frank S. Perri, a lawyer who teaches forensic accounting at DePaul University. Perri coined the term “red-collar” crime, in a 2015 article in the International Journal of Psychological Studies.
Why would a white-collar criminal turn to murder? Perri writes, “White-collar criminals thrive on being able to avoid detection in order to carry out their fraud schemes; they have the ability, like a chameleon, to adapt to a given environment.” The threat of detection turns the white-collar to red.
Perri continues, “As the threat of detection increases, so does the probability that the individual will rationalize murder as a solution to his or her problems ... red-collar criminals do not reject violence as a solution to a perceived problem, so killing is just as viable a solution as using deceptive and manipulative characteristics to satisfy their needs.”
When one thinks of a criminal who is stealing from his employer, and would use violence to protect his criminality, that person’s profile might include self-centeredness, lying, lack of empathy, lack of conscience, narcissism and the pursuit of their desires above all others in a way that disregards the well-being others.
That is a shorthand definition of a psychopathy.
Not all psychopaths are criminals. According to Amy Morin writing in Psychology Today, psychologists’ estimate one percent of the population meets the criteria of psychopathy. Not surprisingly, about 15 percent of prison inmates are estimated to be psychopaths. However, three percent of business leaders fit the profile for psychopathy as well.
Dr. Robert S. Hare is a criminal psychology researcher who developed The Hare Psychopathy Checklist, the definitive tool in evaluating psychopathy. Dr. Hare wrote, ”(I)t is possible to have people who are so emotionally disconnected that they can function as if other people are objects to be manipulated and destroyed without any concern”
As Morin points out, Psychopathy can lead to success in business. Psychopaths have a grandiose sense of self, “When they say they can skyrocket the company to new heights, they believe it. And they often convince others that they’re capable and competent too.”
It may not be the major merger that a red-collar criminal can manipulate his way through, but it may be skimming millions of dollars from the family business. A cunning, violence prone red-collar criminal can do considerable damage to the bottom line and the top brass.
— Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book The Executioner’s Toll, 2010 was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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