March 07, 2005
Making restitution is for the little people

Yet another example of why the rich are just different.

A Government Accountability Office study released last week is the latest to point to problems with the Justice Department's attempts to ensure criminals pay their penalties.

The latest investigation looked at five cases that resulted in $568 million in penalties and found only about $40 million actually was paid.

Because these are ongoing cases, the report did not identify the offenders or give much detail about the cases. All were either high-ranking officials of companies or operated their own business. They pleaded guilty in each instance.


All five were wealthy, or appeared to be, before the judgments, the GAO said, but they claimed later they did not have the money to pay full restitution to their victims. Still, several continued living in million-dollar homes, and two took overseas trips while on supervised release, the report said.

Prospects are not good for additional restitution in these cases, the GAO said, in part because so much time passed between their crimes and the judgment five to 13 years.

The report said the offenders were able to hide their assets before penalties were established, and there is not much incentive to go after them because willfully failing to pay restitution is not a crime in itself.

Emphasis mine. Can anyone explain to me why this is the case? I assume it's an oversight, since there can't possibly be a rationale for it. It's pretty galling however you slice it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 07, 2005 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

It's back to the issue of how much justice one can afford.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on March 7, 2005 12:10 PM

If I had to guess (which means I'm about to take a flyer), I'd say that no one ever bothered to criminalize it because it'd be hard to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that failure to pay restitution was "willful," especially with the crowd they're talking about.

Of course, you could say the same thing about perjury, and it is illegal, so maybe I'm totally out in the ozone on this one.

Finally, the new bankruptcy law will only make this problem worse. As a sop to the anti-abortion fringe, the GOP insisted on letting people wipe out court-ordered fines in bankruptcy proceedings (said fringe having a tendency to rack up a lot of court-ordered fines with their illegal "protests").

Posted by: Mathwiz on March 11, 2005 4:18 PM