40 months for $3 billion theft versus 15 years for $100

Failblog.org pictures a pair of news articles showing a striking contrast between the sentences handed out to two men in their mid-fifties on the same day in different courtrooms a couple of weeks ago.

In one case, Paul R. Allen, former CEO of one of the largest private mortgage lenders in the U.S., was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for a massive fraud scheme that ended up costing victims $3 billion dollars and threw at least 2000 people out of work. Prosecutors had sought six years. This news was published by the Associated Press the evening of June 21.

One minute earlier, the AP reported that a homeless man named Roy Brown, who stole a single $100 bill and then remorsefully turned himself in the next day, had been sentenced to 15 years.

Mr. Brown had entered a Shreveport Louisiana bank and told a teller he was robbing it. When she gave him three stacks of money, he took a single $100 bill and gave the rest back. The following day he went to the police, saying that he'd taken the money to get food and to stay in a rehab facility, but that he felt bad because his mother had not raised him to be a thief.

Meanwhile, Allen's actions led to the collapse of his company, Taylor Bean & Whitaker,throwing 2000 employees out of work. The fraud also contributed to the failure of Colonial Bank in Alabama, which had invested hundreds of millions in Taylor Bean & Whitaker's bogus securities. (At trial Allen had claimed to be innocent, blaming everything on another bank officer, but at sentencing he said he had "messed up big" and apologized. There's no indication he had anything to say about how his mother had raised him.)

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