October 30, 2014

Readers, Your Help Needed on the Embezzler

I am almost speechless.

It turns out that our recent radio show guest — the admitted embezzler turned consultant to companies on how to avoid embezzlement — has been charged in a new embezzlement scheme.

Convicted embezzlerThis second alleged scheme involves activity after he served time in Federal prison. In other words, these are new charges.

Thanks to eagle-eye reader Martin Lindeskog for finding the news and pointing it out! I owe you one, Martin!

To give you some background: we had a gentleman on the radio show who was an admitted convicted embezzler. He had embezzled and served prison time in the 1990s. The topic of the show was embezzlement and how to avoid it.

The show was titled, “Confessions of an Embezzler.” A big part of the show’s draw was hearing from an actual convicted embezzler. That part has not changed. Everyone listening knew he was a convicted embezzler. He was there precisely to talk about his illegal activity so that the rest of us could learn from it.

Just yesterday we put up an article here on the site about that particular radio show. But then Martin alerted me to the new criminal charges. Here is the Toledo Blade piece describing the latest charges: Consultant on crime charged in $1M fraud.

I immediately took the show article down in order to have time to make a final decision about it. I also took down the article about it over at the radio show’s website.

This gentleman was on our show just a week after being charged the second time. He mentioned nothing about the new charges during the show.

Rather, the implication was that he was a “reformed” embezzler.

We have to remember that these are charges, and not a conviction. He is innocent until proven guilty — that’s our U.S. legal system. So it is possible that he is completely innocent and will be cleared eventually.

Our radio shows are intended to be informational. They are NOT an endorsement of the guest’s business.

But here is my concern:

I do not want anyone to think I was somehow giving the seal of approval to this gentleman or his consulting services to advise companies how to avoid embezzlement. In NO WAY, shape or form, am I endorsing him. Not for a moment.

Not being a judge or jury, I have no way of knowing whether the man is reformed or not. But I would not want anyone to assume that I believe he is reformed.

Perhaps I am being overly concerned and too conservative on this issue. But where reputation is concerned, I have learned that it pays to be careful.

Now I’m in a quandary. And I need your help.

The issue is: do these new charges change anything about an informational radio show called “Confessions of an Embezzler”?

  • Should Small Business Trends Radio eliminate the recording from our archives altogether?
  • Or should we let the reader decide? Keep the recording, but perhaps add a recorded message to the beginning about the new charges? And add appropriate written updates to the main radio show post pointing out the new charges?
  • Or should we just do nothing, since the gentleman has not been convicted a second time as of this writing? You know, innocent until proven guilty …. And he admitted right on the show to having been an embezzler (referring to the first set of charges which were from the 1990s). He was quite frank about it, sharing details about how he hid his tracks from his employer, the emotional and moral turmoil he went through, how he got caught (the first time around), and the fact that he did time in prison. So everything he talked about is still true. And the lessons are still valid.

What would a mainstream news organization do?

More importantly, what would Oprah do?

What say you to all of this? Give us some advice, please. 

UPDATE:  Based on reader input we decided to put the show back online. Here is the link to the show posting: Embezzling is an Addiction.

21 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

21 Reactions

  1. I would choose option 2 – leave the show up but add a message on the new charges stressing, of course, that so far they are just charges. I think given the man is positioned as an expert on helping companies prevent fraud, this information needs to be added.

    After that, I would let the readers decide.

    Steve

  2. definitely leave it up. I agree with Steve, modify the post with breaking news.

  3. The new charges don’t change the value of the information presented in the podcast. Those who listen, and take the advice given will benefit. So the issue isn’t about the quality of the information, it’s about your reputation for bringing him on. I say take option two and protect your rep while still bringing the original value to your listeners.

    I guess, if indeed the charges are true, his statement about embezzlement being an addiction has just borne itself out.

  4. I didn’t hear the show. If he wasn’t “selling himself as a service”, I’d vote for option 3. Your show is not an endorsement. The more compelled you are to update this show means that you should monitor every guest of every show that is still available for download.

  5. If you start updating old posts, then does this make you feel like you would have to update any past show if some new information came up on the guest? Would you be compelled to update the post if he was charged after the interview?

  6. I agree with Steve, until (if) he is found guilty. Then you could add a note warning that the methods he prescribes are not a complete solution, since there are obviously ways around that protection. You might even be able to include information about how he did it this time. (if he did).

    But, mostly don’t worry too much about it. We will still like you no matter what happens.

  7. I agree leave it up. If he is convicted you could add a note warning that his suggested precautions are not enough since he apparently found a way around that, but it is really not that big a deal. We are still going to like you, even if you do not know everything. :)

  8. Anita,
    If it were on my blog, I would not hesitate to take it off. It just looks bad, and I stay away from stuff that looks bad. To me, it does not matter YET, if he is convicted. He did it once, and that is enough for this guy…
    Joel Libava

  9. I had this starred in Google Reader to listen to later. I would add a note to it. The information surely has some value to it for business owners or you wouldn’t have posted it.

  10. Leave it up with a note – the subsequent info is important to future readers.

    Embezzlement is discussed all too infrequently. His comments were interesting and of value.

    Further point… Employee dishonesty insurance excludes coverage for acts by those who have committed past dishonest acts. An important exclusion in light of these developments.

  11. Anita,

    I agree with many others here.

    I suggest you leave it up with a small note. You aren’t endorsing him. You are simply sharing information.

    The man is not convicted, and for all we know, the charges maybe false. (I am an optimist).

    Like you said-Innocent until proven guilty.

  12. Anita,

    Your and Steve Rucinski’s interview (“Confessions of an Embezzler – Is Your Business At Risk?”) with Barry Webne is still on the web. I have added Small Business Radio (BlogTalkRadio) on my home page.

    As I said in my email, I would keep the recording together with an addendum and then update the post. Isn’t that the whole essence of blogging? As a blogger, you are an editor at the same time! ;) Let the conversation continue… At the end of the day, your blog is adding another great value.

    Best Premises,

    Martin

  13. Anita – Personally, I’d leave it up but include an update of the current situation.

    And then whatever the outcomes of these new charges I’d do a further update.

    I’d hate to see it taken off, as that’s not what blogging is all about.

    Embezzlement is something that affects many small businesses when they start taking on staff (sadly, I know from experience) so I’d like to see how this plays out – reformed embezzler or still at it.

  14. I agree that it should be left up with an update of his new alleged charges. While we all know you wouldn’t condone this type of behavior, he did provide some valuable information.

  15. I would leave it up. Interestingly, when I listened to the podcast, I was amazed at how accurately he described the situation where we discovered our embezzler. In line with what was given as advice, the person we caught had an excellent work record and did not hesitate to bring others’ inconsistencies to our attention. This person was caught by happenstance — not by our payroll or accounting department, but by HR in relation to an outside FLSA audit conducted by the DOL. The HR person found minor inconsistencies and then started looking back for a number of years and determined that this person had stolen substantial sums from us by altering her time records and giving herself bonuses etc that she was not entitled to receive.

    The podcast has value because it is very accurate, at least from my perspective, on how an embezzler will be caught and the description of the “typical” embezzler.

  16. Leave it up to the readers. You’re doing your job by proactively informing people of the charges and by pointing out that they are currently only charges. Even in the case that he eventually is found guilty again, I’d still recommend leaving it available with new updates as his case resolves.

  17. Thanks for all the help. Wise words. :)

    The overwhelming consensus seems to be: let the reader decide.

    Therefore, Steve Rucinski, my co-host, is recording a short addendum to the podcast alerting listeners to the new facts. As soon as that’s complete, we will put everything back on the Web.

    Anita

  18. Anita,

    With that statement, I want to wish you a good time in San Diego! Talk to you soon again! :)

    All the Best,

    Martin

  19. Thanks to you all for your inputs on this issue. I especially appreciate the comments around tracking past guests to monitor behaviors that might be less than flattering.

    As Exec-Producer of the show that would be almost impossible.

    Our aim is to serve our listeners with valueable information, advice and insight. I think the show accomplishes that.

    Addictive behaviors were certainly evident in his dialogue. Embezzlement is usually not the addiction but is used to feed other addictions. I pray he gets the help he needs to address his addiction and the pain it has caused others.

    Steve

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