Fraud – A Family Affair

Family Affair

Family Affair

Fraud – A family affair. I’m not talking about family affair as in the 1971 song by Sly and the Family Stone. I’m not talking about family affair as in the 1966 TV show starring Brian Keith. I’m talking about family affair as in fraud committed with someone from your immediate family.

I never gave much thought to fraud’s family affair connection until recently. I was reading an article about the son of a convicted felon who was recently indicted for committing an eerily similar investment fraud (Ponzi) scheme to the one his father was previously convicted and incarcerated for.

One might think the family affair connection to fraud is unique. However, this fosters the age old discussion as to whether criminality is a learned behavior or an inherited genetic trait?

Genetics vs. Learned Behavior

Previously, while researching crime theories “criminologists rejected or ignored genetics and concentrated on social causes: miserable poverty, corrosive addictions, guns. Today the most compelling modern theories of crime and violence weave social and biological themes together.”

Certainly, fraud’s family affair is a biologic theme. Think that the father-son connection to committing fraud is a coincidence? A bit of quick, non scientific (“Ripped from the Headlines”) search engine research determined that this isn’t an isolated incident. It turns out that there are plenty of family members that have committed fraud together.

Here are just a few of those headlines:

Fathers – Sons

Father Knows Best? Following in your father’s footsteps is an admirable trait assuming they were successful in a legal and honorable trade. A random search found numerous cases where fathers and sons were convicted in fraud cases involving a variety of fraud types.

Father and son convicted on healthcare fraud charges
Father and son convicted in timeshare telemarketing fraud
Father and son convicted of bank fraud
Father and son convicted of bank fraud and money laundering
Father and son convicted of Internet scam

Fathers – Daughters

Think that fraud is only a male dominated father-son deal? Not so. Many cases were found where fathers and daughters were convicted for fraud related offenses as well. There was no shortage of similar cases to the ones involving fathers and sons.

Conviction in investment fraud case leads to jail time for father and daughter
Father, daughter convicted of Medicaid fraud
Father-daughter convicted in tax fraud scam
Father, daughter Convicted of Fraud in Airline Ticket Conspiracy
Father, daughter convicted of healthcare fraud scam

Mothers – Sons

Certainly, there were quite a few fraud cases where fathers were involved with their children. So, we then took a look at the mother’s role in fraud cases. We found numerous cases where mothers and sons were also convicted for committing fraud related offenses together.

Mother and son convicted of mortgage fraud
Mother and son convicted in Medicaid fraud case
Mother and son convicted in bank fraud case
Mother and son convicted of computer fraud
Mother and son convicted of income tax fraud

Mothers – Daughters

“Girl Power” was certainly alive and well in these cases. Mothers and daughters have also gotten in on the fraud act just like their male family members. These women need no empowering (You Go Girl!) from Oprah:

Mother and daughter convicted in theft of unemployment benefits
Mother and two daughters convicted of Medicare fraud
Mother and daughter convicted of Internet dating scam
Mother and daughter convicted of mail fraud
Mother and daughter convicted of insurance fraud

Other Family Relationships

While researching this post we also found plenty of fraud cases involving husbands-wives. We also found several fraud cases where complete families were involved. Fraud may be a little unusual in this regard as you don’t see this too often in other physical crimes. I.e. when was the last time you saw a whole family rob a bank?

It’s probably happened somewhere. There have certainly been some notorious couples in the robbery business. Bonnie and Clyde immediately come to mind. Generally speaking however, it seems that family involvement may lend itself more to paper, or business, crimes than physical crimes.

Impacting Investigation

So, the mere existence of these kinds of cases should have everyone asking how this impacts fraud related investigations?

The truth to this issue is that the mere existence of family involvement in fraud crimes should lead fraud professionals to expand the scope of their inquiries. We should always explore the possibility that a suspect’s family members might also be involved in the fraud being investigated.

The Bottom Line

Having seen these cases, all I can say is that fraud appears to be an equal opportunity crime – a true family affair!

While this certainly wasn’t a scientific research study, it was interesting to see the numbers of fraud cases involving family members. We didn’t even have to dig that deep to find them.

Certainly, if we’d completed a more exhaustive academic research study, the number of cases would have grown dramatically versus the ones we found easily using limited search techniques.

The jury is still out as to whether there are genetics involved in individuals who commit fraud or whether it’s a learned behavior. I.e. should researchers be looking for dominant or recessive fraud genes (FF, Ff or ff) in individuals who commit fraud?

That may seem humorous to some but the similarity of the independent (and eerily similar) father-son Ponzi schemes that started me writing this post certainly has me pondering that very issue.

Those are my insights…what are yours?