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Former SBI agent: White-collar crime about greed, not need

Posted November 2, 2010

— The profile of Ponzi schemers is one of a successful façade, according to a former SBI agent who profiled the white-collar criminals.

Ray Mulkey Jr., William Wise and Bernie Madoff all had ties to North Carolina, and all were caught up in recent suspected Ponzi cases.

“They drive nice cars. They have nice clothes. They take great vacations. They give to charity,” said Ken Dickson, a former agent with the State Bureau of Investigation. “It's not really tied to need. It's tied to greed.”

Dickson is a Raleigh accountant who investigated white-collar crime for the SBI and still helps profile suspects caught up in financial corruption.

“They get accolades from the community. People think they're great. People obviously think they're successful and obviously as a result of that people want to invest more with this individual,” Dickson said.

The ability to win trust ties all these men together. Before police say he killed himself in August, Harnett County businessman Mulkey impressed friends with his charm and lifestyle.

Former SBI agent: White-collar crime about greed, not need Former SBI agent: White-collar crime about greed, not need

“You couldn't buy anything. Ray was always willing to pick up the tab,” said friend Lynn Jernigan.

He built dozens of businesses and took millions in investments.

“People believed in him. They trusted him. It appeared to be legit,” said Lonnie Player, a Fayetteville attorney.

Player said he believes that's how Mulkey ran up more than $40 million in liabilities in an alleged Ponzi scheme.

When authorities seized Wise's Raleigh home and auctioned off tens of thousands of dollars in high-end belongings, they say his illegal operation pulled in $68 million from investors.

Madoff, the king of Ponzi schemers, is now serving a life sentence at a federal prison in Butner for bilking investors for billions.

Large or small, a Ponzi scheme works like a house of cards. Investors unknowingly build the house with their money and stay hooked with regular interest payments, but over time it is new investors’ principal that pays that interest and the lofty lifestyle of the person leading the scheme. That is, until it falls apart.

“It's a snowball. Once it gets going, it just has momentum and doesn't stop,” Dickson said.

As the pressure builds, white collar criminals keep a positive front, but behind the scenes nobody gets close, not even family, according to Dickson.

“They are very good at keeping people at arm's length, keeping them away from looking at records,” he said.

In the end, though, suspicious investors, attorneys and law enforcement usually close in to get a glimpse behind the façade. Dickson urges investors to constantly demand proof about the status of their money.

9 Comments

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  • grab-a-gift.com Nov 4, 6:38 p.m.

    well there was a time when they just gave them a ridiculously small fine and they went straight to the bank. at least now they are doing something for the people who lost everything at the hands of guys like these.

  • randyscott Nov 3, 1:09 p.m.

    You forgot to mention Anthony Allen who bilked an estimated $60 million or more out of mostly elderly Fayetteville and Cumberland CVounty residents several years back. I HOPE HE ROTS IN JAIL!!!

  • jazziwoman Nov 3, 9:57 a.m.

    How can someone look legit???????????? For real, there is no difference between white collor crime and blue collar crime. A crime is a crime. The only diffence is our system, they know they are going to get money from the white collar. Is that legit????????Same with education, same with healthcare, same old story, So why argue..........We are throwing prisoners in Jail, while FDA is approving everything. Talk about contradiction and legit?????????? Jazzi

  • UPTOP Nov 2, 7:39 p.m.

    If they look legit, what good is it going to do to demand a copy of your money report ? They already have that covered !

  • vernonhill Nov 2, 7:37 p.m.

    He should profile the NC legislature, Governor and all Cabinet Members and then arrest all the Congress and Senate starting with Charlie Wrangel, Obams, Rev Jackson and Rev Sharpton as they all are only interested in themselves...............

  • umop apisdn Nov 2, 7:13 p.m.

    Thank you Captain Obvious.

  • niall Nov 2, 5:35 p.m.

    More money going out than coming in, new recruits pockets picked to pay those who went before. Remember, Ponzi schemes are only bad when the federal government isn't running them...

  • whatelseisnew Nov 2, 5:24 p.m.

    So when is he going to arrest Congress. They are running the biggest Ponzi scheme ever seen.

  • Adelinthe Nov 2, 5:10 p.m.

    "White-collar crime about greed, not need."

    I think it's more about status than either, although $$$ helps one gain status because we've grown to be such a shallow society.

    God bless.

    RB