published Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Cook: The white faces of crime

They arrested 32 black men on gun and drug charges and called them our city's "worst of the worst."

What about our white-collar crooks? What about the gentlemen -- champagned and caviared, dressed to the nines -- who can beg, borrow and steal their way to millions in money that isn't theirs?

Let's begin in Soddy-Daisy with Jack Brown and his $12 million Ponzi scheme.

The longtime tax preparer convinced dozens of trusting men and women to invest their life savings by dangling promises he could earn them returns of up to 15 percent.

Instead, Brown, who died in September, used their savings to buy lakefront property, mansions and a carnival-esque collection of toys and ATVs.

"He lived big," his former bookkeeper told the Times Free Press. "He didn't care about taking people's money."

Brown ultimately filed bankruptcy as his investors were filing police reports against him. When he died, the Brown family still owed millions to retirees, widows and others who had invested in him.

The federal government never filed any charges.

Then there's Tracy Brown, the former BB&T Bank executive who stole nearly $500,000. He forged customer signatures to make fraudulent loans and then detoured the funds to his personal account.

Brown pleaded guilty this fall and was sentenced to 27 months in jail. He could have been sentenced to 30 years in jail. I wonder if judges will be as lenient to the 32 "worst of the worst" as they were to Brown.

Remember Billy Long, the former Hamilton County sheriff? In 2008, he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to 27 counts of extortion, money laundering, providing a firearm to a felon and possession of more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.

Don't forget Mike Killian, the ex-mayor of South Pittsburg who's soon to be sentenced to federal prison for running an illegal gambling operation.

In Cleveland, there are allegations of massive Medicare fraud. The feds claim that Life Care Center executives rigged a scheme that netted hundreds of millions in fraudulent reimbursements, while a doctor was recently indicted after prosecutors say he received $7.5 million in Medicare payments for Botox shots he never gave.

What constitutes "the worst" crime? How do we measure it?

What about the slumlords who own all the properties in rundown neighborhoods where crack is bought and sold? Is it worse to sell crack or to steal someone's life fortune? Is it worse for a felon to own a gun or for a sheriff to give him one?

What about the crime that is poverty? Ken Chilton, professor at Tennessee State, recently emailed some startling statistics: the percentage of blacks living in poor Hamilton County neighborhoods increased from 47 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2010.

On the other side of the street, the percentage of whites living in wealthy neighborhoods increased from 5 percent to 16 percent during the same period.

"This is inequality in action," the former head of the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies wrote. "This is the driving factor behind the gangs and violence."

No one speaks about that at news conferences. We see the mugshots of 32 black men. We hear officials call them the worst of the worst. It feeds the story we tell ourselves: when we talk about crime in this city, we often automatically picture a black man. It's our societal assumption dressed in blackface.

All those people named above? They're white.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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Hunter_Bluff said...

I hope your article energizes a robust discussion but it probably won't since it didn't mention Obamacare, gay/lesbian, anyone's interpretation of God or guns. But here's hoping.

November 20, 2013 at 8:07 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Number of people killed by the people David Cook is talking about: 0.

Number of people allegady killed by the 32 so-called worst of the worst: I lost count even after omitting the ones killed on a front porch at 2 AM.

Sorry, no comparison.

November 20, 2013 at 8:40 a.m.
davidcook said...

Hold on Jonathan - the 32 weren't rounded on murder charges.

November 20, 2013 at 9:08 a.m.
TirnaNOG said...

The true worst of the worst are rarely if ever caught, and even when or if they are they're rarely held to the same standards or punished, for that matter. They're too high up the food chain and are too well connected. They have powerful friends and family in the system who will always have their backs.

All those private drug treatment centers certainly weren't built to treat some poor smidget from any inner-city hood. As one white recovering drug addict once stated: "I never met a black drug dealer. All my drug dealers were white." But America's prisons and jails continue to burst at the seams with primarily young black males. America has the highest incarceration rate of its citizens in the world, outside of only one of its staunch allies. And the citizens that country highly incarcerate are usually African migrants fleeing war torn countries in Africa. Wars supported and controlled by powerful nations. Don't be shy about it. Racism drives America's prison system. Not that some black leaders haven't played a role in it all. Especially when they beg for laws against such non-sense as saggy pants, dreadlocks. They've invited the negative scrutiny when they down their own young. Invite others with their own agenda in to solve issues they should come together and solve themselves. They often ignored and sometimes even attacked those who tried to sound the warning bells.

Stop waiting for superman. He's a fictional character. Roll up your sleeves and stop snubbing that poor black person living in public housing. Pray about it, but don't stay on your knees forever waiting for manna to fall from the sky. Lay that book down for a few seconds and get to work. Create jobs...pool your resources and put some of these young men into their own business. Then buy buy buy from them. Building new homes doesn't sustain a community or its people. Having businesses and patronizing those businesses will uplift and help a community thrive. There's far too much black wealth in America for there to be so much poverty. Create delegations to go into other countries if need be, and get foreign investors to invest in businesses in your communities. Open up shop and hire the people no one else will hire because they use the excuse the person has a criminal record. There are those who want you out of the city. They've been working on it since the 1980s. Gentrification/Gangs showed up around the same time. But no one would listen to those of us who saw recognized what was taking place. Suggesting electing the right politician doesn't fly. There is no right politician. If you mean black, then some fellow blacks have done more harm to their own as anyone. Get with it, and get serious! This is taking place all across America. And it's been taking place for the last 20 or 30+ years!

November 20, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
soakya said...

I believe a better picture would have been of the 537 elected officials in Washington and the elected representatives at the state and local level. they are the ones that create the problems and they are the ones who believe they have the solutions to the problems they create. America needs to understand its not just the other party that's responsible for this mess. wake up before its too late.

November 20, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.
joedeg said...

Lost in this discussion/debate is the fact that the feds frequently round up large numbers of white suspects charged with manufacturing methamphetamine or trafficking illegal prescription narcotics. Those men and women come to federal court in large groups and face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years, 20 years, or life imprisonment, just like the recent group of 32 African American suspects whose faces were splashed across the front page of the newspaper. The common denominator in these "round-ups" is not race; it is poverty. The reason the recent "round-up" garnered so much attention is that Mayor Berke chose to hold a press conference to take credit for it (even though it resulted from a years-long federal investigation that nobody in his administration had anything to do with).

November 20, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.
john3182 said...

Mr. Cook,

This is in response to your most recent article, "The White faces of crime". I understand completely what you are trying to get across in that article, that not all crime is perpetrated by black males. Yet, you are comparing violent criminals that have murdered innocent victims, to white collar crimes that have ripped off people from their bank account. These are two different types of crimes. If someone steals my identity, or steals my credit card number and buys a lot of stuff in my name, it may be a hassle to get it straightened out, and it could take 3 years. But, it may be fixed in three years. If my mother or brother is shot dead in downtown late at night.. that cannot be "fixed", there is no getting my mother or brother back. (Just so you know, that didn't happen) There is a big difference between losing thousands of dollars, and being attacked and raped, or spreading drugs around the city, or murder. Yes, both effect people's lives, but the white collar crime can be dealt with a LOT easier than losing a loved one. The city has made great strides in working to combat the gang problems in Chattanooga, and are still working on it. Do people need jobs in this city? You bet! Do people need to feel safe downtown? Yes! but, the people who are on the top 30 list of criminals, like all criminals, had chosen to do those crimes. No one that I know of had a gun to their head saying, "you must hold up this convenience store, sell drugs, shoot innocent people or other gang members for no reason". The same goes for white collar crimes, but the violent crimes do more lasting damage than the financial crimes.

November 20, 2013 at 4:57 p.m.
Tbryce said...

What happened to you David? Did you let Joker Loc get in your head just like those young boys that he gets to do his dirty work for him? How are you going to feel when the evidence comes out in court that is going to make this story make you look sooo foolish. Did you really try to compare white collar crime to drug crime that yields more violence than any crime known. It appears that your true disconnect with the "lifestyle" is sorely affecting your writing. I say that with respect because you are usually on top of it but you have failed very short here. You have not looked at the overall picture and until you do it just looks like you have brain washed

November 20, 2013 at 5:29 p.m.
TirnaNOG said...

RE/john3182: "Yet, you are comparing violent criminals that have murdered innocent victims"

So fishing without a license is now considered a violent crime? Only in America! A country with the highest population of prisoners in the world. That's including any developed, developing, under-developed and even rogue/corrupt countries.

When a person is incarcerated, even for minor offenses, it negatively affects and disrupts entire households, financially and emotionally. A criminal record for one family member not only has a negative affect on that lone individual, but can affect other family members and even their offspring well into and up to another generation.

All of this stems from the 1980s, when young black men were being arrested for having too many dollar bills on them during routine stops in primarily black communities. Some were even arrested for having car freshners hanging from their rearview mirror. The reason for both was: "It could be a sign of drugs." When did America start arresting people for a "could-be" or a "maybe?" But that's the way police were operating in primarily poor black communities. That set the stage for what has morphed into high incarceration rates for primarily poor black communities, the decline in those communities and the families left to heavily depend on those dreaded and hated social programs everyone wants done away with. Then laws and ordinances were created to take whatever little they had left away.

From Wikipedia:

The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. At year-end 2009, it was 743 adults incarcerated per 100,000 population.[5][7][8][9][10] According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons, and county jails at year-end 2011 – about 0.7% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[7] Additionally, 4,814,200 adults at year-end 2011 were on probation or on parole.[11] In total, 6,977,700 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail, or prison) in 2011 – about 2.9% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[11] In addition, there were 70,792 juveniles in juvenile detention in 2010.[12] Although debtor's prisons no longer exist in the United States, residents of some U.S. states can still be incarcerated for debt as of 2011.[13][14]

November 20, 2013 at 5:30 p.m.
TirnaNOG said...

joedeg said... Lost in this discussion/debate is the fact that the feds frequently round up large numbers of white suspects charged with manufacturing methamphetamine or trafficking illegal prescription narcotics.

Only in recent times did they start arresting meth makers and users. Meth dates much farther back than crack. More than 60 years in fact, However, it was during the crack-cocaine craze of the 1980s that laws were changed and crack users received hefty fines and long prison sentences for getting caught with small amounts of crack on them. Not even when people started blowing up their homes and apartments from overcooking meth, and some severely burning their children and themselves, some resulting in deaths, did they seriously go after meth. Then when they did decide to go after meth, that's when drug courts were created to minimize the damage to families. They didn't like seeing so many little white kids ending up in foster care.

see: The NewYorker: Sept. 3 2013 titled Throwaways

See who, how and what's really behind the exploding drug problems in the U.S. Manufactured gangs, manufactured terrorists have become nothing more than job security for some professions.

November 20, 2013 at 5:38 p.m.
conservative said...

I can understand Mr. Cook a big Liberal resenting his employer for those 32 pictures of black men plastered on the front page of the TFP. It was stunning!

So he tried I guess to balance it out with some instances of white criminals. I guess he resents the TFP from not running pictures of white criminals on the front page at the same time. He did make his point.

He went overboard though with a few statements such as:

"What constitutes "the worst" crime? How do we measure it?"

Well that is pretty much settled in the law isn't it? Different punishment and different sentences for violent crime and non violent crime for instance.

Then:

"What about the slumlords who own all the properties in rundown neighborhoods where crack is bought and sold? Is it worse to sell crack or to steal someone's life fortune?"

That is just silly! Paying rent is not stealing anyone's money or life's fortune. And then to equate that with dealing deadly crack cocaine is further silliness.

Then:

"What about the crime that is poverty?"

He compares white wealth with poor blacks as though whites have committed crimes against poor blacks.

Maybe foolish is a better word than silly here.

November 21, 2013 at 9:10 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Cook has the worst case of white guilt in the world. Ever. He should go black-face, give away all of his possessions, move to a public housing facility, and maybe he would be more satisfied with his life.

November 21, 2013 at 10:01 a.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Conservative, Don't equate justice with the sentences specified by our legal code. The length of sentences does not necessarily equate with the harm to society. Paying rent to someone who only extracts value from the neighborhood and does not put money back into the neighborhood is wealth re-distribution. That's what a slumlord does.

November 21, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.
conservative said...

Hunter Bluff:

No equating with justice meant for I would impose much harsher sentences. My point is that society measures the worst crimes and punishments and even though it is not as harsh as I would like it is surely closer to justice than that of lenient Liberal Mr. Cook.

Don't know what you mean by the "neighborhood" and your idea of "wealth re-distribution," but I sure hope it does not equate with Mr. Cook.

November 21, 2013 at 6:29 p.m.
SPQR said...

Ultra-liberal and politically-correct dupes amongst our people sympathize with blacks and make excuses for them.

November 24, 2013 at 1:46 a.m.
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