The Cold Hard Truth About White Collar Crime: With Kelly Richmond Pope


This week, helping us get Set For Sentencing is Dr. Kelly Richmond Pope.  She’s a fraud expert, a filmmaker, and an accounting professor at DePaul University in Chicago. 

Her latest book, “Fool Me Once: Scams Stories and secrets from the Trillion Dollar Fraud Industry,” is burning up the charts nationally. 

Why do people commit fraud?  What is the appropriate punishment? What is the public perception underlying and animating all of it?  This was a lively discussion that really struck at the heart of the goals of punishment and the truth about how justice is “served” in America.

The discussion touches on many topics, but at the center of it all is one of the largest municipal fraud cases ever, that of Rita Crundwell, the subject of Dr. Pope’s incredible documentary, “All the Queen’s Horses.”   Ms. Crundwell, was the comptroller of a small city in Illinois when she embezzled millions from the town coffers.  When Ms. Crundwell received early “compassionate” release from the federal Bureau of Prisons, her victims and those following the case were outraged.  They believed that because she only ended up serving 8.5 years of her 20 year sentence that a grave injustice occurred.

This episode, quite unintentionally drops amidst a wave of publicity about two other very high profile offenders.

The first is Elizabeth Holmes.  It seems the media somehow figured out for the first time, that Ms. Holmes, like EVERY OTHER FEDERAL DEFENDANT EVER, will not have to serve her full sentence.  She will literally earn YEARS off her sentence for good behavior and participating in programming.  This too seems to outrage those who might otherwise have a surface level view of the many complicated layers of federal sentencing.

Virtually the same day all the Elizabeth Holmes faux outrage click-bait machine revved up, we heard the news about Leslie Van Houton’s parole.   She was responsible, among others, for the brutal murders of Rosemary and Leo LaBianca in 1969.  She was a 19-year-old runaway at the time, and under the influence of career criminal, psychopath, cult leader Charles Manson.  She was sentenced to life in prison, but was paroled after serving fifty-three years. 

Now, compare the crimes of Van Houten (53 years for 2 heinous murders) and Holmes (11.5 years for hundreds of millions of dollars) with Crundwell (over 20 years for 50 million).  Does that put Crundwell’s record-setting sentence in any better perspective?  Do we feel any better about the fact that she “only” served 8.5 years in federal prison?


  • The importance of storytelling to achieve empathy;
  • The “3 forces of fraud” – Opportunity, Pressure, and Rationalization;
  • Unpacking the Rationalization component of the fraud triangle;
  • The “three categories” of fraud offenders:  Intentional, accidental, and righteous;
  • Dr. Pope’s take on Elizabeth Holmes as “righteous perpetrator”;
  • Dr. Pope’s take on Edward Snowden as “righteous perpetrator”;
  • The role of race and gender in sentencing;
  • The goals of punishment and whether justice was served in Rita Crundwell’s case.


Fool Me Once on Amazon:

Fraud Game Designed by Dr. Pope!

Rita Crundwell Documentary, Directed by Dr. Pope on Amazon Prime:

Elizabeth Holmes podcast:  Since we talked a bunch about Ms. Holmes in this episode, you may want to listen to our podcast about her sentencing on Youtube, the interwebs, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

We also mentioned Walt Pavlo (prisonology) and Mark Allenbaugh (you know, my pal and sentencing stats guru).  As always, if you need their help, I encourage you to contact them. or

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