(By Joe Koletar) It is reported 90% of Americans have cell phones. So, it appears, convicts also have their share.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reports in the May/June edition of Fraud Magazine on the topic: “Inmate mobile phone extortion. (page 6)” It seems a fair number of inmates pass the time (pardon the pun) by using cell phones to conduct fraud and extortion schemes. Although not mentioned in the article, there are other reported examples of inmates running their gangs from prison, and even arranging for potential witnesses and rival criminals to be “dealt with.”

The ACFE article cites but two examples – a drug dealer serving a thirty-year sentence running a jury failure-to-appear scam from prison and having innocent people wire money to him rather than face arrest, and another inmate sending photos of a badly-beaten fellow inmate to their family members to pay for the victim’s future “protection.”

The obvious question is how did these devices get into a prison, of all places? Were guards inattentive or compromised? Did pat-down searches fail to detect small devices? Were metal detectors in use, and were they sensitive enough to pick up small objects?

Smuggling contraband into prisons is as old as prisons themselves, but it used to be weapons, then weapons and drugs, and now cell phones have been added to the list. The obvious point of interdiction is the point of entry. That is the most effective control point, but it does not seem to be working. The article reports that Georgia, with one of largest prison populations, confiscated 13,500 cell phones in 2014 alone – about one for every five prisoners. Unfortunately, the ACFE article does not indicate the percentage confiscated at the point of entry, as opposed to those seized within the prisons.

The apparent issue is better controls at the point of entry: improved training and detection devices for guards; closer supervision; better analysis of usage incidents, and the like. The same is true for organizations of all types – limit exposure at the lowest possible level, before damage is done.

(Copyright 2015 – Joseph W. Koletar)

Join us for more insights into behavioral forensics (behind fraud and similar white collar crimes) from the authors of ABCs of Behavioral Forensics (Wiley, 2013): Sri Ramamoorti, Ph. D., Daven Morrison, M.D., and Joe Koletar, D.P.A., along with Vic Hartman, J.D. These distinguished experts come from the disciplines of psychology, medicine, accounting, law, and law enforcement to explain and prevent fraud. Because we are inspired to bring to light and address the fraud problems in today’s headlines, we encourage our readers to come back and revisit us regularly at BringingFreudtoFraud.com.


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