The Mob: A Working group of Professional Thieves

January 12, 2009

grouppeopleThieves steal to live.

Professionals in thievery and business behave in a very similar manner.

Only a tiny percentage of thieves are recognized and view themselves as being professional: full time, rational and consistent planning.

The most prestigious of theft rackets is The Grift or Con games. The Grift requires cooperation among specialists.

The working group of professional thieves is known as a mob, troop, or outfit. The number of members in a mob is determined in part by the racket which is being hustled, in part by the angles which are being played, and in part by the circumstances and situations…Sometimes a large number of thieves work together in a loose organization in the more elaborate confidence games, using a common pay-off joint or big store (fake gambling club or brokerage office.) p. 27

For any group to function productively, certain rules need to be known and obeyed. This discipline is generally higher than in straight business because of the extralegal nature of some of their work.

The mob has many codes, rules, and understandings, most of which are so general that they apply to the whole profession as well as to a particular mob. p. 35

I understand (from books alone) that they are:

  1. gains are divided equally (although, different for different roles),
  2. all payouts must be paid from the net take (expenses [or nut] first deducted from gross take),
  3. all loans must be repaid from the group’s first fruits (rigidly enforced),
  4. everyone shares in the profit or loss (good or bad),
  5. the fall-dough (shared cash) is used to protect any member of the mob,
  6. each member must deal honestly with each other (burning someone is a almost unthinkable, lying is considered more serious than in straight business),
  7. if someone leaves the mob, he must ask to be taken back (type of social norm or professional consideration),
  8. a member of the mob is not responsible for things outside of his control (appreciation for the role of randomness and luck),
  9. a mob member should not cut in on another member’s area of responsibility (reflects negatively on the competence of the “helped” member), and
  10. it’s “the responsibility of every member of the mob to do everything  possible to fix a case for any member of the mob if the pinch [arrest, exposure] occurred in connection with mob activities.” p. 38

In addition to their specialized skills, a professional thief must have a more general capability called larceny sense.

Larceny Sense: This term is applied to the thief just as the term “business sense” is applied to the business man. It is an ability to deal with unusual situations in the best possible manner and is acquired in the course of experience. Every thief with good larceny sense will try to figure out every eventuality in taking off a touch. Some thieves are considered to have no larceny sense, while others have plenty of it.

Quotations Source: The Professional Thief, Chapter 2: The Mob, The University of Chicago, 1937 [my emphasis]

Franchise marketing, for some systems, has evolved into a specialized, highly secretive applied fraud. Each trademark system has a number of 3 or 4 professionals working to sell and resell franchises that are designed to fail for the investor.

There is no boss per se within the group. Because the work is underground, there is little documentation available.

If there is a boss in the traditional sense, it would be the banker in head office who are within the small business lending division. These Franchise Bankers (one bank per franchise system) work very closely with the franchisor for their direct lending needs as well as setting up extremely lucrative service contracts for their franchisees (current accounts, merchant accounts, etc.).

In 2000, I interviewed Dan Farmer of the Royal Bank of Canada. He stated that franchise lending was “the most lucrative form of commercial lending there is”.

Roles & Functions

  • mark (potential franchisee),
  • sales agent (initial contact with mark, as the outsideman he steers marks to the mob’s preferred trademark; they are sometimes nominally independent, sometimes internal; also-known-as: consultants, franchise brokers),
  • franchisor contact (initially charming, aura of success, kept at arm’s-length until the loan proceeds are advanced and removed from mark’s current account), and
  • lender (specific bank official, specific bank branch: a high-risk, 24-hour turnaround on government guaranteed loans).

In their function as lenders, bank officers owe their borrowers a legal duty to perform lender’s due diligence. They are prohibited by law from creating debt instruments that they knew or should be reasonably be expected to know would be unsustainable or result in the borrower’s financial ruin. In Canada, the relevant statutes are the Bank Act and the Canada Small Business Financing Act and Regulations.

  • Banks and bank officers are not being held accountable because these arrangements, although highly exploitable, provide substantial profits to the franchise bar, franchisors, etc. Canada has a well-known reputation for harbouring white-collar criminals.
  • This, however,  is very, very fertile litigation soil for outside law firms that can know what questions to ask.

That I am a 1/3 partner in only one active lawsuit, speaks not to the rarity of the fraud but to my restraint and patience for the cleanup to happen. In 2005, we had identified over 12 potential lawsuits involving  just one franchise system, bank pairing.

Additional information on Predatory Franchise Lending and my recommendations to stop such abuse, can be found by in a paper I wrote to Industry Canada in 2005 called Franchising Opportunism: Deceit to secrsy confind. [Predatory Lending, IC Feb 2005]

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fall-dough: How a professional thief retires

January 7, 2009

theprofessionalthiefHow does a professional thief retire from a mob?

Fall-dough is defined as:

  • money to be used in case of arrest, discharge or retirement.

It is a sum of money held in trust for expenses in case any member of the mob gets pinched, busted, exposed. The mob itself owns it so it would be split evenly if the mob dissolved. Who actually holds the cash depends on the racket and few thieves would gamble or lose the money as that would be a very serious breech of the professional thieves’ code of conduct.

How it is Done: From what I understand the member simply says “Give me my fall-dough, I resign.” In most cases when members withdraw or are fired, there is no hard feeling on either side. p. 31

Conditions upon Retirement: The retiree can only return to the life if the mob agrees.

University of Chicago Press: The Professional Thief, [preview]

SYNOPSIS

This monograph by a professional thief—with the aid of Edwin H. Sutherland’s expert comments and analyses—is a revealing sociological document that goes far to explain the genesis, development, and patterns of criminal behavior. “Chic Conwell,” as the author was known in the underworld, gives a candid and forthright account of the highly organized society in which the professional thief lives. He tells how he learned to steal, survive, succeed, and ultimately to pay his debt to society and prepare himself for full and useful citizenship. The Professional Thief presents in amazing detail the hard, cold facts about the private lives and professional habits of pickpockets, shoplifters, and conmen, and brings into focus the essential psychological and sociological situations that beget and support professional crime.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Part I. The Professional Thief, Written by a Professional Thief and Annotated by Edwin H. Sutherland
I. The Profession
II. The Mob
III. The Rackets
IV. the Fix
V. The Thief and the Law
VI. Stealing as a Business
VII. The Social and Personal Life of the Thief
VIII. The Thief and Society
Part II. Interpretation and Conclusion
IX. Interpretation
X. Conclusion
Glossary
Bibliography
Index

I believe a dignified exit to a vocation [as with life] is a noble goal. I would hope to offer that to a colleague and would hope it to be reciprocated. If A/R collection is the only obstacle, it can and should be handled in a professional, gentlemanly and timely manner.

  • You got a leak, you call plumber, He performs, & You pay a fair charge.
  • You get caught: You pay your fine and move on. Best of luck.
  • Human action can become transcendent for no reason just because someOne offers it up. ie. a Comedian playing to a crowd…
  • Go easy or go hard: it’s entirely Your choice, Your funeral.
  • Repeat.

Continuing a deceitful, belittling and economic privation strategy will result in some otherwise entirely avoidable reputational consequences which, once started, cannot be controlled.

I wish everyone as Happy a New Year as possible.


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