Haunted by a Crooked Boss
January 5, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

It's probably too late to do anything about a crooked boss, but I'd still like the Hive Mind's opinion... (long story inside)

I no longer work for said boss, but some of his business practices sort of stick in my craw and also make me wonder if I can be culpable years after the fact.

I worked for a small steel brokerage - Boss (owner), two salesmen, and me, who did all the clerical work as well as the payroll, and accounting (month-end reports, etc). As time went on, I noticed a definite distinction between the male employees and me. For example, I was the only employee who had the cost of her Blue Cross deducted from her paycheck. After I accepted the job, it turns out that one of my very unsavory responsibilites was to save the ink cartridges from our computer printers and the toner cartridges from the copier and then go back to Staples or OfficeMax and claim that they'd been empty when we'd opened the package. (I'm not making this up.) At the time, I couldn't really afford the cost of a lawyer to look into the situation, and I needed the insurance coverage, so I didn't squack.

When I hired in, I was told that after three years I'd be enrolled in the company's pension plan. After I'd been there three and a half years with no further info about the Plan, I asked Boss. His response was "I've decided not to add any more people to the plan." This, too, seemed illegal to me but his brother-in-law was an attorney, and I couldn't really afford to persue the issue.

While I worked there, I noticed that he avoided paying bills whenever possible. For example, when LTV Steel was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, he bought thousands of tons of steel from them, which he re-sold. When the bills from LTV eventually came due, he instructed me to create fake debit memos from a variety of non-existant companies stating that the LTV steel was defective. He went so far as to have me put lint and such from a vacuum cleaner bag onto the copying machine glass so that the Xerox copies of said debit memos looked like they'd been in our files for many months. (I kept Xerox copies of his handwritten notes directing me to make such memos look more authentic, etc, just in case some time down the road LTV's lawyers came after me.)

Another "tactic" of his was to have five or six different registered business names, using mail drops as the mailing addresses. Each of those businesses had a phone number that ended up in our office, though, and I was actually instructed to used a different tone of voice and different name depending upon which line I answered. He also used these various "companies" to give credit references to one another. So, for example, if he was trying to buy steel from a new supplier, he'd give ABC and XYZ steel as credit references, both of which were part of his telephone bank. (His father is a CPA and handled the books for the company and apparently approved of all this deception.)

Anyway, I'm sure it's too late to hit him up for any personal compensation that I was entitled to during my years of employment (such as why did I have to pay for my health insurance and no one else did?), but every now and then I feel a twinge of guilt about all the deception I was involved in and I wonder if there's some way that I can turn him in? To whom, I don't know. And I'm also curious as to whether or not I'd be liable in years to come if one of his many schemes that I assisted with (and there are many, many that I was involved in that I haven't mentioned) are brought to light?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You could call the IRS. Chances are good that if he's deceiving everyone else he's supposed to be paying, he's holding back on Uncle Sam too, and they're absolute monsters when they think they're owed money. You can report him anonymously, and they will make his many companies' lives miserable for months or years to come.
posted by decathecting at 3:48 PM on January 5, 2008

I'm also curious as to whether or not I'd be liable in years to come if one of his many schemes that I assisted with (and there are many, many that I was involved in that I haven't mentioned) are brought to light?

You need a lawyer. Don't even think about poking at this bee's nest without a lawyer. And frankly, it sounds like you committed fraud so you should get a lawyer even if you decide not to pursue this for any other reason.
posted by grouse at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2008

The state attorney general would probably be interested in hearing about all this. That is out and out fraud, and it sounds like you have physical evidence. Note, that you might be on the hook yourself, and want to get a lawyer before going forward with anything.
posted by cschneid at 3:54 PM on January 5, 2008

To beat a dead horse, it sounds like you were arguably a co-conspirator. There is some possibility that you will, as such, be confessing to crimes should you take this to a law enforcement agency.
posted by Mr. Justice at 4:18 PM on January 5, 2008

Yeah. You probably need a lawyer, and you probably also need to contact jessamyn asap and have this post taken down or anonymized.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 4:36 PM on January 5, 2008

I think you could be culpable long after the fact, and the more time passes, the more you will forget what you did and why you did it. So it would be important IMO to act now, by getting all your notes in order, and writing down as much as you can remember before you forget more of it. It's not really important right now whether or not you pursue something in regards to your boss now, later or ever. What's important now is getting YOUR story straight. (I don't mean thinking up a "story" of course, I mean just organizing your facts, your notes, your memories, so if you are ever called upon in the future to remember them, you have your records.)

I was in a similar situation once - was called in to give a deposition on some things my boss had told me to do that at the time seemed sort of skeevy, but, hey, I needed a job, and I was young and naive. Even though I was not the one being sued years later, I *could* have been sued, but it became obvious to all concerned that I had no idea that what I was doing was a small part of a larger, less than ethical scheme. And it totally sucked to have to repeat "I don't remember" so often (even though it was true).
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:21 PM on January 5, 2008

So it would be important IMO to act now, by getting all your notes in order, and writing down as much as you can remember before you forget more of it.

Yes, that way you can waive your right against self-incrimination by providing prosecutors with an easy-to-subpoena written record of all your wrongdoing.

Don't: do that.

Do: see a lawyer, who may be able to help you memorialize this so that it is privileged and can't be subpoenaed.
posted by grouse at 5:27 PM on January 5, 2008

Yes, that way you can waive your right against self-incrimination by providing prosecutors with an easy-to-subpoena written record of all your wrongdoing.
posted by grouse at 7:27 PM on January 5 [+] [!]

So even if this is something that is say, locked away in a safe deposit box, or kept in a private journal or never mentioned to another soul? If what grouse says is true, then, yes, totally disregard what I suggested, and sorry for the misguided advice on writing it down.

By the way, no need for the snark, grouse.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:34 PM on January 5, 2008

As far as I am aware, something in a safe deposit box or a private journal is not protected against subpoena. Whether anyone will ever think to ask for it is another question, but I don't think it's for us to guess.

Sorry. I thought it was a really bad idea but I could have said that in a less snarky way.
posted by grouse at 5:55 PM on January 5, 2008

If I were you I would just forget that it ever happened and be thankful that I was out of there. Shit like that goes on all the time. He'll either get whats coming to him or he won't, but the likelihood of it winding up at your door is pretty small. Just go on with your life.

not your lawyer not legal advice not advice ask a lawyer blah
posted by ND¢ at 7:26 PM on January 5, 2008

Yeah, forget what I said; talk to a lawyer. I wasn't considering the possibility that by stirring this up, you could be bringing legal trouble down on yourself. Seek legal advice to find out whether you have committed crimes for which you could be prosecuted.
posted by decathecting at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2008

I think it would be wise to at least seek an initial consult with an attorney in the right field to see what they think. I'm not one.

I guess if it was me, I'd be thinking about the following:

1) Can this come back to bite me? There are factors outside of your control here (the guy gets busted, the IRS audits his business, he's sued by what is now the largest steel company in the world, etc.), so I would definitely want to at least be informed as to the worst case scenario and be prepared for it.

2) Do I want to bust this dude? I probably would at least be thinking about it if he has treated me like shit, but again I'd want to talk to an attorney to find out what the consequences might be to me, personally, best and worst case. Even if you feel like you have to come clean to the authorities to ease your conscience or whatever, talk to someone who will be your advocate before dialing any investigative agency.

3) Do I want money from the dude? None of the info you have about what went on there can be leveraged without digging a deeper legal hole for yourself (extortion, blackmail, whatever the actual legal term would be), I don't think. I suppose you could pick up the phone and simply ask him for whatever you think is fair and let his imagination fill in the gaps, but even that is really iffy.

Sounds like a suck situation, and I'm sorry you have it in your past. I can easily see myself in your shoes, much as I'd like to believe "oh, I'd never do that."
posted by maxwelton at 8:06 PM on January 5, 2008

If, at some point, you choose to bust him to the IRS, there is reward money. This guy sounds worse than the IRS, which is hard to accomplish.

You may be have some protection as a whistleblower, but yeah, you're gonna need a good lawyer.

Nasty, crappy bosses leave a mark on your spirit. Work on leaving him behind. It's really damaging to your spirit to keep the anger, frustration, unfairness, etc., alive. You will feel so much better when he' far from your daily thoughts. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 8:07 PM on January 5, 2008

Okay, IANAL and you definitely need one. You do not want to go to any authorities until you've spoken with a defense attorney.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that a lot of things like this have statutes of limitation. So after a certain number of years, the boss would be able to confess all and never have to worry about prosecution.

I don't think it's a good idea to write everything down, but if you decide too, keep the records encrypted using a real encryption system like truecrypt.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 PM on January 5, 2008

Bear in mind this guy may have connections with unsavory people. I'm not advising against action, but be prepared for the potential of Bad Things. A good criminal defense lawyer used to dealing with racketeering cases should be able to advise.
posted by lalochezia at 1:04 AM on January 6, 2008

Chiming in here, yes, you need a lawyer, and you need a specialist white collar crime lawyer, not a general practitioner. If you live in a small town you're unlikely to find someone there who specialises in white collar crime, you'll probably need to to go to a big city, or ask your State Bar Association for a list of firms which specialise in white collar crime.
posted by essexjan at 2:57 AM on January 6, 2008

If I were you, I'd let this go. It sounds from the answers above like doing anything other than forgetting will be a huge imposition for you, not to mention scary, stressful, expensive and potentially self-destructive.
posted by Scram at 11:47 AM on January 6, 2008

Scram, I'd agree, but I would still want to talk with an attorney if I was this person because, as I mentioned, there are some circumstances outside of this person's control where they might be thrust right back into it. I'd rather have spent a couple of hours talking with an attorney and learning what I need to do if karma ever catches up to their ex-boss and he decides to throw everyone he can to the wolves in order to save his own ass.

I would be slightly worried that his crime was organized and might be part of a bigger, more dangerous world, but it seems so happenstance and frankly amateur that I doubt it. Gangsters don't (I imagine) hire people off the street and then reveal the inner workings of their scam to them.
posted by maxwelton at 4:01 PM on January 6, 2008

follow-up from the OP
I don't think he has any underworld/organized crime connections. I actually do think that he's some sort of sociopath, though. He doesn't need the money (he's quite wealthy, as are his parents and his wife's family), but it's almost an obsession with him to always get something for nothing. For example, he continually switches phone service carriers - he never paid the bills, and once they started threatening collection, he cancels the service and ignores all further payment demands. On one occasion, the telephone repairman accidentally left his lineman's handset behind, and Boss forbade me to call the company and tell them. Instead, he had another employee (since I refused; this was shortly before I left) list it for sale on eBay. He would order stuff and pay for it with his AmEx card, then have me write a letter to AmEx when the bill came stating that he'd never ordered the item, and they'd take it off his bill. Why his credit rating was never seriously affected, I don't know. I was reminded of all this when we moved recently and I found a Banker's Box full of the copies of his notes and other documents I'd saved "just in case." (That was another quirk of his - he preferred to write notes rather than talk to employees. But he wouldn't use Post-Its, nor were we allowed to; "too expensive". Instead he'd walk the floors of the building on trash day and collect discarded memos, letters, faxes and other 8 1/2 X 11 papers and have me cut them down to scrap paper size.) Anyway, I had wondered if I should toss my box o' stuff, but I will keep it.

As far as talking to an attorney, is there much of a "brotherhood" among lawyers? His brother-in-law is an attorney and worked with me on a couple of the various lawsuits Boss was slapped with, and he never batted an eye when I was instructed to create false documents. (Yes, Boss got sued several times, but the settlement was always much less than the amount he really owed, so I guess it was worth it to him.) So I don't know if I'd need to find a lawyer that doesn't know Boss' attorney, how to go about that, does it even matter, etc. Thanks very much for all the advice; it's been eye-opening. After working there for so long, I became somewhat brainwashed that I was only following orders and I couldn't be held responsible, but as my husband later pointed out, that defense didn't work for William Calley.
posted by jessamyn at 8:28 AM on January 7, 2008

« Older CFL or similar for recessed lighting?   |   Need help w/symbol of keeping "the proverbial rug"... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.