January 9, 2015
By Bob Coleman
Editor, Fraud Friday
Last Friday, I wrote one of the surprising signs of fraud is when a banker funnels cash kickbacks, or bribes, through the spouse’s interior decorating company.
Rebecca Grant of Ameris Bank in Georgia called me into the principal’s office, which I have been many times before I might add, writing:
“I agree with several of your assessments of top 5 warning signs of fraud. However, your comment #4 ‘spouse with an interior decorating company’ seems prejudiced by three articles you have written (I assume a small percentage of articles you have written over the years). I would guess that over 25% of my good friends graduated with interior design degrees and have successful businesses.
“To throw this industry under the bus like you did is an injustice to many wonderful and successful businesses.”
There are many other industries I would throw under the bus, before I get to the interior design professional!
Anyway Rebecca, no, I don’t believe interior design firms are the new haven for money launderers and fronts for drug lords.
However, I’m simply commenting on an observation that several crooked bankers have funneled bribes from their real estate developer borrowers through a spouse’s, usually shell, interior design firm under the pretext of providing services for the developer.
A banker’s spouse who performs work for the banker’s borrower is a red flag. A red flag is simply a tool to tell us to stop and think twice about a transaction. It is not an indictment, not a cause for overreaction. It may be nothing and we all move on. Or sometimes, there is the eyebrow raising question that may have to be asked, but can be easily answered by the legitimate and successful interior design professional, as well as by the honest banker spouse.
Fair enough Rebecca?