When it comes to the topics of fraud and ethics in the
mortgage game, there is perhaps no better person to talk to
than Jerome Mayne, public speaker and author of Diary of a
White Collar Criminal, a memoir describing his own fall from
grace in the early 2000s after being convicted by the U.S.
government for his role in a fraud scheme. Mortgage Compliance
Magazine got a few minutes with Mayne over the phone to
discuss the book, his story, and hard lessons learned.
MCM: When you talk about white-collar crime, most people
imagine an executive sitting in a tower office embezzling funds.
What struck me about your story is how you were pulled into a
big fraud scheme unwittingly. How do people find themselves
in this sort of situation?
Mayne: What people find is that they don’t think that the
decisions that they’re making can actually have an impact or
could constitute fraud. People think fraud and white-collar
crime is when you’re taking money, but the other huge part of
that is creating more risk. My biggest point is people will justify
something by saying, “This isn’t that big of a risk.” Another
big one is, “This part of the process isn’t my job to verify, so
someone else will deal with this.” That’s a huge problem. If ever
I have stated the words that I was “unwittingly involved”—I
really wasn’t when you break it down. I never talked to these
guys, and they never told me their (fraud) plan, but if I wanted
to follow my instincts, I could have made that not happen.
MCM: A big part of your story is coming to terms with the idea
that you really were guilty of the charges against you--not just a
patsy. Is that something you still think about these days?
Mayne: I’ve fluctuated over the years, and I have to say
nowadays, it just is what it is. I’m not mad about it. It’s
like looking at the guidelines and saying, “Well if I’m
not technically 100 percent across the line, then I’m not
committing a crime.” When it was finally explained to me … I
don’t remember, but I probably went and looked it up and went
“Yep, I definitely did that. There’s no question there.”
MCM: In your experience as a public speaker, what is the most
alarming thing you’ve heard from an audience member?
Mayne: Nothing’s alarming anymore. I heard it all in the
beginning. When I talk about what people ask me, the most
alarming thing is that most people are really surprised I got in
trouble for (what I did). I try to be very careful to point out
An Interview with a
White Collar Criminal
where the fraud really was, and the book obviously was written
from a personal, psychological standpoint of how I was feeling
at the time. But I at least tried to end it with “I did it, that’s
how I felt, and this what I believe.” What’s most alarming is
when people will say, “Wow, I didn’t think all that stuff was
really considered fraud that you would go to prison for.” Then I
start to think “Wow, it’s a good thing they bought my book!”
MCM: You summarize your prison experience by saying it was
educational. What was the hardest lesson to learn?
Mayne: One of the hardest ones was the psychological impact
that it had on me and those around me. You hear the phrase
“You do the crime, you do the time,” and that’s not how it
works. You do the crime, and everyone else that you love, they
do the same thing except the prison time. That was a good
lesson, but I hated that fact.
This interview had been edited for length and clarity. Read more
about Jerome Mayne’s experience in Diary of a White Collar