By Michelle Seitz Staff writer
On Oct. 4 in Stretansky Concert Hall, the Schmidt Foundation hosted “‘Stolen Without a Gun:’ The Anatomy of a White-Collar Crime,” a lecture given by Walter Pavlo Jr. The purpose of the lecture was to help students understand white-collar crime and ethical decision-making.
Pavlo spoke about his experience working as a senior manager at MCI, a telephone company based out of New York City and head of the company’s finance department. During his time, he encountered $25 million in outstanding invoices by Caribbean Telephone, a fraudulent company based out of Detroit, Michigan.
The company promised to pay MCI in full; however, to get the money, they were going to sell cheaply made phone cards to customers for a much higher price. After months of no response, Pavlo decided to misuse promissory notes and cut off all ties with Caribbean Telephones after they signed them. He also demanded others start paying their fair share or he would do the same to them. Shortly after, a new manager stepped in at MCI who promised to write off their debt and balance the company’s budget.
Pavlo confided in a friend, who told him to remain at MCI while he took care of things. His friend showed up to MCI and lended them the money they needed.
This went on until MCI was bought out, and it was discovered that one of Pavlo’s deals were faulty. Pavlo then quit and spent the next few months living in fear until he received a letter from the United States’ Attorney’s Office informing him that they were investigating him.
Pavlo pleaded guilty in 2001, at 29 years old, to charges of wire fraud and money laundering. He recieved a reduced sentence by cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as testifying against the attorney involved in the scheme.
Pavlo currently gives lectures to business and law schools on white-collar crime and ethics. He also is a contributing analyst of white-collar crime to Forbes.com and the New York University School of Law.
Pavlo also helped develop Prisonology.com, a website that helps soon-to-be convicts and their families feel more at ease with their transition. The site answers questions about prison life.
Although criminality is represented very negatively, the extent of white-collar crime may be over-embellished, according to Pavlo. White-collar crimes tend to be committed by ordinary people who got caught up in an aspect of their job.
“We all do have temptation,” Pavlo said. “There are consequences for doing the right thing and that’s okay… One’s integrity is priceless.”
Michael Ozlanski, assistant professor of accounting, said, “A lot of the pressures [Pavlo] faced were the same we faced here on campus.”
“These are a lot of the things business professionals need to deal with. If we can get comfortable dealing with those pressures here in college, we could then leverage that into our careers and hopefully that will make us better people in our post-Susquehanna plan,” Ozlanski added.