TV Show Inspires White Collar Criminals

A New Jersey stock trader recently pled guilty to an insider trading scheme that netted approximately $37 million over 17 years of illegal activity.

Insider trading is not uncommon among securities dealers, but what makes this incident unique are its ties to a television program, "The Wire," a crime drama set in Baltimore.

The extensive scam involved two other men who received insider information from an attorney who worked in mergers and acquisitions departments at high-profile law firms that handled huge corporate takeovers. The insider information from this attorney was then passed through another man and onto the stock trader, who placed the trades at huge profits. The money made off these illegal trades was then removed via ATMs and filtered back through the attorney and the other man. The stock trader is facing a possible sentence of 25 years, while the fate of the other men has yet to be determined.

The three men implicated in this insider trading scam used disposable cellphones and public phones to communicate, a major element of a police avoidance plot in "The Wire." Criminals on the show similarly used this method to continue their illegal acts without detection. They would even dispose of their phones in the same fashion by throwing them out randomly in public trash cans, like outside of fast-food restaurants. Another element of the show mirrored in real life was the destruction of evidence. Upon finding out that police raided the home of one of the men involved in the scheme, the stock trader allegedly instructed him to burn evidence so fingerprints couldn't be found.

Our television culture often uses "ripped from the headlines" techniques to highlight actual happenings so that audiences can relate to the program. It appears that in this case, the criminals turned the tables and used some of the techniques from fiction and turned them into reality. With the government's recent focus on preventing and prosecuting white collar crimes, potential criminals are going to have to find resources other than "must-see TV" for their crimes.