By David Anderson
Trusted. Period. Well, actually a single cheerio in place of the period.
That’s all that appeared on the Cheerio box of cereal in front of me. “Trusted.” Accompanied by a cheerio where the period would be. Just one. Which is an exclamation – and an explanation – all in itself. No more needed to be said. Pretty cool to brand your product with the exemplifier and magnifier of trust. If you can’t trust the whole-grain goodness of those small round rings of nutrition and tradition well then who can you trust?
That’s a good question.
Having poured myself a bowl of trust this morning of February 15, I read the news.
Seems all among major media are carrying the story of former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Conner who gambled away $2.1 million from the charitable foundation established through her late husband Robert O. Peterson’s Jack in the Box restaurant chain which he founded. During nearly a decade-long gambling binge, according to one news source, “she amassed winnings of more than $1,000,000,000.” That’s billion. As in billion. In winnings.
I almost knocked my box of cheerios to the floor which would’ve sent those little trusted grains of goodness scattering given I’d left the top open.
One-billion is a lot of zeros in contrast to the single little ‘o’ on my yellow cereal box.
Faster than the fast-food Jack in the Box restaurants can serve up curly fries, O’Conner not only spent all of the billion dollars in winnings – all of it – and then some, she eventually rang up debts of over $13 million.
Peterson must have thought he’d closed the lid on the box containing the charitable funds before he died in 1994 when he “specifically barred his wife (and the two other foundation trustees) from receiving any personal financial benefit from the charity.”
He thought wrong. Or didn’t use enough duct tape.
For six years there on the shelf the enticing funds sat while O’Connor gambled and lost her savings, real estate holdings, valuable personal belongings, took out second and third mortgages on her home until finally she went to the cupboard to fetch her poverty a loan. She “borrowed,” her words, pilfering, embezzling and otherwise opening the box to steal funds for which she as a trustee had been entrusted in order “to cover her debts, bleeding the foundation’s coffers dry,” shaking the box until every last one of the multi-grains were gone.
O’Connor’s lawyer said a brain tumor, for which the former mayor underwent surgery in 2011, “played a role in O’Connor’s extreme gambling behavior by damaging parts of the brain that control reasoning and judgment.”
A friend of mine googled “embezzlement” and “gambling” and reported 667,000 hits. That’s a lot of brain tumors. Or, at minimum, a modicum of folks who’ve run out of cheerios.
In just the last two years at our own community breakfast table, while chomping down those trusted cheerios with a cup of coffee and the newspaper spread out before us, we were greeted with these headlines linking embezzlement and gambling:
February, 2013: “A Bonney Lake man was sentenced to two years in prison and three years of supervised release for embezzling more than $700,000 from the company that owns Hotel Murano in Tacoma. Caingat used the account to pay his gambling bills.”
January, 2013: “She said she took the money for her gambling debt, but was very sorry. Deborah Sheehan’s remorse was noted by Pierce County prosecutors but did not stop them from charging the 46-year-old woman with 27 counts of theft and forgery.”
October, 2012: “Gig Harbor woman, 68, charged in alleged $3M investment scam.” Excerpt: “They never returned the money, prosecutors said, using it instead to enrich themselves or pay off gambling debts.”
June, 2012: “A federal court judge sentenced ex-Lakewood Police Officer Skeeter Manosto 33 months in prison for embezzling (more than $100,000) donated money from the account established for the city of Lakewood’s four fallen officers who were killed in a coffee shop three years ago.”
March, 2012: “Linda Acosta, a 63-year-old Tacoma resident, worked for her boss – Oscar Hokold, the owner of Hokold Development which runs 14 apartment complexes, a restaurant and a cabinet business – for 23 years. She spent the last seven robbing him blind ($1.4M which she used in part to gamble at casinos). She was sentenced to 16 years in prison – a grandmother.”
August, 2010: “A Graham woman, a former billing clerk for an international shipping company, was sentenced to 17 months in prison for stealing more than $260,000 from Maersk, Inc. to fuel her gambling and methamphetamine addictions.”
Like cereal goes with milk, embezzlement goes with gambling. In fact, “Around Connecticut, embezzlements have more than tripled, a trend some blame on gambling debts. The state has averaged 158 embezzlements annually since the casinos opened, more than triple the average of 49 before casinos.”
“Sixty-two percent of addicted gamblers commit crimes, including theft, embezzlement, and insurance fraud to support their habit.” This from a publication by the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling.
The article just referenced is entitled “The Fight Against Gambling – What you need to know ‘before’ gambling comes to your area” (their emphasis).
In Lakewood, and with a bill currently - with more anticipated – before the legislature, it’s a little late now.
Say goodbye to trust, it having been recalled. Cheerio.
“Consider the irony: Here is the government, essentially breaking the social contract – the agreement by which the people submit to being governed, in trust that those who govern them will act in their benefit. Instead, the government is actively seeking to legitimize a vice that destroys people and wrecks homes. For government to encourage – and even profit by – such self-destructive behavior is, as Kelly puts it, ‘a profound betrayal of every value there ever was’.” (“Beating the Odds” by Charles Colson & Nancy Pearcey, “Christianity Today,” January 10, 2000; and Michael Kelly, “Washington Post”)