White collar criminals recount their misdeeds

Rehabilitated criminal David Logan
David Logan said his corruption began when he started taking bribes as city administrator for the town of Pipestone. It continued when he moved to private sector, taking out fraudulent loans as CEO of Global Ventures Inc.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

Organized in the wake of Bernie Madoff, Petters Group Worldwide and other fraud cases, an event at the University of St. Thomas School of Law Thursday night featured four convicted white collar criminals, who explained their misdeeds and what they learned from the experience.

They shared the stage with the prosecutors and judges who sent them to prison. Like most of the other white collar criminals at the event, David Logan had plenty of advantages growing up. His parents gave him a strict Baptist upbringing--no dancing, no movies, no playing cards.

"I began to get an aversion for rules," he said. "And I began to search for ways to break the rules that I thought were dumb."

In 1978, Logan became city administrator for the town of Pipestone in southwestern Minnesota. He managed some projects he said were both good for the community and good for some local businessmen.

"It was made clear to me by these fellows that if that would continue and they were able to continue to get the city work, there probably would be something in it for me," he told the audience.

Logan broke rules and took bribes, convincing himself he deserved the money.

"Kind of quit listening to my conscience and it sort of quit talking to me," he said.

Judge Michael Davis
Michael Davis the chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Minnesota. He sentenced Logan to 71 months in prison, longer than even the prosecutor had requested.
MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert

And when he made the transition from government work to the private sector, the corruption continued.

"I set up some shell organizations," he said. "I figured out how to do nominee loans. I didn't even know what a nominee loan was before that, but I figured out how to do them."

That was one of many types of fraudulent loans Logan secured as CEO of Global Ventures. And eventually, he was caught.

Hank Shea prosecuted Logan, one of many white collar criminals he went after during nearly 20 years as a federal prosecutor. Shea said Logan's story was in some ways typical: Even the most sprawling white collar crime spree, Shea said, begins with a single ethical lapse.

"Once you do it that first time, it gets easier the second time, and even easier the third," Shea said.

Shea organized the event at St. Thomas, where he's now a professor. He said we're all susceptible to the pride, greed and temptation that leads to crime, but we all have the potential for redemption.

"Because in each of these four offenders' lives, they not just go out and do ethics presentations with me at law schools and business schools, but they are rebuilding their reputations, rebuilding their character by doing good works in our community," Shea said.

Shea has done versions of this presentation with Logan and other offenders about 100 times in the last six years, but last night was the first time he invited the judges to take part.

After Logan recounted his crimes and his new life as a philanthropist, Judge Michael Davis stepped forward and transformed the law school atrium into his class room.

"When you took a bribe, how much money did you take," he asked Logan. "Was it a hundred dollars? Was it thousands of dollars?"

"I would say it was thousands of dollars," Logan replied.

"And you're living the town of Pipestone. How large of a town is that?"

"4,500 people."

"It's a poor area, isn't it?"

"Generally speaking."

Davis was the judge who sentenced Logan to 71 months in prison--even longer than the prosecutor, Hank Shea, had requested. Davis said next week he's scheduled to sentence 14 defendants on drug conspiracy charges.

"They didn't make as much money as Mr. Logan," Davis said. "But I can tell you that they will do substantially more time than he ever would think about doing."

Davis said society wants to throw the book at street criminals, but is more open to the rehabilitation of white collar criminals. Still, he said, his point isn't that Logan should have spent the rest of his life in prison. It's that both street criminals and white collar criminals deserve a second chance.

"There's very few people that we can throw the key away [on]," Davis said. "I've had so many people turn their lives around. And you're one of them. And I'm proud of you."

"Thank you," Logan replied, as the audience burst into applause.