JEAN VALJEAN was sentenced to five years for stealing bread for his starving family.
Philadelphia's Bonnie & Clyde will likely get five years for actually stealing $116,619 and attempting to steal another $122,311 to finance their high life.
Five years for a total of $238,930 works out to $47,786 a year, which is more than the average Pennsylvania household earns. It's almost worth the risk.
Jean Valjean was fictional, the lead character in Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables."
The real Bonnie & Clyde didn't do any time after their crime spree across the Midwest in the '30s. They died in a hail of bullets sprayed at their stolen Ford V-8 sedan on a lonely road in Bienville Parish, La.
When the local crimes came to light, Regina Medina broke the story that Philly cops had tagged Jocelyn Kirsch, 22, and Edward Anderton, 25, as "Bonnie & Clyde" because they were a male/female bandit duet.
The original Bonnie & Clyde - they died when he was 25 and she was 23 - caught the imagination of an America, wracked by drought and Depression, that had been betrayed by capitalism. In their mythology, they are Little Guys striking back against the Establishment - Robin Hood with automatic weapons. (The reality was that Clyde Barrow - who murdered at least nine people - liked knocking over gas stations and stores. When he upgraded to robbing banks, they were in small towns, not on Wall Street.)
Philly's Bonnie & Clyde proved, once again, that criminals can steal more with a pen than with a gun. Unlike the originals, our B&C never used a gun. They brazenly stole from friends, neighbors, co-workers. Their story was closely followed, I believe, because everyday folks liked reading about yuppie scum getting their comeuppance.
Monday, "Clyde" Anderton took a guilty plea, as "Bonnie" Kirsch is expected to do at her upcoming hearing. Sentencing will follow. Is five years enough for this egomaniacal pair, who stole to finance global partying?
They could get as much as 69 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Lappen told me, but because of sentencing guidelines and a plea agreement, expect five. Federal guidelines also call for restitution.
The credit-card carnivores damn well ought to be forced to repay what they stole. But only five years in the Graybar Hotel?
The crime of the new millennium, identity theft, is the fastest-growing financial crime in America. "It can be accomplished anonymously, easily, with a variety of means, and the impact upon the victim can be devastating," says Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Hoar.
Visa and MasterCard both claimed that overall fraud cost member banks hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with MasterCard saying "identity fraud represented about 96 percent of its member banks' overall fraud losses of $407 million in 1997," Hoar said.
It's much, much worse today. The Postal Service estimates that 10 million Americans were victims in crimes totaling $5 billion last year.
Five years isn't enough time for the too-smart duo who stole to finance carefree, five-star vacations in Paris, Hawaii and the Caribbean, to which they doubtless felt entitled. A stronger warning needs to be sent to others who might feel the itch to get rich.
Restitution is a good remedy - providing Mommy and Daddy aren't allowed to pay it off for their larcenous offspring whose greed exceeded their scruples.
Maybe the best punishment Bonnie & Clyde got was the public exposure and humiliation.
Thank you, Regina Medina. *
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