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After Doing Their Time, Making Crime Pay

There’s a growing business in prepping white-collar criminals for prison, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Consulting companies such as Federal Prison Alternatives (also, RDAP Prison Consultants) help prisoners-to-be learn the lingo, and the etiquette, of living behind bars.

Clients will learn from seasoned pros: The founders of at least two companies have been there, done that. Now they’re making crime pay.

Patrick Boyce, founder of Federal Prison Alternatives, served time in a prison in Morgantown, W.V. According to information on the company’s web site, he owned an investment firm in New York before being charged with conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud and sentenced to 27 months.

The sales pitch is straightforward: “Patrick learned the hard way — you don’t have to!”

According to the Journal, those convicted for insider trading, securities fraud, money laundering and the like can learn to negotiate life behind bars, with such tips as to always say “excuse me” when you bump into someone and never butt into a conversation. Other tips: Don’t touch someone else’s laundry, don’t reach across someone’s plate, and don’t change the channel on the TV if someone else is watching it.

And, students will learn the special language of prison: For instance, you’ll know ahead of time to politely decline an invitation to a “blanket party,” which is a lot less fun than it sounds.

And, in this election year, they are offering special advice to prisoners’ family members on which candidates to vote for. As he explains, there are some “candidates that will be more likely to support prisoners’ rights, and who’s going to support our position for jobs, re-entry after they get out.”

Ex-cons offer prison primers for soon-to-be incarcerated execs

When Michelle Menard realized her boyfriend was facing five years of incarceration for wire fraud, she turned to the Internet. “Get out of federal prison,” she typed.

The Kankakee County woman found help from an unusual source: ex-convict Patrick Boyce who offers advice not as a lawyer but as a prison consultant — or as he puts it, a “federal mitigation specialist.”

“I get super nervous,” said Menard, 35, who earns a modest income cleaning houses. “I read things online and think, ‘Oh my God, he’s in there with a bunch of criminals.’ (Boyce) is very supportive, like a girlfriend who knows everything.”

Boyce, 41, founder of Federal Prison Alternatives (also, RDAP Prison Consultants) in Columbus, Ohio, is one of a handful of consultants nationwide who gear their services toward a white-collar population that includes mortgage fraudsters, tax evaders and Ponzi-schemers. He cites experience “as the best teacher,” and points to his own 27-month prison term for conspiracy to commit fraud.

The cottage industry is dominated by ex-offenders, retired jailhouse employees and advocates who support prison alternatives. High-profile cases during the 1980s and ’90s, including the prosecutions of corporate raider Ivan Boesky and former junk bond financier Michael Milken — both of whom used prison consultants — have helped heighten awareness.

Some criminal defense attorneys remain skeptical, and question whether the consultants can deliver what they promise. But today’s economic downturn has provided no shortage of work.

“Now it’s gotten to where a lot of people see the need and the benefit,” he said. “With the meltdown of the real estate industry, we had a lot more mortgage brokers who were getting indicted.”

He charges $3,500 to $10,000 for prison consulting.

Bernard Madoff turned to him for help when he pleaded guilty in 2009 to one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history.

“He knew he was going to get a life sentence and he asked what could he do with the rest of his life”. “I said to participate in as many programs as you can. Find ways to help people who, believe it or not, are less fortunate than you.”

Over the last two decades, federal officials have ratcheted up the penalties for economic misdeeds, most recently in response to high-profile corporate crimes, such as the collapse of Enron Corp. The harsher sentencing guidelines have resulted in overcrowded prisons and added incentive for defendants to seek help in navigating the complex legal system, criminal defense attorneys say.

Consultants try to strengthen a defendant’s presentencing request to be enrolled in a 500-hour federal drug and alcohol abuse program, which can result in a shorter prison stint. Others document medical reasons that argue why an inmate needs a lower bunk or special diet.

Before reporting to prison, offenders often have questions that lawyers can’t answer about the daily prison routines, said Jeff Steinback, a prominent Chicago defense lawyer who represented Scott Fawell, Gov. George Ryan’s closest political adviser, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud.

“There is a place for that kind of advice, as long as it is well-intended and not simply a business,” Steinback said. He typically pairs a newly sentenced defendant with someone who has already served time, to prepare them for incarceration.

Former Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, who finished a 6 1/2-year prison sentence last year for racketeering conspiracy and fraud, said that she would have considered hiring a prison consultant had she known they existed. She was assigned to a federal prison in Dublin, Calif., and was shocked at how harshly inmates were treated, even at the low-security facility.

“I wish they would have told me about all the strip searches,” said Loren-Maltese, who now lives in Evergreen Park.

If a defendant has questions about jailhouse lingo or rules, “I’ll tell you the etiquette: Don’t gamble, don’t loan money, don’t borrow money and of course, keep your mouth shut.”

Menard, however, realizes that she is paying consultant Boyce for more than his expertise on federal sentencing. He also serves as a counselor of sorts. Boyce assured her that everything will be OK.

Her boyfriend, who formerly owned a payroll processing company, took responsibility for failing to pay state and federal taxes on behalf of his clients, she said. He owes $1.6 million in restitution, according to a court document.

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