When the Bad Defines Us

adobestock_96444752-convertedI finally got in for my long-overdue eye exam on Monday, and was disappointed when I learned the office manager, Corinna*, no longer worked there. “Corinna hasn’t been here since October,” the new manager told me, with pursed lips.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said, “but happy to meet you.” The latter statement was a moment of graciousness. I really would have preferred to see Corinna. Several years ago, when I was broke and struggling to put food on my table, she called a local charitable organization and arranged to have them pay for my eye exam, three months of contact lenses and a new pair of glasses.

Since my previous pair was more than ten years old, and my prescription typically results in glasses that cost more than $300, the glasses alone were a huge gift. Throw in the exam and the contact lenses, and I was ecstatic.

I’ve been seeing this eye doctor for at least eight years now, and when I mentioned to him how sorry I was Corinna had left, he, too, grimaced a little, and said, “She was embezzling from me for seven or eight months. I had to fire her.”

He went on to tell me how his attorney relayed four or five more similar stories from other doctors in the area. In my doctor’s case, he chose not to prosecute, since Corinna agreed to pay him back in full, and he didn’t want her children to see her in jail. His wife was ready to throw her behind bars and lose the key, but the long-term relationship, while destroyed, meant something to him.

I learned about this shortly after hearing more details of another similar, but more troublesome, story about a woman who’s dating a friend of mine. I wrote about this once before, and I need to be clear that no charges have yet been filed. However, on the local news, they reported she had embezzled 1.1 million dollars of county funds over ten years.

AdobeStock_112894681 [Converted]Of course the question arises, how could this happen? Why didn’t they catch it? The bigger question in my mind is, what was she thinking? She had to understand she’d get caught someday. Her boyfriend’s ex-wife is a good friend of mine, and has told me this woman is in complete denial about what she’s done. She believes she’ll get probation, but not jail time.

This is being investigated by the FBI and IRS as a federal crime, and whether she wants to believe it or not, she is facing years of federal time, which makes me terribly sad, and angry at the same time.

I’ve heard of people who, when facing a financial problem, commit a crime just as a matter of course. That’s how they solve their money woes. For most of us, it’s time to get creative within the bounds of the law and whatever other moral boundaries exist for us.

More than a million dollars over ten years is a lot of money in my world, and I know it was in this woman’s circle as well. She didn’t need that money. She wanted something she wasn’t able to afford, and she sought to hurt others to do it.

I don’t wish prison time on her, but I do wish to see some remorse, some understanding of what she’s done to others in her community.

I don’t know what led her, or Corinna, to steal from their employer. I try to remain empathetic and compassionate. I still like Corinna; she was good to me.

Judge not lest ye be judged. But it’s hard not to judge a little.

*not her real name.

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