Helping young people get off to a strong start in life is an admirable thing in most cases, but a man in Washington State took the concept in a crooked direction.
Authorities say he drew teenagers into his life of crime by teaching them how to rob banks. If he came across a promising youngster, he would talk to the juvenile and evaluate his potential. If the youth passed the initial screening process, the mentor would train him in the art of bank robbery.
He even helped his students compose demand notes to be handed to the teller. A sound strategy considering the use of proper English can be a big help in business.
Extra severe punishment
When this crime school robbery ring came to the attention of law enforcement authorities, the teacher was arrested, tried and convicted. The judge made a point of telling him that an extra measure of punishment would be handed down because of his involvement with juveniles.
The students were dealt with in less severe fashion.
Now that the robbery Svengali is safely behind bars, young people can learn their crime lessons in more traditional ways, such as prison mess hall tutorials. A lot of useful information can be picked up between bites of baloney sandwiches and Jell-O.
Plus, if the con in a neighboring cell has some insight into the dying art of safecracking, that knowledge can be shared in late-night conversations or by tapping out coded messages on the cell bars.
Doing it the hard way
Going to prison for an education, however, is doing it the hard way. The hall monitors in the big house carry firearms and nightsticks. And you thought parochial school was tough.
Things were slightly easier in my old neighborhood. There were numerous ex-cons hanging around who were generous with their time and experience. Some of them did, however, require that you buy them a cheap bottle of wine.
Those guys specialized in old school jobs like breaking and entering, armed robbery, shakedowns, street muggings and murder. Nothing fancy. White collar crimes like income tax evasion, computer hacking and Medicare fraud were way out of their league.
Another problem with learning a craft from the old guys on the street: The grammar they used in demand notes and ransom letters ain’t so good.