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  • 18

    Hate Crime Hoaxes
    Race; Posted on: 2007-04-11 11:51:01 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    "Currently, there is a large minority of Americans who tolerate insurance fraud, and unfortunately, that seems to encourage a few to take the desperate act of staging fake hate crimes."

    From Resisting Defamation

    Hate crime hoaxes are rampant in our society today. They are almost completely unpunished, even though they should be punished similarly to the punishment that would have been given to the hate criminal. The perpetrator of a hate crime hoax, after committing the most egregious ethnic defamation against European Americans that is possible, is given counseling, not a jail sentence.

    The media seem to simply forget about hate crime hoaxes as they are exposed, and never inquire as to whether the next big hate crime story is a hoax. The "victim" is always believed until it has become clear that he or she was simply attempting to defame European Americans, and then the "victim" is forgiven by the dominant media culture.

    Generally speaking, any alleged hate crime that meets these three criteria is almost always a hate crime hoax:

    (1) There is no witness.

    (2) There is a political or academic pay-off in terms of public recognition, pending criminal legislation, or canceled tests.

    (3) The criminal act is limited to writing, whether on the body of the alleged victim or on property.

    There is now such a large number of documented hate crime hoaxes that the best way to learn about them is to go directly to the Yahoo search engine to see its links to 1,020,000 items or to the Google search engine to see its links to 1,950,000 items. These item counts are accurate as of September 2006.

    Here is some Congressional testimony on the subject:

    Testimony of Dennis Jay Executive Director, Coalition Against Insurance Fraud Judiciary Committee U.S. House of Representatives August 4, 1999. Quote:

    "Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify here today. My name is Dennis Jay and I'm the Executive Director of the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. We are a Washington, D.C.-based national alliance of public interest groups, government organizations and private insurance companies who are dedicated to fighting all forms of insurance fraud. We seek to curb fraud through public advocacy, consumer education and research. Our organization takes no position related to federal solutions to curb hate crime."

    "Our purpose here today is to convey one aspect of this problem we see growing, and is likely to affect how communities respond to hate crimes. One of the responsibilities of our organization is to monitor local as well as national trends concerning insurance fraud. Our goal is to spot new or changing criminal behavior so law enforcement and victims can better prepare to counter these economic crimes, or at least be aware of them when they do occur."

    "In late 1997, our national data showed a small but certain rise in the number of arrests and convictions of people who stage hate crimes for the purposes of illegally collecting on insurance policies. These cases involved property damage to homes and cars, either by burning, defacing or damaging them in some other way. During the preceding years, our systems logged few, if any, of these types of cases. We perhaps saw one or two cases a year."

    "In 1998, we started logging one or two faked hate crimes a month. While these numbers still remain very small compared to the total number of reported hate crimes, it was enough for us to develop an initial inquiry into whether these few cases might be the beginning of a trend. From our inquiries to law enforcement and insurance companies, there is some evidence to suggest that many more hate crimes may have been staged by alleged victims for either financial gain through insurance proceeds or to evoke community sympathy. The numbers are not great, but enough to raise concern about whether this crime will grow and what affect it could have on community response to real victims."

    "A few examples from our files: Sandra Benson and Freeman Berry were indicted on charges they defaced their home in Jonesboro, Georgia, with racial slurs and set the house on fire in an attempt to collect more than $300,000 in insurance money for the home and personal property supposedly destroyed in the fire. The couple claimed they were targeted because Benson, a white woman, lived with a black man. The two reportedly received anonymous threatening phone calls, and showed television news crews racial slurs and swastikas painted on a fence and shed in the couple's yard. In reality, the couple stored their possessions prior to the fire. After an investigation, the couple was charged on 23 fraud counts covering several schemes that took place over the years, including another house fire. Benson and Berry pled guilty to fraud and arson charges."

    "DeWayne Byrdsong, a black minister in Coralville, Iowa, claimed his Mercedes-Benz had been spray-painted with racial slurs. When his insurer delayed paying the claim, he contacted everyone from Oprah Winfrey to the local media, charging the delay was racially motivated. However, local body shops reported that Byrdsong had been seeking repainting estimates before the alleged crime occurred. He was found guilty of making a false report to authorities."

    "Matthew Porter of Williamsport, Pa., was found guilty of arson and fraud in an attempt to collect $60,000 in insurance money. During the trial, prosecutors presented documents that Porter, a former federal prison counselor, sent to the wardens of three federal prisons and a local police chief and left at the crime scene, intended to show that the Ku Klux Klan was behind the fire. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors discussed the damage Porter had done to racial relations. He was sentenced to 10 years and three months in prison and ordered to pay $147,000 in restitution."

    "Angela Jackson of Chicago, an art distributor, was indicted in connection with a scheme to make it appear as though racist UPS employees were damaging with racial epithets packages being sent to her that contained art work. She was accused of mailing the packages herself as part of an elaborate scheme in which she also mailed similarly defaced packages to notables such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, his son U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Kweisi Mfume, among others. She also wrote to prominent black Members of Congress, seeking assistance in collecting from UPS, which she claimed damaged the entire African-American community through its actions."

    "In Cooper City, Fla., Jerry and Jamie Roedel were accused of defacing their home with swastikas and other signs of vandalism to cover up a burglary they apparently staged themselves. The crime sparked an anti-hate rally that drew more than 500 people to a local synagogue. The face of Jerry, who is Jewish, was blacked out of family photographs. Jamie filed a $48,000 claim with her insurer and collected $28,000."

    "One reason the arrest and conviction numbers may be suppressed is that both law enforcement and insurance companies generally are hesitant to press cases of fake hate crimes unless the evidence is overwhelming. To falsely accuse a real victim of hate would be the gravest injustice, compounding the hurt and damage already suffered. And no insurance company wants to be on the wrong side of a civil trial decision accusing it of dealing in bad faith with a hate crime victim. Nonetheless, we know from research that our organization and others have conducted that there is a small minority of Americans that seek to take advantage of opportunities such as the growing profile of hate crimes to use as cover to commit insurance fraud."

    "Arson, for example, is a convenient method to score a big insurance settlement for loss of a home or business. The element of hate adds legitimacy to the crime and is an attempt to deflect suspicion from the actual perpetrator. In some cases, the criminal sets the stage for the supposed hate crimes by forging letters or documents purported to be from some hate group or other, in order to have a convenient scapegoat to point to after the crime occurs. The economic damage caused by fake hate crimes is not great, relatively speaking. But the damage to communities that discover that their goodwill and generosity has been betrayed may often be severe."

    "A local case in Maryland illustrates this point. Sonia James of Laurel, Maryland, told police she came home one day to find her kitchen and bathroom flooded, furniture overturned, clothes damaged by bleach, her child's toys broken, and the walls painted with racial slurs telling her to leave the neighborhood. The community, rallying to what local officials called the worst hate crime in their history, contributed food, clothing, toys, another home and $5,000 collected on her behalf. She also received a $14,000 insurance settlement. She tried to point the finger at a neighboring family who had given her, she said, 'hard looks.' In reality, she staged the fraud, including passing out leaflets from a phony hate group just prior to the crime. She pled guilty and was sentenced to nine months in prison and more than $26,000 in restitution. Imagine how the people in her community felt after learning that their goodwill was betrayed. Sylvia Vacchio Chiodaroli, one of James's neighbors, told the Baltimore Sun that the incident destroyed many residents' sense of trust and community. 'It really makes me angry,' she said. 'It caused tension. People were pulled against each other.'"

    "Imagine still how these same people will respond when a real hate crime next occurs in their community. These fake crimes tear at the fabric of communities, casting doubt upon whether crimes are real or not, giving people one more reason not to get involved in lending a hand to a neighbor in trouble. As a society we need to deter this type of crime as much as possible for the sake of all real victims. But before we can work to deter the crime, we must recognize the hard fact that people will take advantage of others in this fashion. It's hard to admit that this sort of thing goes on in our society; it rightfully sickens many people just to think that someone could fake a hate crime. Yet if we don't admit that it happens, we won't be in a position to learn the signs and take the steps necessary to investigate this crime. Yes, it's a sensitive area, and one that must be handled accordingly. But if we're to have any hope of maintaining our trust in one another, honest people must step forward and deal with truth, and seek solutions to deter this crime."

    "Effective deterrence includes thorough investigation by law enforcement and insurance companies to uncover any evidence that a hate crime might be staged. Insurance companies also should be encouraged to cooperate fully with law enforcement when they have a suspicious case. While hate crime victims should always be given the benefit of the doubt, insurers need to be ever vigilant to scam artists who prey upon the insurance system for financial gain. Public education also is a key to reinforce deterrence. These people need to understand that if they commit this crime, there's a good chance they will get caught. And if they get caught, they will be punished severely. Currently, there is a large minority of Americans who tolerate insurance fraud, and unfortunately, that seems to encourage a few to take the desperate act of staging fake hate crimes."

    News Source: ResistingDefamation.org

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