In this Feb. 20, 2013 file photo, former Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi leave federal court in Washington. Prosecutors are recommending four years in prison for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., following his guilty plea this year on criminal charges that he engaged in a scheme to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on personal items. The government is also recommending that Jackson be ordered to pay $750,000 in restitution to the campaign, and forfeit $750,000. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 3, along with his wife, Sandra. She pleaded guilty to filing false joint federal income tax returns that knowingly understated the income the couple received. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
by Dion Rabouin
“If one more Black man ends up in the news for flagrantly stealing a stupid amount of money, I’m going to scream,” I thought to myself last week.
And then the story of Jerome Oberlton, former Chief Information Officer of Atlanta Public Schools, allegedly taking thousands of dollars in kickbacks in exchange for defrauding APS of almost $800,000 hit my inbox and, yeah, I screamed.
I don’t write many of these columns about politics and I usually try to stay away from shaming the bruhs, but I couldn’t do it this time. After the stealing scandals from Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Tyrone Brooks and now Oberlton one thing has become painfully obvious: our Black men don’t know how to steal.
Right now, Jackson is looking at spending four years in prison – real prison, not Club Fed – for stealing $750,000 in campaign contributions and spending it on plush accessories like a $43,000 Rolex. His wife, Sandra, even got caught and is now looking at spending 18 months in prison, herself.
Brooks, a longtime civil rights advocate, is in an even more serious situation than Jackson. The leader of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials is staring down the barrel of 30 counts of mail, wire and tax fraud, which altogether carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Oberlton’s charge of conspiracy to defraud APS of $780,000 and accepting kickbacks has him looking at prison for five years and a fine of $250,000.
The problem isn’t that these politicians and public figures are stealing money, that’s what politicians do. The problem, and the reason they are getting caught, is that they’re stealing from the wrong people.
Brooks is charged with stealing from donors like the Coca-Cola Company ($400,000), Georgia Pacific Company ($140,000) and Northside Hospital ($240,000). Jackson is charged with stealing from companies like Terrazzo & Marble Supply, Exelon Corp, a Chicago area power company, and Royal Brush Manufacturing. In short, rich people.
You can’t steal from rich people and get away with it.