Archive for the ‘Handbook’ Category

A Handbook For Criminals: Conversations With The Devil

May 24, 2006

From time to time, the Devil comes to consult with me on various schemes involving avarice, perfidy, treachery and the like. Serving as his advocate is hard work. But word has gotten around, and I am getting lots of calls these days. Mainly from common people who are bored with their humdrum lives. Lives involving lots of responsibilities, but with very few real pleasures. Even calling people names is being frowned upon by the civilized world.

If there were ever a unifying theme to their incessant questions, it is this: Could I do more for the world by becoming a criminal?

Counseling them about the realities of a life of crime is unsatisfying. Most people with this dream are like chocolate bars — hard and dark on the outside, but soft, white and pure on the inside. Oh, and emotionally frozen too. Much as I would like to encourage them, I can easily tell that few of them have what it takes to succeed. And thus, I am left with no option but to repel most of them from their dreams. Alas!

In order to reduce demands on my time, I have put together a handbook for the potentially criminally inclined. As you will see, it is in Q&A format, conversationally set as a dialogue between Q, the traditional criminal aspirant (Welcome to all Trekkies!), and A, the traditional advocate's devil.

[A Handbook for Criminals is also available in Adobe Acrobat (*.pdf) format if you want to print it for reading]

Q: I always wanted to be a criminal, but have never found an easy do-it-yourself guide.

A: You have come to the right place. As the advocate to the Devil himself, I am uniquely qualified to teach you. The following is a beginner’s guide in your efforts to educate yourself.

Q: Did I mention that I know how to use Google?

A: You hadn’t. But it is a valuable skill for your career ahead.

Q: What is a crime?

A: Anything that the law says as being.

Q: That is so circular.

A: As is the career of most criminals!

Q: Okay, tell me what does it take to commit a crime?

A: Just two things. Mens Rea and Actus Reus.

Q: Are you a Catholic?

A: No, I am just speaking Latin. But I do take confessions.

Q: I love Latin!

A: Well learn it well before committing a crime, because few prisons have Latin classes anymore.

Q: What do the words mean?

A: Mens Rea means mental intent. Actus Reus means a physical act, supporting the Mens Rea.

Q: How does one commit a crime?

A: This is easy. You just break the law.

Q: But I don’t know the law!

A: This is the great thing about becoming a criminal. You don’t have to know the law. Breaking the law is all that is needed.

Q: I also don’t like the law!

A: Equally easy. You don’t have to like the law. As some people are fond of saying, “Just Do It”.

Q: I do like lawyers though!

A: This is a good thing. Especially for budding criminals.

Q: Are there any benefits to breaking the law?

A: Yes. You sometimes get to live at the state’s expense.

Q: Are these rooms with a view?

A. Yes. Great ambience. Serene, rural settings, yet with lots of bars nearby. And did I mention the company of people who appreciate your outlook and values.

Q: Are you referring to fellow criminals?

A: No. I was referring to the prison guards. Did you know that the American Penal System houses over 2 million people?

Q: Let me do the questioning! Would many of these people be homeless without the munificence of the state?

A: Very likely. But demerits for being a liberal, and worrying about homelessness at inappropriate moments.

Q: Would it help if I adopted a conservative tone and worried about the costs on the state?

A: No, silly. Conservatives are tough on crime. Penal business is good business.

Q: How can I keep America strong?

A: By keeping all parts of the American economy chugging. In good times, crime decreases, negatively impacting the penal business and exacerbating homelessness. This is the reasons both liberals and conservatives are pro-crime. Especially in good times.

Q: But they never say that in public!

A: You should hear them speak on the prison circuit.

Q: How can I hear them speak on the prison circuit?

A: You need to pay attention. You begin by committing a crime. Remember the mantra “You don’t get to do the time, until you first commit the crime". Or start to compete with the Wackenhut Corporation.

Q: Are there any role models for me to follow if I want to make it big after a life of crime?

A: Yes. G. Gordon Liddy. He has his own talk show now.

Q: Okay, I am sold. I want to be a criminal. Where do I start?

A: Right here.

Q: I don’t have to start on the streets?

A: No. That’s so 1.0.

Q: Wow. You guys are really into lingo!

A: Is that a question?

Q: Can I start here on my own computer?

A: Yes. Though you don't have to own it.

Q: Wow! It is a relief that I don’t have to start on a dangerous street or something.

A: Didn’t you say you wanted to ask the questions?

Q: Okay, this is getting exciting! Can I bring some friends along?

A: Yes. Not just because more hands make light work, but also because some crimes are easier to commit with friends. Also most criminals have friends.

Q: I didn’t know that. I had imagined that they were largely loners.

A: Loners make terrible criminals.

Q: You mean they commit gruesome acts?

A: No, I mean they are harder to catch.

Q: Oh! You mean gregarious criminals are easier to catch?

A: Exactly.

Q: Why is this so?

A: Because of their friends.

Q: I am still not getting this.

A: Most crimes are solved with the help of families and friends.

Q: I now understand why liberals are against family values.

A: You got it.

Q: You had mentioned that some crimes are easier to commit with friends.

A: Yes.

Q: Tell me more.

A: They are called conspiracies.

Q: Is it too soon to learn about conspiracies? I mean, I haven’t even committed a crime yet.

A: No. There is no legal requirement that you first become a criminal before entering into a conspiracy.

Q: Hold on. I have to go get some of my egroup friends to listen this exciting possibility.

A: You won’t get anywhere if they only listen.

Q: Meaning?

A: There can be no conspiracy without a common purpose.

Q: Like something really evil?

A: No. Something banal or well meaning could also suffice. Like aiding Tsunami victims. Or Relieving Katrina Victims …

Q: … Of their valuables?

A: Yes.

Q: Wow. Is that all it takes for a conspiracy to arise?

A: No. One also needs an overt act.

Q: Like something not involving a CIA agent?

A: This has nothing to do with national security.

Q: Then what does it mean?

A: An overt act is something that is not a mental act.

Q: Are you calling me a loony?

A: No. I never diss my customers.

Q: This is so hard. I don’t think I will ever be a good criminal.

A: Don’t worry. You don’t have to know it to do it.

Q: That’s easy for you to say. You are a lawyer.

A: True.

Q: Let me get one thing clear. Can I conspire without ever getting up from my computer?

A: Yes.

Q: Do we need to wear beards and toupees while conspiring?

A: No. Women can do it too.

Q: Let’s start then. What if one of my friends wanted to dodge sales tax on some of his purchases?

A: That may or may not be a crime, depending on the amount dodged. Thinking about doing it would not be a crime. Sending someone an e-mail proposing it could be.

Q: Did I mention that I love lawyers?

A: We love criminals too. They pay for our homes in gated communities. And the boundary fencing is deductible.

Q: So how do I make this into a conspiracy?

A: The sales tax would have to be dodged on a purchase related to the common purpose. Acting in concert with someone can make it a conspiracy.

Q: Hmmm. Where is the overt act?

A: It could be anything by anyone else in the conspiracy. Sending money to facilitate the purchase. Winking at your sister-in-law over a videophone as a prearranged signal to do something.

Q: Oh!

A: Yeah!

Q: How does one get out of a conspiracy?

A: You don’t. It’s like the Hotel California – you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

Q: This sounds like a job in San Jose.

A: Yes.

Q: Tell me again. Is there really no exit from a conspiracy, even if we never really commit the final act in our proposed crime?

A: Not after the first overt act has taken place, except in exceptional circumstances.

Q: What are the exceptional circumstances?

A: This is not part of our free advice.

Q: If I am rich, why can't I can just buy everyone's silence?

A: Excellent idea. Professionally, we call it obstruction of justice. The good part is that it ensures an increase in jail time. The bad part is that the people you pay off will be the first ones to blab. So, you kind of waste your money, which is better given to your lawyers anyway.

Q: Why lawyers?

A: You can buy legally buy a lawyer's silence. It is called attorney-client privilege.

Q: What if I was doing all this to help Mother Teresa?

A: It could be the basis for a legal defense, of insanity. (Almost) everyone knows she is dead. And thus beyond the reach of Western Union.

Q: On an unrelated note, can e-mails prove the existence of a conspiracy?

A: Yes. Cops like sitting at computers too.

Q: What if I publicly renounced the proposed illegal acts?

A: This could be a mitigating factor, if done early enough. In certain circumstances, it might prove that one was not part of the conspiracy.

Q: What if I publicly counseled everyone to stop using e-mail for coordinating a tax conspiracy?

A: This is an excellent way to commit two crimes with one act – conspiracy and obstruction of justice, especially if can also indicate that other methods of coordination leave less evidence.

Q: Is there any additional benefit from such efficient criminality?

A: Yes. You get to stay longer at San Quentin.

Q: What if we bundled cash in the US and sent it to India for “charitable purposes”?

A: Did you mean to say charitable purposes or “charitable purposes”?

Q: What is the difference?

A: The quotation marks reduce credibility – like the difference between my wife and my “wife”.

Q: Do you have a “wife”?

A: I “wish”.

Q: Again, what if we bundled cash in the US and sent it to India for charitable purposes?

A: This could be a criminal conspiracy only if you used illegal channels. Extra points for thinking of money laundering.

Q: What if time were short, and no legal routes were available to remit the money quickly?

A: This is an excellent way to become a criminal. Most criminals act in haste.

Q: What’s the difference between a lawyer and a zombie?

A: The zombie once had a life.

Q: So are you saying you don’t have a life?

A: No. Padma said it first.

Q: Who is Padma?

A: She is my “sister”.

Q: Does it help if all of us are named Ramakrishnan?

A: No, it reduces the chances of actual prison time.

Q: Why is that?

A: The jury will get confused by numerous defendants all having the same name.

Q: This never happens with the Smiths.

A: Yes. Or the Wessons. It is an ethnic problem largely confined to South Indians.

Q: What if I am rich or a CEO?

A: They are well suited to a life of crime.

Q: How so?

A: They can afford better lawyers. In addition, they are often visionary individuals, though naysayers occasionally characterize them as delusional.

Q: What if I am rich and a Ramakrishnan?

A: That is like an Ace. Just like a CEO is a King.

Q: What if I am a researcher or a professor?

A: They tend to think too much, and thus make poor criminals. Alas!

Q: You mean they rob the indigent?

A: Yes, but only in university settings. And generally, at legal interest rates.

Q: What if I know Kaavya Vishwanathan?

A: If you aspire to a criminal record, this doesn’t qualify. Though it might get you some attention in the waiting room at Sing Sing.

Q: Poor Girl!

A: You mean poor little rich girl?

Q: What if my name is just Krishnan?

A: It is good enough, especially if it is unique inside the conspiracy. Are you the same Indian kid who used to steal butter at a young age?

Q: What if my name is Bala?

A: It might help to translate that name if you are looking to get into a juvenile facility.

Q: What if my name is Suresh?

A: You’d be uniquely qualified to speak on the question of leadership, given your past experience as the King of the Gods. It would additionally help to have the Pope on speed-dial.

Q: What if my name is Kiron?

A: Cross-dressing is not a crime.

Q: Is it better to have a conspiracy of 5 people of or 50 people?

A: Purely from an economic viewpoint, the bar association prefers the latter.

Q: Why is that?

A: Because each defendant will need 50 lawyers?

Q: 50?

A: 50!

Q: Why?

A: One for the court. And 49 to coordinate with the other defendants’ 49 lawyers.

Q: We can afford that many lawyers. Thank god that our collective net worth is $10-$100 million.

A: Amen. I am looking forward to buying an island in the Caribbean too.

Q: Wouldn’t the government get some of that money in fines!

A: That is what prosecutors think. Going after a large group of wealthy individuals on a conspiracy, money laundering and obstruction of justice charges is like shooting fish in a barrel. You need lawyers to protect you from avaricious government officials.

Q: Who gets paid first? The government, or the lawyers?

A: The lawyers. We craft the rules of who gets to keep what.

Q: Are there any downsides to a life of crime?

A: It is frowned upon by the middle class. Also, you lose most of your money before you get to jail. The only sure fire way to make your money back afterwards is to write a book. And Kaavya’s agent is apparently not taking any more clients.

Q: Uh Uh. This is discouraging! Are there other alternatives if I am bored, middle aged, and find that the fire has gone out of my life.

A: Yes. You can get yourself a nice soft top Mercedes, have an affair with your “wife”, or go to bed with a hot water bottle.