Corner Column

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Thirty-three years in this business can leave a person jaded, but I still consider myself a trusting individual who truly tries to see the best in others. The vast majority of people I’ve met in my 65 years have been good and decent at heart. That’s not to say we don’t all have flaws, but the great preponderance of humanity, I believe, is repulsed by evil and wrongdoing.

Still, there are those out there – sometimes lurking in the dark and sometimes in plain sight – who embrace the dark side of human nature.

I remember a story that unfolded in the 1990s out of Lubbock about a pathologist who had been under contract by the county to perform autopsies for justices of the peace and the criminal district attorney’s office. For years the arrangement seemed to work fine until a man noticed on his deceased brother’s autopsy report that his spleen had been weighed, which is standard protocol. Trouble is, the man’s brother had had his spleen removed years ago. A red flag went up. After a number of exhumations, it soon became apparent the good doctor had been billing for autopsies he never performed. Worse yet, he routinely testified in murder trials on behalf of the prosecution, giving “expert” testimony on a victim’s cause of death even though he’d never completed an autopsy. I couldn’t tell you if the defendants were guilty or innocent, but I do know that men were sent to death row based in part on fraudulent testimony.

I can cite other examples of public graft and corruption – it’s more pervasive than you might think, and a free and vigorous press is indispensable to exposing it.

Trickier than public corruption, however, is the kind of unseen crime that hides in the shadows and is practiced by criminals who seek to bilk senior citizens through phone scams. They pose as IRS agents demanding taxes owed or as friends of a loved one who needs money in a hurry. Sometimes fraudsters prey upon people reeling from natural disasters in the form of fly-by-night roofing contractors who take payment but never complete the work. The array of fraud and theft is endless.

Finally, there’s the new wave of new Internet crooks, the hackers and trolls and shysters who steal identities, credit card numbers or any other scrap of digital information they find of value. I recently was hit by an attempted Facebook scam. This one is pretty insidious. You receive in your Messenger account a message from a friend telling you they received another friend request from you. It goes like this: “Hi....I actually got another friend request from you yesterday...which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears...then hit forward and all the people you want to forward to....I had to do the people individually. Good Luck!” Do not do this. It is a fraud.

I guess the point of this screed is to say enjoy and honor your relationships with people you know and love, who you admire and respect. But I remind you to stay vigilant and not fall victim to those who dispensed with honesty and integrity long ago.

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