OUR OPINION: IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? Combat corruption with tipster fund

June 18th, 2015 7:20 pm

First Posted: 1/30/2014

Would it be a good idea to …

… establish a Crime Stoppers-type fund in Luzerne County targeting white-collar offenders? Offer cash rewards to tipsters who provide information leading to the convictions of bribe-passers, bribe-takers and other scofflaws who resort to public corruption.

Granted, it shouldn’t take any financial incentive for people to do the responsible thing and report alleged wrongdoing; but based on revelations made since the FBI’s 2009 crackdown in this region, it seems certain individuals must have been keeping their lips tightly sealed. Perhaps some still are.

We haven’t taken this idea to law enforcement experts for their review. We want to know what you think.

If commercial real estate developer Robert Mericle’s company improperly passed $25,000 to former state Sen. Raphael Musto, as Musto’s defense lawyers have indicated, it stands to reason that more than two people might have had knowledge of that transaction.

Similarly, when area businesses dangled bribes to illegally secure school contracts, could each deal have been so secretive that only a pair of individuals knew about it? When would-be teachers “bought” jobs from school board members, did only two tango — and, if so, was their dirty exchange beyond the view of everyone else?

Or, as seems plausible, did see-no-evil sorts have a hunch about — or play a role in — these crimes, yet wrongly choose to stay quiet?

An anonymous and much-promoted method for reporting tips might convince the bagman, or the suspicious banker, secretary, accountant, co-worker or confidant, to speak up. And if the tipster was motivated by knowing he, or she, could be rewarded with cash for it later, well, so be it.

If silence, as they say, can be bought, maybe it’s time to up the ante and pay for silence to be broken.

Do you think a reward fund to ferret out white-collar crime in Luzerne County would get the phone ringing and expose some crooks? Could its mere existence serve as a deterrent? Is this idea redundant with other programs? Impractical?

Give us your feedback by sending a letter the editor or posting comments to this editorial at timesleader.com or facebook.com/timesleader.

Likewise, share your ideas for improving the community and making area residents’ lives better. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”