Fisk wasn’t buying it. Neither was I. They were attaching too much importance to the baseball connection. Sure it was unusual that the first example of a theft in the mill that the FBI stumbles upon happens to be on an account of a high-visibility organization, but was it really as unusual as they seemed to believe? It reminded me of the common situation where a person flips the top card on a deck of cards and then claims that a very low probability event has occurred when the card is, say, the Ace of Diamonds. Would the result have been any more atsonishing had it been the Ace of Spades? Or the any other Ace? What about the Joker, the Jack of Diamonds, or the Queen of Spades? Without first declaring which cards we consider “unusual”, it is not meaningful to discuss the liklihood of flipping over an unusual card.
Was it really that surprising that one of the victems of the mill was a sports club? Would we be any less surprised if it were a movie star, a politician, or a religious organization? Or if it had been IBM, Microsoft, or GM?
I don’t normally follow baseball. In fact, the only reason I had even heard about the team Jonny mentioned, was because the shortstop was rather infamous for his off-field exploits. Although an apparent leader on the field, he had been involved in a very public legal battle involving domestic violence and alcaholism. His legal troubles had come to a head when he had been involved in a drunk driving accident. All of this had occurred after I had left MMT and started consulting. Now that I work in a private office I do not have the opportunity to gather around the water cooler and catch up on gossip and current events. Without that casual source of news, I have a tendancy to fall behind. I do not know if the player was suspended from the team or not — at the time there was considerable public debate over that decision. The team itself was going nowhere fast.
Fisk sat staring sternly at this desk. Noboby spoke. Seemingly aware that all eyes were on him, Fisk grunted crossly and continued to stare downward in deep thought. “What about the international connection?” he asked. “Why France?”
Jonny shrugged his shoulders. “Dunno. Probably as good a country as any.”
Fisk wasn’t about to give up that easily. “Maybe the subject is a French citizen. Is this the first international transfer we have uncovered?”
“No,” said Jonny, “but it is the first international theft we have found.” After only a brief pause he added, “It is the first theft of this magnitude too. We have seen other international loans. Not all to France. Some have been to England and Japan. Several were to Germany… A few to Brazil and Argentina… One to Canada…”
“Argentina was the country with the bank that lost $12 million a couple of years ago, right?” Fisk asked. Then, realizing he was getting side-tracked he waved off any reply and instead asked, “France has unusual laws governing privacy and electronic surveillance doesn’t it?”
It was Agnes who provided Fisk with a confirmation. She said that France has no laws against electronic surveillance. In that country, it is perfectly legal to tape a phone conversation without informing the other party that he or she is being taped. Every utterance that is recorded on tape is admissable in court. She turned to me with one corner of her mouth pulled up in the slightest of smirks saying wryly, “If Carl is unhappy with the FBI’s invasions into civil liberties and privacy, he should try living in France.”
It was the first time I had seen Agnes show a sense of humor. Was she softening?
Fisk grunted. “Tell me more about this computer program. Could it be be used to test specific profiles?” he wanted to know.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Well, suppose we want to test a hypothesis that the millwright is motivated by politics rather than financial gain. Could we look for accounts with high volumes of activity yet no net change in balance, where a number of payments are made to political campaign contributions? Or perhaps to a specific charity?”
“I don’t see why not,” I replied, thinking to myself that it would take Rudy no time at all to fulfill such a request.
Fisk was clearly excited now. He reached over his desk and jabbed at the intercom. As soon as his secretary responded Fisk demanded that he get Ms. Lisa Cryer on the speaker-phone immediately. Fisk suggested that the secretary try her work number first. With a wide grin on his face, Fisk turned back to Agnes. “This could turn the case around. Bust it wide open, really. We should use the millwright’s own tools against him.