Well, trust The Economist to find something interesting to write about. In last week's edition, it was a novel little consultancy that focuses on helping white collar criminals navigate and survive the prison system.
Talk about niche marketing.
Or maybe not so niche.
Business for Larry Levine of Wall Street Prison Consultants is said to be thriving.
His website is a complete and utter trip, juxtaposing pictures of an exchange floor next to those of prisons. His positioning couldn't be simpler: Specializing in stock and securities fraud Federal sentence reductions. Succinct and to the point.
Levine provides a long (prison) laundry list of crimes you may have been charged with: embezzlement, healthcare fraud, insurance fraud, offshore banking, RICO/racketeering...And he asks a couple of captivating - or pre-captivating - questions: Going from the Exchange floor to the prison yard? And ARE YOU SCARED and CONFUSED?
Hard to imagine anyone heading into prison for the first time, especially us white-collar types, who wouldn't be scared and confused, so this messaging truly speaks to the prospect's heart, no?
Levine - who got into this racket from the inside out, having done time on a couple of different charges - has plenty of business savvy, including productizing and naming his services. As in, "Fedtime 101...a unique "SURVIVAL PROGRAM" on Federal Prison life."
Fedtime 101 - available at the low-low price of $999 - is a "telephone crash course designed to help you get out alive." "Telephone crash course", you might ask. Seems that Larry can't consort with felons or he goes back in the clink. Here's his prison ID, which is kind of scary. Maybe just as well that you do business over the phone. (Actually, he somewhat resembles the Red Sox Kevin Youkilis.)
The syllabus covers topics like how to prevent rape, the do's and don'ts of prison etiquette, how to avoid snitches, how to stay out of the way of gangs, and how to get a lower bunk pass. Hard to imagine anyone looking at trading in the bespoke gray flannel for the orange poly jumpsuit not coming up with the scratch to elect this course. Spend that last $999 before the Fed's get it!
Levine doesn't miss a trick: you can even buy a pack of "Financial Crisis Most Wanted" Playing Cards, featuring Bernie Madoff as the ace of spades, Ben Bernanke as the ace of diamonds, and Dick Fuld as the king of clubs. Only $5.95. And if you promise to tell two friends about the cards, you get 10% off of shipping - so I guess I qualify.
Imagine what Levine could have accomplished in the business world if he'd gone straight to begin with?
One of my favorite parts of this site is a list of happy customer testimonials that would do a B2B tech marketing professional proud. Here's one of them.
When I was sentenced to seventy months I was shocked, my overpriced lawyer who told me I'd get probation dumbfounded, and my wife was panic-stricken. We made phone calls, searched the Internet, and found practically no useful information about the BOP. When I self-surrendered, they put me in with killers, bank robbers, and other violent hardcore felons. As a first-time white-collar inmate doing time for sending a fax...I could of been killed. WhenI got to the BOP and met Levine, the education he gave me about the BOP was priceless. I only wish I could've taken his program before I came in. I can't thank Levine enough for the peace of mind he's given me and my family. I'd recommend his services to anyone.
Daniel Berardi - 28048-112 MAIL FRAUD, WIRE FRAUD - Boston, MA.
Well, I chose Beradi's testimonial because he's from Boston, but I wasn't familiar with his rap sheet, but I was guessing he might have done a bit more than send a fax. I, after all, have sent any number of faxes and I'm not doing time in the Federal pen.
Info is just a google away, and I'm guessing that this is the same Berardi:
Daniel J. Berardi - Principal in Palm Desert-based BBH Resources, an investment arm of MX Factors. Sentenced in 2006 to five years and 10 months in prison for wire fraud and money laundering. Ordered to pay more than $11 million in civil fines and penalties.
This was a relative chump-change Ponzi scheme in which 500 folks were bilked out of $58.5 million. Honestly, Mr. Berardi, are you sure you just sent one teensy-weensy innocent little fax? Not that it really matters. I have on occasion, I'm sure, gotten customers to exaggerate a bit when I worked with them on case study/success stories. It's not exactly a Federal offense. (Source for Berardi fraud info: Article in the Press-Enterprise.)
Personally, I hope to never have to avail myself of Mr. Levine's services, but it is good to know that, if you need them, they're a phone call and a PayPal away.
And I am truly grateful to Larry for one thing. Wall Street Prison Consultants has inspired me to at least consider coming up with a $999 course - DysfunctionalTechTime 101 - in which I could coach folks who are about to begin working at the sorts of squirrelly little tech companies I seemed to specialize in during my full-time career. The course could cover topics like reading the non-public company's financials to determine whether the company actually does have any income; the etiquette and wisdom of asking tough questions at company meetings; tea-leave interpretation - just what those closed doors and that nervous laughter might mean (hint: it's not always lay-offs); how to cope with wishful thinkers.... There is certainly a full and rich list of possible topics. I could even borrow a few from Larry Levine: Dealing with Other Inmates, Avoiding and Spotting Informants, Calculating Release Dates. and Defusing a Confrontation. I do not, however, think I'd have to include Getting a Soft Shoe Permit (whatever that means) or How to Survive a Prison Riot.