Transcript: Smooth Criminals?

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," March 8, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Some convicted corporate crooks may not be getting away with murder, but they're getting away with millions. Think they are paying up for all their wrongdoing? You might want to think again. Sure, they're slapped with these enormous, hefty fines, but if my next guest is right, white-collar (search) crooks are finding very clever ways to get around paying them. And he wants to stop it right now.

Joining us from Capitol Hill is Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan (search) of North Dakota.

Senator, thank you for joining us.


CAVUTO: How do they avoid paying these things?

DORGAN: Well, it's interesting. I think part of it is because there's no urgency by the folks in the federal government who are trying to collect this federal debt.

Over a six year period, criminal debt — restitution and fines — went from $6 billion uncollected to $25 billion uncollected.

And I just had the Government Accountability Office (search) do another investigation — they finished it just last month. And what they took were five of the criminal debt categories, five individuals, and tracked them. And what they discovered is only 7 percent of the criminal debt was collected.

Now, most of this is restitution for victims. So the victims are the ones that are victimized once again when this isn't collected.

CAVUTO: So how does that work, Senator? Let's say someone has, you know, a $50 million fine. It's money they have to pay, but they can take their sweet time paying it, right?

DORGAN: Well, they get by without paying it in many cases. The five samples that they did for me in this report were people who either were high level executives or people who owned their own businesses and made a lot of money.

And you know, what they discovered is trips to Europe, million dollar homes, taking resources and giving them to their kids to avoid paying restitution to victims. So there's a massive amount of escape going on here by these criminals, who are supposed to be paying into the victims' funds.

CAVUTO: So, in other words they then try to look destitute or that they don't have the money.

DORGAN: Exactly.

CAVUTO: But can't the legal authorities see right through that, that if money is going into a trust fund or something like that? I mean, there's this sort of proviso in divorce cases. There must be the same provided in these corporate cases?

DORGAN: Well, you know, you would think that would be the case, but there's all this effort to go into prosecuting someone. They prosecute them. They're very aggressive.

And then the court orders a fine and a restitution, maybe to the tune of millions and millions of dollars. And then all of a sudden, all this energy stops, because they're off prosecuting somebody else.

And those from whom the court-ordered restitution or fines — in many cases, they simply don't pay and nothing happens to them. It's really unbelievable, because in many cases, these people are living in very big homes, still taking trips to Europe, still living a lavish lifestyle and not paying their debts and their restitution.

CAVUTO: So, what do you want to do?

DORGAN: Well, I want to light a fire under the Justice Department. And this isn't just this administration. It was the last administration, too. And I want to say to them, get busy. There's a roadmap here by the Government Accountability Office of how to do this. Get busy and get it done. And force these criminals to pay their debts.

CAVUTO: Do you know, sir, what the difference is between like when a New York attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, goes after folks and exacts these penalties and fines — how do we track — I know this is not your purview, so I apologize in advance, but how do we track whether that money has been raised and paid?

DORGAN: You know, I don't know the answer to that specifically. All I know is that in two different government accountability investigations of this, what we're finding is that the responsibility for the federal government, with respect to restitution and fines has grown dramatically four-fold, and there seems to be little effort to collect it.

This is unthinkable, that we would not collect this money. And I'm just trying to light a fire, as I said, under the Justice Department to say, go get this money. It's owed, and the victims are the ones who are now being cheated.

CAVUTO: All right. Senator Dorgan, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, trying to rein in what clearly seems to be some corporate abuse going on here with these fines that are never paid.

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