Friday, July 30, 2010

Collateral Damage in the War on Big Business

The Star Tribune reports on what it calls “A bizarre extortion tale of the South Pacific”. It is a bizarre story indeed, featuring a naval officer who, with his wife and sister-in-law, admits to extorting money out of his parents and sister.

What makes the story odd is what the perpetrators were able to get their victims to believe:

In January 2005, Richard and Joan Rosetter, a farm couple from Granite Falls, visited San Diego, where their son, David, was stationed with his wife, Fia. While there, they met Fia's sister Tau, who was living with David and Fia Rosetter.

During that time the parents were told that employees of Wal-Mart were conducting surveillance on the family. Why? Because Wal-Mart didn't want to pay a worker's compensation claim to Tau, a former Wal-Mart employee who had broken her foot falling off a ladder.

I suppose this is credible – if Wal-Mart suspected fraud, they could conceivably place an ex-employee under surveillance in hopes of videotaping her jogging or something.

The story would become more sensational nine months later, according to the FBI.

In September 2005, Luann Rosetter received a telephone call from her brother. David told her that Wal-Mart employees wanted to kill him for helping Tau take Wal-Mart to court over her worker's compensation claim. Tau would be on disability for the rest of her life, he said, and Wal-Mart would rather kill her than pay the claim.

Two months later, in November 2005, David and Fia visited Luann's home in Rapid City, S.D. According to the FBI, they convinced Luann that hit men from "Los Burritos" or the "Dreaded Burrito Gang" had been hired to kill the entire family.

Who would possibly believe that a 180 billion dollar company would conclude that it made better business sense to hire the “Dreaded Burrito Gang” to kill multiple people rather than pay a disability claim? Gullible television and movie viewers, that’s who. The story probably rang a bell in the victim’s minds due to the countless movie plots, John Grisham novels, and Law & Order episodes where big businesses do bizarrely evil things to save trivial amounts of money.

According to the Strib story, federal authorities called it, “one of the oddest, made-for-TV-type cases they have ever seen”. Except of course, in the TV version, the evil corporation actually WOULD HAVE hired the Dreaded Burrito Gang to kill everyone.