Teaching white-collar criminals how to serve time is money for these prison coaches who make six-figure salaries helping privileged people learn how to behave behind bars.
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“Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, one of the defendants charged in the college admissions cheating scandal, was sentenced on Friday to 14 days in prison and was ordered to pay a fine of $30,000 for paying $15,000 to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores, a crime she said she committed trying to be a good parent. In addition, the actress will serve one year of probation and perform 250 hours of community service.
The scam called “Operation Varsity Blues,” also caught “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who paid to get her kids’ into prestigious colleges by bribing college officials and messing with test results.
Actress Felicity Huffman arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Prosecutors had recommended Huffman spend a month in prison – down from the four to 10 months they recommended previous – and pay up $20,000 in fines.
Justin Paperny, a California-based federal prison consultant and convicted felon who helps white-collar criminals prepare for serving time behind bars, told FOX Business ahead of sentencing that Huffman could get upwards of 30 days.
Paperny worked as a stockbroker at Bear Stearns and spent 18 months in a federal prison for conspiring to commit fraud. He started White Collar Advice 10 years ago, consulting for rich criminals preparing for a prison sentence charging six figures to do it.
He features lessons like “White Collar 101: Life in Federal Prison” for free on his YouTube channel, and also details lessons he learned firsthand in another video called “The No. 1 Mistake I made in Federal Prison,” which has 18,000 views.
“We try to help them understand the nuances of prison – the dos and don’ts. What to say, what not to say and understand how this will influence the rest of their life,” Paperny, who says he was hired by someone tied to the college admissions scandal, said.
Common questions he fields particularly from A-list clients include: “Will I be exploited for my celebrity?” “What kind of job will I have?” and “Are the showers and bathrooms private?”
The likes of Bernie Madoff, Martha Stewart and reality stars like Teresa Giudice and Abby Lee Miller have all reportedly enlisted prison consultants to help them navigate the justice system.
More recently, Loughlin allegedly called Larry Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants, who served 10 years at nearly a dozen correctional institutions, in July, he told FOX Business. She and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying upwards of $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California. Levine says the woman, who sounded like Loughlin, called for advice about the college scandal and asked about the consequences of not taking a plea deal.
Actress Lori Loughlin arrives at federal court in Boston on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to face charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
“I explained the judicial process to her; how mail fraud works; how bribery works; why the case was Federal. I said, ‘Listen up Aunt Becky, you need to pull your head out of your ass. You should have taken that f—king plea agreement, the very first one they offered you because now they’re going to hammer you,” Levine, who charges anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000 said. “I should have sent her [Loughlin] a bill.”
Unlike Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty on April 15 in court. They could face as much as 40 years each in prison if found guilty on charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services fraud, and money laundering.
Here is the advice prison coaches give white-collar criminals like Huffman and Loughlin about navigating life in prison:
Show humility, and don’t accept any special treatment
Paperny says oftentimes when stars go to prison, guards and inmates may fan girl over them, or show sympathy for their case, but the special treatment can make other inmates serving longer sentences become resentful, and this could cause conflict or even a potential fight.
“I let them know in the beginning they’re going to have other inmates and staff cozy up to them and other inmates are going to hate their guts because they’re rich,” said Levine. If someone starts trouble, Paperny says it’s best not to engage.
“If you are called out in the TV room or someone challenges you, how you respond will really determine the rest of your journey. Some prisoners don’t care if they get into a fight because they’re not looking to improve their reputation. Going to the SHU (Special Housing Unit known as solitary confinement) is nothing to them,” said Paperny.
Avoid drama and show respect
Something as seemingly little as cutting someone on the lunch line could spark hostility from fellow inmates.
“Do not cut in a food line; do not cut in a telephone line; do not reach across a food tray – I saw someone get their fingers broken for doing that,” Levine said.
Don’t talk about your case or complain about your sentence
When asked about what Huffman should do if she does end up spending a month behind bars, Levine advises her to keep quiet.
“I would advise her to keep her mouth shut. Once she gets inside, do not discuss your case,” said Levine adding: “Nobody wants to hear you bitch and moan and wine.”
Be productive and get to work
If Huffman does get a 30 day prison sentence, Levine recommends she make the most of it.
“I would tell her to break up her time and use her time productively. My best friend was a yellow legal pad and a mechanical pencil. She needs to take the time to prepare for her release,” Levine said.
He also stressed the importance of getting a job. Whether it’s cleaning the visiting room, waxing floors or scrubbing the showers, working even the most dismal job can give inmates a sense of purpose, make the days go by faster and even lead to good time that could help shave days off their sentence, Levine says.