The Embezzler Next Door

"It can happen to anybody with all the elements in place -- the opportunities, the pressures, the rationalizations," she said. "And temptation is insidious."

Justin Paperny, a former securities broker convicted of a felony, seconded that sentiment.

"Of course, I knew it was wrong to let my client run a Ponzi scheme," said Paperny, who served 18 months in federal prison after being convicted of securities fraud and was released eight months ago.

"But knowing right from wrong wasn't enough. I had this sense of entitlement. I justified my behavior because the commissions were so significant. If you get away with it that first time -- and most people do -- then one lie leads to another. It's an ethical abandonment of responsibility."

Curiously, Paperny found he had a lot in common with the men he met in prison. Like him, many of his fellow convicts had been "raised with opportunity."

"It's normal guys -- it's the junior stockbrokers, it's the accountants, it's the auditors," he said. "We all had big dreams and ambitions. Very few set out to scheme or rob. They're very much like you and me."

###

This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michelle Goodman is a freelance journalist and former cubicle dweller. She is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire," and, "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube." For more information, see Anti9to5Guide.com. Follow her at @anti9to5guide.

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