white-collar crimes of passion

Wachovia Executive Embezzled Millions for Love of Tropical Flora

When a man whose salary affords him and his family a perfectly comfortable lifestyle turns to crime, the natural question that arises is: Why? Was this move to the dark side spurred by financial difficulties? Narcissism? Love of a stripper? Pressure to keep up with the Goldmans, as it were? For Wachovia executive Scott Welch, who was recently accused of defrauding his employer of $11.2 million, the answer was a little different. He was driven to crime by one thing: Plants.

Simply said, the man had a passion for exotic plants and lawn ornaments that an above-average six-figure salary would not sate. According to the Charlotte Observer:

Scott Welch loved to landscape. Neighbors say the Welches had new palm trees delivered every year, and county records show there used to be a large lighthouse statue in their backyard. Welch had [local stonemason Delmar] Dove build stone walls, do irrigation work, and even add brick tiling to the doghouse.

He also commissioned a $77,000 log-cabin playhouse for his children. And he might not have stopped there! He might have kept adding birdbaths, koi ponds, and maybe even bougainvillea and hibiscus bushes and assorted other tropical flora— despite the fact that, as indicated by the fact that his palm trees need to be replenished annually when they should have been fine given the proper care, according to North Carolina’s Gary’s Nursery, Welch’s passion was ironically and tragically impeded by a terrible brown thumb — were he not laid off in 2008, at which point the company reviewed his expense forms and discovered he had been billing them for his hobby. What is Welch doing now that he has been caught dirt-handed? Awaiting his fate. Feeling “remorse” and “extreme embarrassment” for the shame his hobby has brought unto his family. Looking for work. And disturbingly:

When not looking for a job, he does extensive work around the yard, including planting new palm trees. Landscaping, said his attorney, is therapeutic.

Or is it?

How a quiet bank executive built a lavish life on stolen money [Charlotte Observer]

Wachovia Executive Embezzled Millions for Love of Tropical Flora