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Stolen Without A Gun: Confessions from inside history's biggest accounting fraud - the collapse of MCI Worldcom Hardcover – September 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Stolen Without a Gun reads like an Anarchist's Cookbook of Corporate Crime and illustrates well how an international money laundering scheme works (including how to nest embezzled funds in a series of quasi-legal Cayman Island bank accounts) while telling the personal tale of Walter Pavlo, Jr.... The narrative gives an inside perspective of how a business person could get wrangled into a high stakes game of money laundering. --CORPWATCH.com (November 1, 2007)

The book is a terrific read....There is no better training experience than to hear fraudsters describe, in their own words, how and why they committed fraud. Stolen Without a Gun takes a page from that book. --Journal of Accountancy (December 2007 - Recommended Reading of J of A)

About the Author

Walter Pavlo, Jr. oversaw a $2 billion operation at MCI Communications before being caught embezzling $6 million. Since his 2003 prison release, Pavlo has made his living giving cautionary speeches on his crimes and the environment that bred them. His audiences have included the FBI, universities, professional societies and corporations. He has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and on ABC's Nightline. Pavlo holds engineering and MBA degrees. Neil Weinberg is a Senior Editor at Forbes in New York. A fifteen-year veteran of the magazine, he has covered Wall Street, telecom and Asia. Weinberg originally profiled Pavlo's crimes in Forbes after receiving a letter from him in prison. In 2006 he received the Overseas Press Club's annual award for the best business story in a magazine. Weinberg holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature and an MBA.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 285 pages
  • Publisher: Etika Books; First Edition edition (September 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979755808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979755804
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James R. Cannon on October 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Stolen Without a Gun is an insider's look at how, under corporate pressure to show profits and without proper oversight, the temptation to "cook the books" can turn an otherwise hardworking, well-meaning individual to fraud. What's particularly frightening is not only how easily the scheme was executed, but also how close it came to never being discovered. It's also an excellent demonstration of why accounting procedures, as time-consuming and obstructive as they may seem to be at times, are necessary to prevent this sort of thing from happening. I'd recommend this to anyone who works in a high pressure corporate environment.
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Format: Hardcover
Stolen Without a Gun reads like a John Grisham novel, but is a true story. From the first few pages I was hooked and the book was hard to put down. Palvo and Weinberg tell the dark story of corporate corruption in such a way that you feel like you are experiencing some of the seedy events that ultimately brought down an entire industry. This is a fascinating financial thriller. Good intentions, power, corruption, greed, conviction and then redemption. This book has it all.
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Format: Hardcover
Written in crime-novel style, this book shows how petty fraud and felony-class crimes alike bloomed at MCI as executives pushed their underlings to put up numbers that kept Wall Street happy. The depth of detail is startling, and could serve as a textbook for all the different ways public companies can cook the books. Required reading for any investor who's fallen in love with a high-flying stock.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the best book ever written about the telecom bubble of the 1990s by one insider. It shows the mechanisms that propelled a telecommunications carrier into a world of financial fantasy and finally pure fraud. In 1992, when a young engineer, Walter Pavlo was hired by MCI Communications, the company was highly revered as the David who brought down the telecommunications Goliath, AT&T. If one wanted to be where the action was in the new world of communications, MCI was it. The only problem was the department that had hired Pavlo: Financial Services, i.e. accounts receivable, credit and collections. This consisted in collecting bills from long distance carriers and 900 numbers that used MCI network. As it happens, long distance carriers were burgeoning on the fertile left by the AT&T break-up. Companies such as WorldCom appeared on the market and started cutting the prices in order to gain market share, not profits. Actually, profit was the least of their concerns. The idea was to inflate the share value as quickly as possible and to cash in a few millions dollars in stock option to be able to retire young and rich.

900 numbers and long distance cards was a bizarre business. Scores of tiny companies rented a line in a slum and were offering dial-a-porn or dating services to people too poor to afford paying their telephone bill. Prepaid long distance card business was even fishier since cards were sold in small ethnic grocery stores and the money was collected in cash. The temptation was great to sell international minutes to India, say 20¢ a minute, when the price charged by MCI to route the call was billed 80¢ a minute.
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Format: Hardcover
As I read, all I could think is: Seriously? This story is true? I remember MCI as a company that wouldn't return service requests and made some headlines. Apparently the back story involved phone sex companies, thugs with guns, a posh club on the Cayman Islands, and a boatload of crooks. The end is all the more maddening when the truth sinks in. Some enterprising business professor should assign this to their students. It's educational, teaching lessons about managing and investing, but you don't realize it while you're in the throes of the story.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
heard story on radio and bought the book, the first chapter is interesting. the rest of the book too detailed on the financial workings of the telecommunications companies to interest me and too difficult to follow the details. would recommend just reading the first and last chapter, skimming the rest briefly if care about that stuff.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book I give 5 stars without hesitation. The coauthor is an editor at Forbes Magazine, so the book is a well-written page turner.

As already summarized, the book details the adventurous account of a former MCI executive, who willingly gets involved in an embezzlement scheme in the 90s. Eventually, his deeds get exposed, and his life, in many respects (i.e. professional, family, etc.), is ruined. I was impressed by his self-deprecating honesty. He lets the world see his sinful story perhaps as a lesson to be learned from.

Many people with sins in their past (I guess that includes everybody who is totally honest) have probably thought at one point that they NEVER would have done such-and-such had they only known what the consequences were going to be. This book is about such a person.

When I emailed the author complimenting him on the book, I asked him about the restitution he had to pay. He indicated that it's an obligation he'll be paying for many years to come. "It's a bit bigger than a car payment each month and subject to change depending on my income. It is a burden, but it's a lot better than being in prison."
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