Jeffrey Rollins started sowing seeds for a promising career when he was a very young man. Despite working hard to earn academic credentials and launching businesses that generated millions of dollars in revenues, some bad decisions led to a government investigation. That government investigation escalated into a criminal complaint.
Objective: Government Investigations and White Collar Crime
- This self-directed lesson represents part of the Prison Professors ongoing course series to teach and inspire people in jail and prison.
- This lesson helps readers understand that regardless of where we are today, we can begin sowing seeds to prepare for a brighter future.
- This lesson will help participants develop a vocabulary.
- This lesson will help participants develop critical-thinking skills
- Watch the video that accompanies the lesson.
- Write a definition of each word highlighted in bold and written in italics.
- Use ten of the vocabulary words in a sentence.
- Respond to three of the open-ended questions at the end of the lesson.
Profile of Jeff Rollins
Jeff spoke with us today, revealing the story that led to criminal charges for the white-collar crime of health care fraud.
The concept of business education should include both depth and breadth. Leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos teach us a great deal about what it means to build teams, think big, and provide value to consumers at scale. We also can learn from entrepreneurs that lead smaller firms.
The human condition brings complexities. People make good decisions, and they also make bad decisions. We need to learn from both the good and the bad. Today we’re going to learn from the good decisions and the bad decisions of Jeff Rollins.
Background of Jeff Rollins:
Jeff and I connected as a result of some challenging times that he is going through right now. Later this month, in March of 2021, he will stand in front of a federal judge. Jeff expects the judge to sentence him to federal prison. The big question is how he got here. In truth, any of us can make good decisions one day and bad decisions another day. In Jeff’s story, we learn that regardless of what bad decisions we’ve made in the past, at any time, we can turn the page and start making better decisions.
Jeff grew up with aspirations of living as a law-abiding, contributing citizen. He studied hard as a young man and earned excellent marks in school. When I asked him what kind of student he was, he said he described himself as an average student, earning a 3.5 Grade Point Average (GPA).
We can learn a great deal from someone who describes a 3.5 GPA as being average. If we’re on a pathway to self-improvement, we’ve got to be extremely tolerant of others but very hard on ourselves. Jeff described himself as an average student. Yet, he earned grades that equated to a B+ average. Such a self-assessment suggests that Jeff holds himself to a high standard.
Many participants of the courses our team creates serve time in jails and prisons across America. While being separated from the people they love and the people who love them, they sometimes sense a lack of hope and instruction. We can provide such instruction with stories from people like Jeff Rollins.
In Jeff’s humility, we see an example of a person that does not want to give himself too much credit. Leaders like Jeff prefer to give credit to the teams that they build. People who serve sentences in jails and prisons can learn from this lesson in personal leadership and development. Rather than saying that we’ve arrived or succeeded, we always need to accept that we’re on a journey. That journey requires that we continue to invest in ourselves. Although many people would consider earning a B+ average in school to be the mark of success, as Jeff told his story, we could hear that he saw the GPA he earned as a steppingstone. He wanted to continue investing in his personal development.
People serving time in jails and prisons can take a page out of Jeff’s playbook for success. A person may have earned a GED certificate. Earning high-school equivalency represents a great accomplishment. But it’s not the end game. A person can continue learning and continue developing new skills that will translate into higher success levels going forward.
Following his graduation with a 3.5 grade-point average, Jeff didn’t stop learning. He enrolled in Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. While in college, Jeff studied business, focusing on courses in both marketing and sales. When I asked Jeff about the difference between sales and marketing, he described them as follows:
- Marketing helps prospective consumers became aware of a product.
- Sales convert those prospective consumers into paying customers.
I asked Jeff to help us understand more about the fundamental skills that a person should learn to become skillful in sales and marketing. He told us that a person should invest time to become more skillful with communication and art. To achieve that end, he said that a person had to invest in self-improvement; a person should pursue self-directed learning projects continuously. That means becoming a prolific reader. It also meant working to develop better writing skills, better oral-communication skills. If a person developed reading, writing, and communicating, they would develop skills to speak extemporaneously. A person would grow and develop, positioning himself to bring more value to the business community.
If a person learned to write better and use images to communicate messages more effectively, Jeff said that a criminal background would not be so relevant to job prospects. Business owners do not necessarily consider past bad decisions to be germane to whether a person can bring value to the enterprise. Rather, when business owners chose to hire a marketing team, they want participants on the marketing team to bring results. They may measure results in myriad ways, including:
- Higher sales
- More market awareness
- Improvements incorporate messaging
When I asked Jeff about the types of businesses that could benefit from marketing, he listed the entire gamut, including:
- Landscaping companies
- Plumbing companies
- Painting companies
- Engineering companies
- Technology companies
- Clothing companies
Jeff offers many salient points that should inspire any person in jail or prison. Even though a person is in a bad situation now, that person can start sowing seeds for a better future. If we start planting seeds for a better future today, we may grow an orchard that will feed us for life. Through his story, we learn the importance of visualizing the future we want to create. The more time we pursue self-directed learning pathways, the stronger we become. And the stronger we become, the more lessen our vulnerabilities to the struggle that plagues so many people that go through America’s jail and prison system.
Our nation confines more than 1 million people. Of all those people serving time in jails and prisons, more than 60% suffer through cascading problems after their release. People with a criminal background:
- Have a hard time finding employment.
- Have a higher propensity to further problems with the law.
- Face challenges with personal relationships.
- Struggle with reputational harm in an era of Google.
- Have challenges coordinating financing.
- Face judgment from others.
- May face challenges in the housing market.
- May face challenges in obtaining professional licenses.
These collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can leave a person feeling as if he or she is a marionette. Other people pull strings that influence our future.
One key to a successful life, Jeff advises, is that a person should continue to learn. Neither a B+ average, a GED, a college degree, nor a successful business represents the hallmark of success. He shows us that success is more like an odyssey, with ups and downs. That journey will take us through both peaks and valleys. We do not take too much comfort in the victories. When we go reach the high points, we don’t get too giddy. When we fall into the depths, we muster the strength to pick ourselves back up.
Jeff taught us another valuable lesson on personal accountability. When he enrolled in college, the university expected students to earn an undergraduate degree in four years. Rather than taking the traditional route, Jeff pushed himself harder. By studying at an accelerated pace, he earned his bachelor’s degree in three-and-a-half years, cutting off a full semester of study. I asked Jeff what motivated him to graduate early. He placed a high value on wanting to get to work and start building his career.
In Jeff’s story, we see a portrait of personal accountability. He didn’t allow the university to define success for him. Since he knew that he wanted to build his career as a productive professional, he worked. That means he studied hard to graduate early. By graduating early, he put himself on the trajectory to new goals and opportunities.
What can a person in jail or prison learn from such a story? We can learn many lessons. Like Jeff, any person can advance prospects for success by working harder. A judge may have imposed a sentence. Past bad decisions influenced the sentence. No one can change the past. But any of us can emulate Jeff and work to influence a more productive future.
A judge, a prison warden, or a parole board may determine how long a person remains in jail or prison. Yet every person in jail or prison makes decisions that will influence how the person returns.
- Will the person have stronger critical-thinking skills?
- Will the person be a more effective writer?
- Will the person be more persuasive as a communicator?
- Will the person have more insight into different disciplines?
While going through life, we can use a SWOT analysis to make decisions that influence our:
- Strengths: What steps can we take to make us more valuable in the marketplace?
- Weaknesses: Are we making decisions today that makes us more vulnerable rather than more valuable?
- Opportunities: In what ways are we sowing seeds that will put us on a pathway to success?
- Threats: Where will we encounter threats that could potentially undermine our prospects for success?
Jeff may have signed up for a four-year academic program. His 100% commitment to success influenced his decisions. Jeff successfully navigated the challenges that retard progress for other people in college. Instead, he put himself on a path to graduate early so that he could begin his career. A person in jail or prison can follow Jeff’s example. Rather than complaining about a current predicament, the person can use a SWOT analysis, as with the questions above, to make better decisions. Those better decisions may lead to a better outcome.
After earning his university degree, Jeff continued his path. Rather than trying to get a job, he chose the entrepreneurial. In other words, he understood that he could make decisions that would sink his prospects for success; or he could make decisions that would allow him to swim through the currents of business and create his own success.
By advancing through a process, Jeff built confidence. He built self-esteem. He understood that each of us makes decisions today that will influence what we become tomorrow. Jeff had a passion for the automotive industry. He launched a marketing company that would help NASCAR drivers achieve their goals.
Any person, at any time, could work to follow the guidance that Jeff offered through the time that he spent teaching us. A person could develop stronger communication skills, better artistic skills, and better critical-thinking skills. Such an investment in personal development would lead to more opportunities. We could deploy those resources to help other people achieve their dreams. As Zig Zigler, a famous sales motivator, taught:
- If a person can help others get what they want, the person can get everything he wants.
Like anyone else that wanted to succeed, a NASCAR driver had to pursue a path. That path began as follows:
- Visualize the best possible outcome.
- Document a strategy that would lead to success.
- Put priorities in place.
- Create tools, tactics, and resources.
- Execute the plan every day.
The driver understood that he had to win races. To win races, he needed a fast car. To get a fast car, he would need sponsors that would pay for the car and provide a paycheck for him to focus on his talent. To find sponsors, the driver would need a marketer.
Jeff relied upon the communication skills he developed to promote drivers that hired him. Those drivers would rely upon Jeff to write press releases. They expected him to contemplate strategies that would extoll the driver’s talents and show why he represented a good investment for a sponsor.
If Jeff had not taken the initial steps to learn how to communicate effectively and to think critically, he would not have been a successful marketer. Yet, as a result of the seeds he started to sow in personal development, he overcame colossal hurdles.
Imagine the difficulty of finding a sponsor for a racecar driver. Before a NASCAR driver could win races, he would need to:
- Purchase a vehicle that likely cost more than $100,000
- Hire a team of people that would need to get a weekly paycheck
- Pay for insurance
- Pay track fees
- Earn money to support the driver’s family.
Sponsors would have to invest money before the driver won any races. The marketing person would have to persuade those sponsors to part with money before the driver had proven himself as a winner.
Jeff’s success as a marketer opened new opportunities. By continuing to invest in himself, he chose to launch a new business in the finance sector. Jeff played a leadership role in launching a company that would perform tax accounting and wealth management for clients. Again, he had to rely upon communication skills to grow those opportunities. Then, he went through additional personal development courses to acquire the licenses necessary to serve as a fiduciary for clients. Those licenses allowed him to manage investment capital for other people. In other words, those people would pay Jeff money to help them make more money.
Again, from Jeff, we learn a great deal. When we invest in our personal development, other people place a higher value on us. In a relatively short period of time, Jeff says that people trusted him with more than $10 million—and they tasked him with investing their capital in ways that would generate a higher Return on Investment (ROI).
From Jeff’s story, we learn that the more we invest in ourselves, the more opportunities we open.
From Tax Preparer to Healthcare Fraud:
Although Jeff did not have an accounting degree, he developed more insight into business opportunities by hiring licensed accountants. Pharmacies, he saw, offered a potentially lucrative opportunity. He did not have a background in healthcare or biological sciences. Yet, by partnering with others, he understood that he could participate in the growing business of owning a compound pharmacy.
One entrepreneur described an entrepreneur as being the only job that requires 80 hours of work per week to avoid taking a 40-hour per week job. Jeff welcomed the challenge. Through commitment, he built a pharmacy. The business grew from a startup to more than $10 million in annual revenues. He created scores of jobs. Although he could not write prescriptions, he had partners that worked as pharmacists. He worked to help build market awareness, stock the store, hire employees, and expand market share by getting the necessary licenses to dispense medication in 48 states.
Government Investigation and White Collar Crime:
All went well for several years. Then, the business received a shot across the bow. FBI Agents visited his store in 2015. Somehow, his business aroused the interest of a government investigation. That investigation resulted in the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. He spent millions of dollars on civil attorneys to represent him. Although he hoped the problem would go away, it persisted.
While government investigators worked surreptitiously behind the scenes, Jeff went on to build a plethora of other businesses. He wanted to provide for his family and to live as a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen. As the months turned into years, Jeff deluded himself with hopes that the government had lost interest in the pharmacy investigation.
Then, in the fall of 2020, Jeff learned that the civil investigation was about to turn into a criminal case. Through counsel, he learned that the government wanted him to sit for a reverse proffer. In other words, they invited them to come to a meeting. Jeff would not be allowed to say anything. Instead, he had to watch and listen.
While sitting in a conference room, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, together with an FBI agent and other government officials, made a compelling presentation. For several hours, the prosecutor worked methodically through a series of visual slides. The slides told the story of how the prosecutor intended to build a criminal case. That case would expose Jeff to numerous charges for white-collar crimes. Some of those crimes could include:
- Wire fraud
- Mail fraud
- Health care fraud
- Money laundering
For white-collar crimes, like all federal crimes, the federal sentencing guidelines and loss amount influence sentence lengths.
If taken cumulatively, the white-collar crimes could expose Jeff to multiple decades in prison. On the other hand, he could accept a plea agreement. If he agreed to accept full responsibility for his crime, he would spare the government the expense of preparing for trial. In exchange, the prosecutor would charge Jeff with a single count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.
Wanting to move on with his life, Jeff agreed to the plea agreement. Although he doesn’t know what sentence the judge will impose, he has taken proactive steps to prepare. Those steps included:
- Writing a personal story that would humanize Jeff.
- Through his story, he would help the judge understand more about the influences that led to his troubles with the law.
- Jeff did his best to show what he learned from the experience.
- He created resources to show the steps he was taking to make things right with his crime victims.
- He showed how he would sow seeds to reconcile with society and begin working to resume his life as a law-abiding, contributing citizen.
Open-ended Questions for You to Consider:
- What does Jeff’s life story tell us about the values that define his life?
- In what ways does Jeff’s life resemble your life?
- What goals would you say Jeff set along his pathway to success?
- How did the goals Jeff set relate to the way that he defined success?
- What would you say about Jeff’s commitment to success?
- In what ways is Jeff now preparing for the future?
- What incremental action steps influenced Jeff’s prospects for success?
- How would you say that Jeff held himself accountable?
- What does this story reveal about Jeff’s effort to stay aware of opportunities?
- What seeds did Jeff plant to make others in the world aware of the value he could provide?
- How does Jeff’s life story show that he lives authentically?
- In what ways does Jeff show us that he is determined to make amends?