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Chuck Gallagher is the Chief Operating Officer at American Funeral Financial and Founder and CEO at Ethics Resource Group. He’s the author of “SECOND CHANCES: Transforming Adversity into Opportunity.”
Chuck is a Prostate Cancer Survivor. He discusses the emotional journey from diagnosis to treatment and what happens after the treatment is over and how the side effects changed his life. The topic then shifts to politics as Chuck discusses whether the government shutdown was ethical.
Find out more about Chuck Gallagher at www.ChuckGallagher.com.
Narrator: Speakers, publishers, consultants, coaches, and info marketers unite. The speaking of wealth show is your road map to success and significance. Learn the latest tools, technologies and tactics to get more bookings, sell more products and attract more clients. If you’re looking to increase your direct response sales, create a big time personal brand, and become the go to guru, the speaking of wealth show is for you. Here is your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to today’s show. This is Jason Hartman, your host. And as you may or may not know, every tenth show we kind of do a special tradition here that originated with my Creating Wealth show where we do a topic that is kind of off topic on purpose. Something just to do with general life and more successful living. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today with our special guest. Again, tenth show is off topic and it is very much intentional just for personal enrichment and I hope you enjoy today’s show. And we will be back with our guest in just a moment.
It’s my pleasure to welcome Chuck Gallagher to the show. He is the chief operating officer at American funeral financial. The founder and CEO of Ethics Resource Group and author of Second Chances, transforming adversity into opportunity. Chuck welcome, how are you?
Chuck Gallagher: Oh I am doing great and it’s a pleasure to be on. Thank you so much.
Jason Hartman: Well the pleasure is all ours. Tell us about second chances and I guess the inspiration was the business you had going and how it turned into a Ponzi and then prison and then a comeback after that? Was that where it all started?
Chuck Gallagher: Sure, absolutely. In fact probably the easiest way to put it was, back in the 80s, and for some of your listeners that might have been before they were born, but back in the 80s I was tax partner in a CPA firm. I had testified before congress on various acts of the tax law, written articles in national magazines and taught continuing professional education courses in 30 different states. So I had a certain, I guess national reputation in that particular field. And that was all good. And I would say that’s the good side of my career. The unfortunate side was while all that was taking place in my late 20s moving into my early 30s, I also had too much debt. I jokingly say I was over extended and underfunded, but I just owed too much money. And to satisfy that problem, that need that existed, instead of approaching it from a practical approach and certainly an ethical approach, I made the choice to embezzle money from a client’s trust fund. Now I’m going to say this at the time, and I think this is going to be true for a lot of the people who listen to this, I didn’t start off saying oh gee I’m going to go steal money from a client’s trust fund. I certainly characterized it differently. But the reality is that is exactly what I did.
Jason Hartman: And how much money was it? How much did you embezzle?
Chuck Gallagher: Well the initial embezzlement was $2,000.
Jason Hartman: Well $2,000 isn’t exactly a huge amount. I mean it’s not legal, it doesn’t make it okay…
Chuck Gallagher: Well that’s absolutely correct. It’s not, when somebody gets $2,000, you can’t go to prison for getting $2,000, no. but here’s what happens. I took $2,000 because I was behind in my house payment. And as the tax partner at a CPA firm I didn’t want to tell my local banker oh by the way, I really can’t manage my own money. I’ve got way too much debt. I’ve got a problem here in January that I can’t really rectify until the end of April when we get our big bonus after tax season. So I did what was wrong but seemed logical at the time. I “borrowed”, stole. But I borrowed money from a client’s trust fund. I paid the house payment, got my act together, and at the end of tax season I paid it back. At the end of April, first of May, I paid it back.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so let me just understand. When you say a client’s trust fund, I mean you were a practicing CPA, so do you mean the amount that a client would deposit as their retainer?
Chuck Gallagher: No. what I mean is a client had a trust fund; An educational trust for their children. And I was managing that trust fund. So three things came together that creates the perfect storm. Need, I had a need. I needed $2,000. Opportunity. I was the trustee of the trust, so I had access. And rationalization, in my mind I didn’t say hell, I’m going to go steal some money from this client’s trust fund to solve my problem. I rationalized I was borrowing that money and I would pay it back with interest. So the process, I don’t care what it is, it could be cheating on your spouse, it’s the same. There’s some need, there is an opportunity, and somehow you rationalize it. And when you put those three things together, it creates the perfect storm.
Jason Hartman: And that’s the perfect storm. So tell us what happened after that. I mean I don’t want to spend too much time on this, I want to get on with the lessons learned, which we will, but just to have the listeners understand the story a little bit.
Chuck Gallagher: Well, not a problem. So first thing, I paid it back. And I did it again, and I paid it back. And I found out it was easy. And so I continued. Now, how did it get caught? It’s like a kid being on one of those old timey merry-go-rounds that all the kids run around and push. And if you’re on the merry-go-round, and you’re the kid pushing, you’ll try to push that thing as hard as you can hoping that somebody, the centrifugal force is going to make them fall off. And it’s fun.
Well, the centrifugal force of anything you do that is fraudulent ultimately means you will be caught. And in my case, it was very simple. A client that I had stolen money from had a change of circumstance and needed the money paid back quickly. And I had no access to being able to manage that problem. By the way, same thing that happened to Bernie Madoff in 2008. When the money dried up and he needed to pay people off, he no longer had access to money and when he no longer had access to it, the Ponzi scheme collapsed. And the same is true with me. Now his was in the billions, mine was $250,000, but the effect and the application are exactly the same.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so what happened then? Did you go to your clients where you were “borrowing” this money and did you come clean and tell them? Did the authorities find out? Did they say hey, where’s my money? And you couldn’t explain it, did you leave town? I mean what happened?
Chuck Gallagher: All good possibilities. The answer is number one. Once it collapsed, the best thing I could do would be go to my clients and tell them here’s what I’ve done. And it was a shock to my partners, it was a shock to the clients who trusted me, and it was a shock to my wife and my family.
Jason Hartman: So you did do that, you admitted huh?
Chuck Gallagher: I admitted it and with the help of family and friends I made restitution. And paid everyone back. Not that by the way, that made it right. It just meant they didn’t financially lose. They certainly [0:07:50.1] but they didn’t financially lose. But the bottom line to it was, regardless of what I did, I lost my license as a CPA, I lost my job obviously, I lost all of the financial possessions that I had, I mean fundamentally all I had was the clothes on my back, which could have been given to Good Will. So there really was nothing left. And the local district attorney knowing that I had lost all of that, and made restitution, did not wish to prosecute. But the federal government did because they knew that I was a national figure in my arena and because in the United States we’re under a system of voluntary compliance, if you don’t voluntarily comply and you do something wrong, there should be a consequence and my consequence was federal prison.
Jason Hartman: And so it was $250,000 that was the highest amount, right? Or at least the amount that was lost when the jig was up. And how long did you go to prison?
Chuck Gallagher: I was sentenced to 18 months active and 3 years’ probation. So I entered on October 2, 1995, and was ultimately freed from prison the early part of January 2007.
Jason Hartman: So just before we move on, because 30 seconds on, tell us what it was like in prison. Did you go to club fed as the call it or was it pretty tough?
Chuck Gallagher: Well it was kind of funny; everybody says did you go to club fed? It is fed, it wasn’t exactly a club, and most people should maybe try to experience it but it was a minimum security facility and the best way to put it was prison sucks. I had a job; everybody has a job in prison. My job was to clean toilets and urinals, urinals with a tooth brush. For that I was paid 12 cents an hour and it was a very humbling experience because fundamentally, well literally and figuratively you are stripped naked and you either will come out jaded or you will come out learning a whole lot about yourself that you would not have otherwise known short of that experience.
Jason Hartman: Wow. Well that’s something. Let’s talk about the book and how people can transform adversity into opportunity.
Chuck Gallagher: Well, in a decade after prison, 2006, early 2007 I was the senior vice president of sales and marketing in a public company. And I kept getting this question, how is that possible? You’re a senior VP at a public company and yet after Sarbanes-Oxley and Enron and WorldCom and all of these famous collapses, it just doesn’t make sense that you have this position and you’re a convicted felon. And it occurred to me then that now was the time, a decade later, to write the book Second Chances, transforming adversity into opportunity. Because so many people, and prison is not the purpose of this discussion anyway but so many people are imprisoned by their choices. Whether it’s physical prison like I experienced or mental prison. But so many people are imprisoned by their choices and the question becomes wait a minute, how do I get off the merry-go-round, and make a different set of choices that can transform this adversity that I’m experiencing into some sort of positive or some opportunity. And that was the motivation behind writing the book.
Jason Hartman: Okay. So that was quite a bit later. Now how did people know that you were a convicted felon? I mean obviously they knew you were working for this public company and you were, what was your position with them?
Chuck Gallagher: I was the senior VP of sales and marketing.
Jason Hartman: Okay, senior VP of sales and marketing, publicly traded company. People kept asking how did a felon get that job after Sarbanes-Oxley, Enron, all of this stuff, the microscope theoretically. On financial corporate governments, but we’ll skip that one because that’s a joke. But how did they know you had done time?
Chuck Gallagher: Well here’s the answer to the question, it’s really simple. I was open about it. I was very transparent.
Jason Hartman: You told everyone.
Chuck Gallagher: And here’s the thing and this is very important for the listeners. A lot of people will call me and say well how do I find my second chance? Well the first thing is be 100% responsible for your contribution to where you are today. And don’t hide it. Because there are way too many people in this country that if you try to sweep it under the rug or stick it in the closet or pretend like it didn’t happen, you can bank on the fact they’re going to uncover it, discover it, put the bullet in the gun and use it to shoot you. So out yourself.
Jason Hartman: Well, good point. I agree. Well that’s a technique a lot of politicians use, not to give them any credit, but they do it proactively and maybe that’s a better idea is to out yourself as you put it. So okay well, let’s talk about turning adversity into opportunity. I mean your story is incredible, it’s very inspiring and obviously you came back from it, and you’re making real contributions to the world and so I mean that’s fantastic. But what are some of the other ways that other people can use this?
Chuck Gallagher: Well I think one of the things, and maybe there are three real simple ones to look at. Number one, accept responsibility. I have way too many people that will call me, and typically these calls will come once every week, maybe every two weeks, but someone will call and say gosh I just got released from prison, I’m trying to get a start, what do I do? And I can’t get a job doing what I did. Well, one, except responsibility. You were somehow in some way a contributor to where you are. You’re not a victim. Plenty of people want to hang on to the victim mentality. You can be a victor or you can be a victim but if you hang on to victim mentality, you’re going to have a real hard time being a victor. But once you accept responsibility the second thing that I will typically tell people is do what other people are unwilling to do.
I started off when I got out of prison selling cemetery property door to door. Now, that’s not a sexy job. To knock on somebody’s door and say you’re going to die someday, have you got a good place to put your dead body? I’d like to come in and talk to you about it. You get a lot of doors slammed in your face. But the reality is, it was something that most people didn’t want to do and I was willing to do whatever needed to be done to get that second chance. And sometimes we need to be willing to do that.
Jason Hartman: Absolutely, I mean I remember Denis Waitley when I was 17 years old, I used to hear him say that on the tapes. Successful people are willing to do the things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. And notice he says willing, not able. It’s not a question of ability; it’s a question of willingness. So yeah, very good points. But it sounds cliché nowadays to say take responsibility for you actions, I mean obviously, but why is that so hard for people to get their head around? It’s just we live in this world where victimhood is rewarded, isn’t it?
Chuck Gallagher: Well the unfortunate answer to that is yeah. We really do. And so if you look at society just in general, and you see that well gosh, victimhood is rewarded. If I fail in some form or fashion then I’m going to get some hand out or whatever it happens to be. Well okay great so I got the hand out. But I’m not able to transform my life. So it becomes incredibly difficult, it really is very hard, for a person to step up and I say in a very public environment, and accept responsibility. I have to honestly say to people, I didn’t borrow money. I was a liar and a thief. That’s the truth.
Jason Hartman: Why does that allow you to move forward and succeed though? Is it because it just sort of takes this weight off your shoulders to just kind of come clean and admit it and then you can move on, whereas if people don’t accept responsibility they…well I mean I’m trying to get to the mechanics of that. What is it about the human psyche that victimhood does not allow you to be a victor as you said? And I agree with you, I’m just wondering why that’s true.
Chuck Gallagher: Well part of it is trust. I have to be very candid; I broke trust in a multitude of ways. With my wife, with my family, with my clients, with my partners, I broke trust. And most significant relationships are built on trust. So if I’m going to regain trust, I have to demonstrate that I in every occasion am a trustworthy person. And so admitting I’m a liar and a thief or I have been a liar and a thief, and admitting openly I’m a convicted felon and here’s what’s taken place allows people at least to understand this, if he’s willing to out himself, he may be worth listening to and therefore he may be trust worthy. And if I’m going to create an opportunity I have to be trustworthy. If I’m not, there will be no opportunity.
Jason Hartman: Very interesting. What other lessons?
Chuck Gallagher: Well, the thing when you look at the issue of trust, when you look at the issue of accepting responsibility, when you look at the issue of doing what other people are unwilling to do, I would say with the limited amount of time that we have, one of the last ones is be the best at whatever it is that you do. People will reward outstanding performance.
So, as a cemetery door to door sales person, I became their number one sales person. And what happened because of that, choice has consequences, is they said well gosh you’re the number one sales person, can you teach others to do this? I said I believe I can. I was promoted to manager. The location became a top performing location. I was then asked well can you teach other locations to do what you’re doing? I said I believe I could. And then I was given responsibility for two states, and by the time 2006/7 rolled around, I was the senior VP of sales and marketing, responsible for 125 people and 40 million dollars’ worth of sales records. So, I chose to be the best at it, I didn’t look at it and say boy this is really gnarly. I’ve got a masters in science and accounting and I can’t do accounting because people won’t hire me for that because of what I did in breaking trust. And now I’m selling cemetery property. The question is can I be the best at whatever I’m cast to do? And if you are, opportunities will come your way.
Jason Hartman: That’s some great points. Give out your website if you would, you’ve got some great information there and I really enjoyed it.
Chuck Gallagher: Well I appreciate it. And the website is ChuckGallagher.com or SecondChancesBook.com and I get people that are looking for their second chance or just need somebody as a sounding board, so I feel like that’s kind of my pay it forward in life, so often people will come to the website and send me a note or reach out and call and I’m happy to talk with folks because again I feel like I’ve been given my second chance and if there’s something I can do to help someone else, that’s my pay it forward.
Jason Hartman: That’s fantastic. That’s a fantastic philosophy Chuck. There’s maybe, if you’ve just got a moment, there are maybe a couple more things I’d like to cover with you quickly. Number one is your prostate cancer situation. You’re a survivor and you overcame that. And that’s when I saw your bio and your second chances title, that’s originally what I thought the book was about. Tell us about the connection there and your experience with that.
Chuck Gallagher: Well, the book, oddly enough, the book has nothing to do with prostate cancer. But sure enough when I was 47 years old quite by accident, although there really are no accidents, but quite by accident I found out that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Not something that I wanted, not an experience that I preferred but by the grace of God that diagnosis came early, and with effective treatment I am today a prostate cancer survivor and certainly an advocate to men to get your PSA tested. That’s a blood test, PSA, prostate specific antigen. But a simple blood test that can help diagnose whether you have prostate cancer or not is incredible with today’s modern technology and with 238 thousand American men being diagnosed with prostate cancer this year, certainly the odds of surviving are great if it’s detected early.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, fantastic point. And then the last question I’d like to ask you about because obviously, given your situation and being a CPA and then afterwards going to work for a public company as we talked about, is what you think of all of these, I mean it’s just like daily Chuck, we hear about Wall St. scandals. And I like to jokingly say, well it’s not a joke or at least there’s a little bit of truth in every joke; like you say there are no accidents. So kind of a similar idea, but Wall St. is like the modern version of organized crime. What are your thoughts about SarbanesOxley and our financial system and will we even see the end to all these scandals?
Chuck Gallagher: Well, I’m going to answer that question kind of in two ways. Number one, anybody is ultimately going to be tempted. And I say tempted if there is a strong enough need, there is temptation. We’re not going to eliminate temptation. You can’t legislate it away, you can’t regulate it away, and you can’t monitor it away. The challenge today that we face is with technology being what it is. You and I talking over vast distances and yet being able to use this for your show. Technology being what it is, things that in the past might not have been noticed or uncovered or discovered today come to light quickly. Now the good part about that is they come to light quickly so they can be dealt with perhaps for efficiently. But the bad side is, well they come to light so quickly that we look at it and say my goodness, look at all this fraud and corruption. Well, in all honestly the fraud and corruption probably has been there. It’s just to go back to, I’m going to use the Kennedy years, not to pick on any particular politician, but we didn’t have the opportunity that we have today.
I was in a conference today and an official from the internal revenue service was there and I had just videotaped my portion right before they came on. And he was very concerned about the video camera being off, turned off and he wanted to make sure, because today anybody could be recorded or taped in some form or fashion and that can be used in ways that people have no intention for it to create problems.
Jason Hartman: Well, I get what you’re saying about it being easier to catch these guys maybe or easier at least to communicate the scandals around the world at the speed of light. I mean, that’s what your point is, right?
Chuck Gallagher: Sure.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so you’re absolutely right and I totally agree. However, as we all know, technology is a two edged sword so the criminals use it too. And you’ll find this interesting, see now we all know what Snapchat is, but just a month ago a lot of people, at least people who were a little bit older probably didn’t know what Snapchat is. But what’s interesting is that these Wall St. crooks are using Snapchat because it blows up their message when they’re doing insider trading and all these scandals. They’re using Snapchat which is commonly thought of as something teenagers use right? And so it works both ways with that stuff, right?
Chuck Gallagher: It really does. And the funny part, I don’t mean ha ha funny, but the odd part about it is if you went back ten or twenty years, those things were being communicated in different ways. It isn’t that we have this mass plethora of people wanting to perpetrate insider trading and they used to be so much better 15 years ago, it’s just today there are different ways and it becomes, media allows things to come to light more quickly. And here’s the thing. Part of the problem we have in terms of why these things take place is because of the need. If we weren’t so quarterly driven on Wall St to try to perform in order to keep the job, in order to make Wall St happy, to keep the stock price where it is, people…
Jason Hartman: Everybody wants to be the big deal during their tenure and that’s so sad about America. It’s the same that’s true in politics. It’s always this short sided thing versus some of the Asian businesses. They have these very, very long legacy business plans. And it’s just a different…I don’t know how that problem will ever be solved. You’re right. I completely agree. It’s terrible.
Chuck Gallagher: Well until someone comes along and decides we don’t need to live quarter to quarter, we sit here and worry about black Friday or cyber Monday, and how much sales volume there is. It’s like really, in the big scheme of things, we should look at longer cycles and trends that are going to take place instead of worrying about what it is from month to month, quarter to quarter. Because that creates an artificial temptation to do something wrong, just to provide a number that meets someone’s expectations.
Jason Hartman: yeah, that’s true. That needs to change. We need to stop rewarding the short term mentality. Because leads to all sorts of dishonest and just wrongful planning if it’s not dishonest, but yeah, that creates all sorts of bad things. Totally true. Chuck, give out your website one more time if you would.
Chuck Gallagher: Again it’s GhuckGallagher.com or for the book, SecondChancesBook.com.
Jason Hartman: Fantastic, well Chuck thanks for joining us today and again the book is Second Chances, transforming adversity into opportunity. And thanks so much for joining us today.
Chuck Gallagher: It’s been my pleasure and honor. Thank you so much.
Narrator: Now you can get Jason’s Creating Wealth in Today’s Economy home study course. All the knowledge and education revealed in a 9 hour day of the Creating Wealth Boot Camp. Created in a home study course for you to dive into at your convenience. For more details go to JasonHartman.com.
Narrator: This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, all rights reserved. For distribution or publication rights, and media interviews, please visit www.HartmanMedia.com or email [email protected] Nothing on this show should be considered personal or professional advice. Please consult an appropriate tax, legal, real estate or business professional for individualized advice. Opinions of guests are their own, and the host is acting on behalf of Platinum Properties Investor Network, Inc. exclusively.
Transcribed by Ralph
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