How A Felony Becomes a Life Sentence

Marcus Aurelius said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man.” Hi, I’m Cedric Lipsey, your fellow human and US citizen. You don’t know me yet, but I want you to and I hope to get to know you as well. I am writing this article/open letter to talk about “second chances.” Are they real?

In the tech world we love to use slogans like fail fast, fail often, and fail forward. These are very cute and encouraging statements. However they often fail to take into account the damages and or repercussions that are often associated with failure, especially depending upon the type of failure. Now add to failure Google’s very powerful and unforgiving search algorithms and a big enough failure or mistake becomes one from which you can never recover. At least, it becomes much more difficult to do so, but more on Google later. While this story is not about failing in tech but more so about failing in character, I believe the pain felt and lessons learned are transferable.

I’ll get right to the point. In my youth I horribly misapplied my ambition as a realtor and found myself serving a 63 month sentence at a federal prison camp for mortgage fraud. Simply put, I was so desperate to change my financial conditions that when the banks became deregulated around 2004, I also foolishly deregulated myself from my lifelong principles of discipline, and integrity. In my shortsightedness, I started selling homes to anyone with a pulse, without considering the financial damage that could come and would come with an inevitable financial downturn.

I caused financial harm to others as well as myself. However, my case was about causing harm to the banks, who by the way, encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, and ironically not at all about the people who were harmed by trusting me. Not to mention that these are the same banks who would later be fined for their roles in causing the financial meltdown of 2007 & 2008, but I digress. The truth is that regardless of their greed and encouragement, I knew better. In cases where I didn’t know better, I should have. The reality is that one should never compromise their own standards for a quick and easy buck regardless of the prevailing zeitgeist.

So there I was and here I am. I’m a guy who has rarely had so much as a few speeding tickets in my life. I’d never been in any trouble with the law, but now stuck with a federal felony for mortgage fraud. I am far from bitter and in fact I am quite inspired. In many ways, prison was a tremendous gift. I served my time in exemplary fashion both during and in the years since my incarceration.

However, in spite of my best attempts to make amends and to be a positive contributing member to my community and society at large, I continue to find my progress thwarted or hindered. In a way, I feel that I’m still serving time as a felony in America is a lifelong sentence. Sure I was released from prison years ago, but a felony tends to follow you throughout life, affecting both job and business prospects. You see, regardless of the man I have become today, I cannot escape Google!

Don’t get me wrong I am not asking for nor expecting pity. I simply want a fair opportunity to recover from my failure and to contribute way more than I took in my desperation and lapse in judgment. I had no idea that a 63 month sentence would become a life sentence. In short, I want my second chance.

Consider this example: My team and I have been hard at work building an incredible fintech company that has tremendous potential to do a lot of good in the world and yet no matter how much someone likes me when they get to know me, and regardless of how much they love what we are building, they simply have to plug my name into Google and suddenly opportunities disappear.

Now, I get that there are very dangerous people in this world with nefarious intentions that are both overt and covert. So I can understand the need for making the public aware of certain things. However, where is the statute of limitations and when is a debt to society actually paid?

I am a peaceful, people-loving guy who made a terrible mistake, that I completely take responsibility for and yet one small window of my life continues to hinder my progress in spite of my glass always half-full mentality. So after reading this I ask you to consider if you think this is fair? However, before you answer I ask you to also consider and compare failures of character that you have had that Google knows nothing about and how might your answer change if they did?

In closing, make no mistake about it, I am not now nor have I ever chosen victim status. I will win and overcome my failures, simply because I have decided to do so! After all, I owe myself and the world the impact and service of my second chance.