Other People's Money
David Whitaker scammed dozens of people out of millions of dollars, using the Internet as his method of choice — until, that is, the feds caught up. That’s when Google got way more than it bargained for.
Illustration by Ian Keltie
When David Whitaker sat down for an interview last February, he’d been a reluctant guest of the Wyatt Detention facility in Central Falls for almost four years...
…Encircled by a chain-link fence and shiny coils of razor-wire, the Wyatt is a cold, brick cube wedged between two rail lines in a forgotten corner of the square-mile city. It’s where criminal defendants languish while their cases plod through federal courts in Boston and Providence. The facility is privately managed, but otherwise it’s like any other lockup. The windows are narrow slits, and at one time inmates could look out and watch ball games in a nearby field; administrators had them covered after folks on the outside complained about flashers.
That explains Whitaker’s zombie pallor. Otherwise the thirty-seven-year-old looks younger than you’d expect of a seasoned scam artist. It’s not hard to imagine he might have just strolled off that ball field and changed into jailhouse khakis, his boyish innocence and sparkly smile still intact.
“I’ve probably been here longer than anyone,” Whitaker tells his visitors. “Most people are here six to eight months while waiting for their trial. It’s not where you’re meant to stay for any length of time. Most of the guys in my unit are here for sex offenses, or because they’re cooperating.”
“Cooperating” is one of his genteel euphemisms. It means “talking to the Man,” and that’s exactly what kept him so long at the Wyatt. Usually such behavior would make an inmate a marked man, a target for every shiv on the cellblock, but Whitaker was too clever to put himself in that kind of jeopardy. When he talked, it wasn’t to give the feds a bank bandit or an embezzler or anyone else who could have faced prison time. When he talked, he served up a multinational corporation: He’s the Google Snitch.
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