Justin Paperny (@justinpaperny) was a successful stockbroker who made some bad decisions and wound up serving 18 months in prison for violating securities laws. Now he helps others prepare for time behind bars and after. He’s the author of Lessons from Prison.

What We Discuss with Justin Paperny:

  • What happens when white-collar criminals go to jail.
  • Why otherwise good people might find themselves on the wrong end of the justice system.
  • How someone prepares to do time inside a federal prison — and what they can expect once they leave.
  • How easy it can be for people to rationalize criminal behavior and lose control of their moral compass.
  • Why Justin counts his 18 months behind bars as one of the best experiences of his life.
  • And much more…

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Lessons from Prison by Justin M. PapernyIn the sage words of Mr. Sammy Davis, Jr., “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.” And while innocent people are sometimes wrongfully convicted and sent to prison, this wasn’t the case for Justin Paperny, author of Lessons from Prison — he did the crime, he did the time, and he survived in spite of going into it with no real concept of adversity.

In this episode we’ll talk to Justin about what led to his fall from a career as a successful stockbroker to a penitent felon who served 18 months in federal prison. Now, he’s a defense consultant who specializes in preparing white collar criminals for their own prison sentences, and he’ll share his own experiences behind bars and what sobering reality was like when he emerged from the system. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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Justin Paperny was riding high as a successful stockbroker until, at age 32, he pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud, and securities fraud. And while “mail fraud” might sound like something clowny, Justin assures us its consequences were no laughing matter.

“I wish it was something clowny that didn’t lead to federal prison!” says Justin. “Mail fraud, essentially in my case, was I had a client when I was a stockbroker who was creating fake documents and sending them in the mail. So by placing it in the mail, putting a postal stamp on there, having it being a deceptive document, that was mail fraud.”

Now that he’s 44, does Justin look back on this time as youthful indiscretion he’d never repeat as an older, wiser, and better version of himself? To some degree. But the way he responded at the time was the result of something with which the average person might find difficult to sympathize: Like many of the white collar clients for whom he consults today, Justin was the victim of his own success.

“I was 28 when I was breaking the law,” says Justin. “And you’ll find in my case there were two Justin Papernys. There was the one who graduated USC, was very successful as a young stockbroker, raised a lot of money, did well by my clients, was professional, could close deals against five or eight other brokers and win the business. Then, when I caught my case — to use prison vernacular — I suddenly became this little boy. I had been punched in the gut or the face and I didn’t know how to respond or compute to this adversity.

“So part of the problem was I had never had any adversity or setbacks in my life. I have said I was this privileged, coddled kid who grew up in the Valley with all the breaks and doted after from my parents and my coaches and I was a baseball player. Things came easily. No setbacks in my life. So suddenly when this setback came, unlike others who might have endured some real adversity in their life and learned to overcome them, my character trait at the time was to deflect, to dodge, to lie, to pretend this wasn’t happening.

“So that’s where I was at 32, despite the success I had had, I suddenly felt like a little boy at times, wanting to run into a corner, unsure how to respond to this. And as a result of not knowing how to respond, I made matters measurably worse. I lied to my lawyers. I lied to the FBI. I delayed the healing that should have begun much sooner. So I don’t know if there’s any time to go to prison — whether it’s 28, 32, or 92 — but the reality was, as a result of my upbringing and my success that I had had, I was unprepared to respond to these setbacks. It’s not unlike many of the clients with whom we work who have had nothing but success.”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Justin got through 18 months of federal prison in spite of having no template to prepare him ahead of time, what life was like for him once his time was served and he was free to return to life on the outside, how he helps others in similar situations prepare for their own time behind bars, what life is really like on the inside, and much more.


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