It was back in a minimum security prison camp in Schuylkill County, Pa., where Jimmy Tayoun figured out that white-collar guys like him -- politicians, lawyers, accountants and doctors -- don't have a clue about prison life.
They need him.
"I was sitting outside there one day and this guy who's getting ready to surrender comes out of the car in a fur coat," Tayoun, a former Philadelphia city councilman, recalled. "I start shouting at him, Leave the fur coat. Leave the fur coat.' They were just going to take it. But the guy didn't have any idea."
Tayoun, who sounds like some guy named Lenny who swears he is selling you a genuine Rolex, spent 40 months in prison for racketeering, mail fraud, tax evasion and obstruction of justice for essentially paying $30,000 in bribes to his predecessor and then accepting bribes himself. When he found out the FBI and IRS were on to him, he told a former business associate to lie to a federal grand jury for him.
"Everything he touched turned into a scam of one kind or the other," federal prosecutor David Howard told the judge at Tayoun's 1991 sentencing.
Tayoun, 65, now is back in business as a $100-an-hour prison consultant, this time with clients who have been referred by the very man who sent him away.
Operating under the name Tayoun Associates, the same organization he once used to filter bribes, Tayoun, whom Howard still calls "the ultimate operator," has created a business advising white-collar criminals about what to expect when they get to the joint. Howard said Tayoun has repaid his debt to society and so the prosecutor doesn't see anything wrong with his new entrepreneurial pursuit.
Melvin Slawik, a former Delaware state senator who spent 14 months in prison for attempted bribery, said despite the common perception that white-collar prison camps are Club Meds with iron bars, prison is a tough place for professionals who are used to living the good life.
He offers this proof: Although Sla\wik made repeated attempts to see a dentist in a federal prison camp, he said he never got the chance. The medical care was nonexistent. And Thursday night television? Forget it.
"You watch what the majority wants to watch," he said. "People see federal prisons as golf courses, but it's a lot tougher. It's extremely boring."
But if people such as Slawik are expecting sympathy from the victims of white-collar crimes who have been defrauded out of billions of dollars a year, they can forget it.
"A couple of years in prison, whether it's a relatively decent prison or a hell hole, doesn't begin to address the harm these white-collar criminals have done," said Barry Krisberg, president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
C. Daniel Clemente, a Northern Virginia real-estate lawyer who was the trustee for 400 investors who lost $40 million through a real estate Ponzi scheme conducted by convicted swindler Paul J. Myers, said few of the victims felt vindicated when Myers was sent to a work camp for five years.
"Some of the victims of Myers had their whole lives destroyed. They were as devastated as if somebody in their family had been raped or murdered," Clemente said. "These people wanted to see Myers . . . put in a prison where he would do hard time."
With his time at Schuylkill, Tayoun began writing a book, "Going to Prison," a practical guide that reads like a summer camp manual and answers the most basic questions prisoners might have: Can you bring in one or two pairs of handball gloves? (One pair, Tayoun said.) Is there a dentist who does bridge work? (See your own dentist before you get there, he advised.) What about, well, you know, sex? (Stay celibate and don't try to make it with the guards, Tayoun said.) And rape?
"Most people who you'd call white-collar criminals are fearful of being assaulted because you hear so much about violence and forced sex," said James Gondles, executive director of the American Correctional Association. "It's their biggest fear."
But it's an unfounded one at the prisons where professionals are sent, according to Delaware's Slawik.
Still, the men need reassurance, which Tayoun, a former big man in the Big House, can give them.
Larry Alcala of Chico, Calif., bought Tayoun's book for his brother, Terrence Alcala, who is serving time for a parole violation. "My brother said it really helped him understand what was going on," Larry Alcala said.
"When you know you are going away, your mind is just boggled and confused," said Buddy Cianfrani, a former Pennsylvania senator who went to prison for 27 months for fraud. Now he talks from his "office" at Stanley's Coffee Shop in Philadelphia, where he is a "political and business consultant."
"There's the anticipation," he said. "What's it like, taking your freedom away? Are people going to accept you when you come back? What am I going to do with all that time? How's the food? Is it clean?"
Shortly after he was released, Tayoun got a call from a former Philadelphia judge who asked him to come talk to his son-in-law who was going to prison. Tayoun didn't charge him for the house call, but there were others, his probation officer told him, who would pay for the advice.
"A lot of people reach out to me," Tayoun said. "They cry out to me. They just don't understand the system."
Three universities are using the guide for criminal justice courses. In addition to getting income from the sales of books and consultation fees, Tayoun has installed a 900-line where people pay $2.50 a minute to hear his advice.
"I think it's American entrepreneurial capitalism at its best," said Harry Benner, a federal prosecutor in the District. "I think Mr. Jimmy Tayoun is on to something here. Hey, why not?" CAPTION: Jimmy Tayoun, with daughter Adele washing windows outside his south Philadelphia office, charges $100 an hour to provide advice on prison life. CAPTION: Jimmy Tayoun, right, on the steps of his South Philadelphia home with Joe Sinni, an investigator from the city comptroller's office. Tayoun, a former Philadelphia councilman who spent 40 months in prison, has created a business advising white-collar criminals about what to expect when they get to prison. The cost: $100 an hour.