As a kid, William Jefferson must have hated the game of Hide-N-Seek. We can only surmise, of course, that he wasn't very good at it. What we do know is that, as an adult, he appears to have lost one of the biggest games of Hide-N-Seek ever played. His opponents, the FBI, had no trouble finding $90,000 in marked $100 bills stashed in the congressman's freezer -- after he allegedly told a government informant he had given the cash to a Nigerian official as a bribe for help with an African telecommunications deal.
Maybe Jefferson thought he was being clever -- deep-freezing his cold, hard cash -- but Gambit Weekly readers know better ... as does the FBI. So, in the spirit of asking not what William Jefferson can do for you, but what you can do for William Jefferson, Gambit put the question to its readers: If you were "Dollar Bill," where would you stash $90,000?
The question resonated with our readers.
Some thought Jefferson failed to choose the right kitchen appliance -- why not the microwave instead of the freezer? And don't worry; the money won't blow up if you turn the microwave on. The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing only places a thin plastic strip in the cash, not a metal one.
Maybe he used the wrong refrigerator. Many readers were willing to sacrifice themselves and let Jefferson hide the cash in their fridges. Plus, there's no reason to freeze the money. A refrigerator crisper would be just as effective at preventing the "greens" from spoiling -- and there would be no freezer burn!
Several people suggested putting the money in one of the many junked refrigerators that have been placed curbside since Katrina, but we can't endorse that idea. True, no one would look there, but who would want to open the fridge when it's time to make a withdrawal? Moreover, the bills would nauseate cashiers and be a dead giveaway as "dirty money."
The kitchen isn't the only room suitable for financial concealment. Apparently many of our readers are fans of the original Godfather movie, as they suggested wrapping the cash in watertight plastic bags and placing it in a toilet tank. A few even suggested the stunningly obvious: stick it under the mattress. Hey, it worked for Grandma.
Somewhere no one will ever look? The FEMA "In" box, suggested one reader.
Fans of prison movies thought it a good idea for Jefferson to conceal the money in a body cavity. The preferred entryway was the congressman's derriere -- a la Steve McQueen in Papillion. Although we aren't sure of the dimensions of $90,000 or Jefferson's colon, some readers felt it might be a good idea to share the love, so to speak. Let's just say that Mayor Ray Nagin never knew how much Jefferson's endorsement in the recent citywide elections would cost him.
With so many of us losing our favorite hiding places to Katrina, many readers were forced to think outside the box, or rather the house. The 17th Street Canal didn't hold back floodwaters very well, but some folks think it would be a great place to hide illicit cash. Would this make the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers our banker? Maybe not, but at least if the canal's walls breach again, perhaps some would finally get money out of the Corps.
Some readers recommended Jefferson turn to his friends. The first place the FBI is likely to search is your office, house or car -- so why not hide the cash in someone else's hiding place? Don't give it to relatives -- especially if they're under suspicion -- but rather consider a trusted friend. In Jefferson's case, former Councilwoman and long-time protŽgŽ Renee Gill Pratt was nominated by several readers to be his "bag lady." Too bad she gave the city back that donated Dodge Durango, with its spacious cargo area. The SUV probably had some dandy hiding places.
But perhaps we've underestimated the congressman's Hide-N-Seek skills. Maybe he knew he was about to be tagged while holding millions, so he created a $90,000 decoy to throw the feds off the trail of the real money. In that case, he'll want to keep his hidden assets close at hand in case constituents -- and jurors -- don't believe the "honorable explanation" he has promised us.
Hey, here's an idea: no one would ever think of searching a prison cell!