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Suspicious Spending

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Louie Miller disappeared, dear
After drawing out his cash.
And Macheath spends like a sailor;
Did our boy do something rash?
The Threepenny Opera, "Mack the Knife" (Blitzstein translation)

A character is suspected of being involved in illegal activities because he owns things he shouldn't be able to afford on his modest salary (a big house, fancy sports car, expensive watch, etc.) or does costly activities for fun (equestrian sports, Hookers and Blow).

It might not actually be illegal money. It could be the spouse's money, family inheritance, or simply that the character has chosen to skimp in other areas to have one or two things that are nicer than they "should" be able to afford. Even in the cases where the money isn't obtained by illegal means, though, people suspect that it was, so gossip is rampant.

Compare Conspicuous Consumption and Fell Off the Back of a Truck. Sometimes related to "Friends" Rent Control, Informed Poverty, Improbable Food Budget, and Foreign Money Is Proof of Guilt. If you're completely unable to do anything useful with the money, it's Money for Nothing. Contrast Affluent Ascetic. May overlap with A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted, since overspending is the quickest way for someone to squander a windfall.


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  • "Fred Flintstone: an employee at Slate Rock Gravel Company. His wife Wilma, a stay-at-home mom. Yet on this working man's salary, how did Wilma afford a necklace made of huge rocks?"
    Clarence Bradley, former co-worker: Mr. Slate pays well. But he doesn't pay that well.
    • An investigation would reveal that Fred had the Flintmobile insured with GEICO, saving the family untold amounts of money. Their friendship with the Rubbles would soon become strained.

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix in Switzerland, Governor Varius Flavus embezzles from his district's tax revenues so that he can throw lavish parties for himself and his friends. The massive disparity between what he spends on orgies and what he reports as his district's income and sends on to Rome gets Caesar to send Quaestor Vexatius Sinusitus to audit his books. When Sinusitus flat-out makes mention of this while eyeing the lavish palace, Flavus merely handwaves it with "you can do a lot with good taste" while handing him the poisoned vegetable broth to get rid of him before he can actually look through the spending records.
  • Shadowland: In the Shadowland: Power-Man tie-in, Victor Alvarez the new Power-Man is confronted by his mother about where he's getting all of the extra money he's been providing to help pay the bills since she found out he actually quit his old job working at a pizza parlor (and the money he's been bringing in is too much to be explained by a job like that anyway). She accuses him of drug dealing, not knowing he's been earning money as a superhero for hire.
  • Dick Tracy:
    • A 1950s storyline has Tracy accused of corruption. It brings up reader concerns about Tracy owning a huge house and driving a fancy car. Tracy defends it on how he saved for years on the house (which has a hefty mortgage) and the car was a gift from industrialist friend Diet Smith with the excuse it lets Tracy "test" the gadgets inside.
    • A 1970s tale brings that up again when two cops are suspected of corruption for some spending. Tracy gives them the benefit of the doubt, citing his own experiences of being falsely accused just for spending a windfall (as it turns out, both cops are innocent).

    Fan Works 
  • Defied in Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse). Soma Cruz has the power to create money when injured, but only in American pennies. As his roommate Kazuya points out, even if he knew where to exchange money, large amounts of money is suspicious for a teenager, large amounts of American currency is even more suspicious for someone living in Japan, and pennies are just odd. It's no longer an issue when Soma's American friend Hammer volunteers to exchange the money (presumably in America, possibly claiming it's from tips), but Kazuya adds that while they'll eat better and have money stashed for emergencies, someone's bound to notice if a bunch of starving students buy a game console.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A major plot point of Brewster's Millions (1985) is that the protagonist Brewster cannot reveal where he got his money or why he's spending it so irresponsibly as part of the condition of the will setting the main plot in motion (he has to spend off 30 million in a month to inherit 300 million). As a result, this trope gets invoked repeatedly by those around him.
  • In The Crow: Salvation, the corrupt chief of police comments about one cop being killed by the Crow when the latter crashed into a wall with the sports car of the corrupt cop.
  • In Superman III, after Gus's Penny Shaving scam is discovered, Corrupt Corporate Executive Ross Webster doesn't think there's any way of catching the perpetrator unless he does something really stupid. Immediately, Gus shows up in a fancy sports car far above what he could afford on his salary.
  • Inverted in the extended cut of The Punisher (2004). Frank doesn't suspect his old partner of selling him out until he notices that nearly all of Jimmy Weeks' luxury items are gone; he'd been selling them to cover his gambling debts, which are what Saint used to blackmail him into giving up Frank's information.
  • Pops up in the movie Clue. It's later revealed that he sold airplane parts on the black market to make his money. And that his mother is very much alive.
    Wadsworth: And Colonel, you drive a very expensive car for someone who lives on a colonel's pay.
    Colonel Mustard: I don't. I came into money during the war when I lost my mommy and daddy.
    Wadsworth: (confused)
  • Murtaugh is suspected of this in Lethal Weapon 4. It is mentioned offhand that Internal Affairs got an anonymous tip that he is taking bribes, an accusation nobody takes seriously. But then Riggs notices him casually handing out large sums of money to his kids and Roger gets evasive when asked about it, not to mention his nice suits, nice boat, nice house (which he could also afford to remodel twice throughout the series after it was destroyed by various criminals), etc. Riggs eventually gets around to grilling him about how he can do all this is so on a cop's salary. It turns out the money is coming mostly from Murtaugh's wife, who is secretly a very successful (if cheesy) romance novelist writing under a Pen Name. Murtaugh wouldn't admit it because his friends would never let him live it down.
  • Never Cry Wolf: After two wolves from the pack Tyler's studying are apparently killed, Mike is wearing an expensive new jacket and has a new set of false teeth.
  • The movie Say Anything... has this as a major part of the plot — the IRS is investigating Diane's father for tax evasion, fraud, and money laundering. Diane's discussion with the agent handling the case is a great rundown on trying to find someone doing this.
  • In Goodfellas, Jimmy berates a fellow conspirator in the Lufthansa heist for buying a conspicuous pink Cadillac. Jimmy says that he specifically told everyone not to make big purchases yet because the cops will be watching them in particular, and does not care when the man tries to defend the purchase by saying that the car is under his mother-in-law's name. The next guy who comes in the door has his wife wearing a luxurious mink coat, which Jimmy angrily demands that they get rid of. Henry is given a small share and is likewise told not to spend it, to which he agrees, but the movie then Gilligan Cuts to him shouting to his family that he bought the most expensive Christmas tree he could. General fear about the problems associated with this trope, in addition to simple greed, leads to Jimmy having most of the co-conspirators killed in lieu of payment.
  • This happens near the end of The Pink Panther (1963) when Clouseau is suspected of being the jewel thief. When questioned in this matter about how his wife (who is actually the thief) is able to afford such expensive clothing, on his police salary, Clouseau naively asserts that she's very frugal with the housekeeping budget.
  • In Dial M for Murder, the cops begin to suspect Tony of something when he starts buying everything in cash, in used one-pound notes.
  • The surviving robbers in Dead Presidents are caught because one of them starts spending the stolen money right away and way beyond his means. There is a good chance that he did it because he was feeling guilty for all the deaths they caused and wanted to be caught.
  • In American Gangster, Frank Lucas first attracts police attention when he's spotted in the front row of a high-profile boxing match wearing a mink coat (which is Truth in Television, by the way).
  • In The Sting, Hooker blows through his entire stake of a large con job in a single afternoon, which alerts the villain to his identity.
  • In the Roger Corman Poe anthology Tales of Terror segment based on "The Black Cat" (and "The Cask of Amontillado") loutish drunkard Montressor Herringbone, having walled up his wife and her lover in the cellar and finding her stash of hidden money, goes on a spree at the tavern, buying drinks for everyone and rousing suspicion with cryptic mutterings on her whereabouts.
  • Mad Money: Ironically, this arises as a result of trying to avoid suspicious spending. Jackie's unemployed husband Bob buys stocks to explain their windfall from the Federal Reserve money, but the tens of thousands of dollars he spends buying those stocks attract the IRS anyway.
  • Buffalo Soldiers: Sgt. Lee quickly catches on to the criminal activities going on in the base when he notices that Pvt. Garcia is wearing a very expensive watch he has no business of having based on his salary.
  • Polar: Defied. Vizla is indicated to have earned millions of dollars as a hitman, but he lives in a quiet mountain cabin and keeps a low profile. This is because Vizla is Properly Paranoid; another hitman who did retire to spend his money on a luxurious Hookers and Blow lifestyle is easily tracked down and killed off.
  • In The French Connection, Popeye and Cloudy, while relaxing at a bar after a shift, notice a small-time diner owner racking up a large bill with a lawyer known to work with drug dealers, then look into his finances and find he doesn't make very much. This reveals a smuggling operation, putting the film's plot in motion.
  • El Camino: Todd used his cut of Walt's drug money to buy himself a huge apartment, a flat-screen TV with speakers, and lots of kitsch furniture, pretty much what you'd expect from a young criminal who struck it big (and clearly isn't into Hookers and Blow). At this point, he has no clear legal source of income, and he wouldn't have been able to afford it in his previous job as a pest exterminator either. Still, it seems he managed to stay under the radar until after his death.
  • Who's Minding the Mint?: Plays with this. The main character (a treasury employee in charge of printing off new money) is accused of being an embezzler, due to his constantly-changing expensive cars and clothes. In fact, all he's actually doing is always buying new stuff and then returning it before the 30-day warranty expires to get his money back, before getting another expensive suit or car somewhere else and doing the same thing over again. He has nothing to hide from the auditors, at least until one sheet of new money is accidentally used to wrap up some brownies he got, ruining them and forcing him to break back into the mint after hours with a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to print off a replacement sheet of money (as well as payment for his team).
  • Averted at the end of Ocean's Eleven. When Danny is released on parole, the other members of his Caper Crew pick him up in an ordinary car. We soon see why when they're followed by goons working for the Big Bad, who clearly still suspects Danny's involvement in the robbery of his casino. Then played straight in the sequel which shows that by the time the Big Bad locates and confronts all of the crew, they have all spent several millions dollars each of their respective cuts, with the exception of one man who invested it all.
  • The Living Daylights: Koskov's luxury tastes are already noticeable when Bond brings him some food and liquor at the safehouse but the fact he bought a Stradivarius cello to Kara is definitely abnormal. This is the lead that allows Bond to find out about his ties with Whitaker.
    • Before his defection, Koskov was about to be arrested for "misusing state funds".
  • Low Tide: Peter knows how bad of an idea spending stolen money straight away is (despite only having ever committed one crime) and insists on hanging on to the money until the end of the summer. Alan ignores him and uses several gold coins to buy a new car, with predictably bad results. Ironically, initially the spending attracts the wrong kind of suspicion and make Red assume that Alan is a police informant.
  • S.W.A.T. (2003) actually cleverly hides this in a montage, disguising its significance. During the weekend, all the SWAT members are shown doing mundane things in their downtime: going grocery shopping, attending their children's birthday party, etc. — except the one member taking a date out to an expensive restaurant. When their emergency summons happens, the audience isn't given time to question how this one member is able to spend above his police salary, until it's revealed he's The Mole.
  • Wrath of Man: After their first big job, Jackson warns his crew that they should only spend money on necessities like covering bills to avoid suspicion. Jackson is understandably annoyed on finding that Jan ignored the advice in favor of getting a high-end loft apartment and motorcycle.
  • Invoked in The Flintstones, when Cliff Vandercave, who is embezzling large amounts of money from Slate & Co., gives Fred, who was promoted to act as a patsy, a "raise" from the embezzled money and encourages him to spend it liberally. When Fred finally figures it out, Cliff points out that with a house full of new furniture and appliances, a new car, new fancy clothes, and nights out at expensive restaurants, it isn't going to take much to convince everyone that Fred's guilty.

  • Babel, or the Necessity of Violence: Implied regarding Professor Lovell, though it's never used as evidence against him. He can afford expenses, including a second home for his Secret Other Family, that people note to be beyond a professor's salary, and is later exposed as being part of a secret bloc that's engineering a war with China to seize its silver reserves.
  • Ben Safford Mysteries: While it isn't emphasized until after The Reveal, in Unexpected Developments, the corrupt Lieutenant Colonel Yates spends quite a bit on his playboy lifestyle.
    Captain Ursula Richmond: [H]e spent money like water.
    Congressman Val Oakes: He was a womanizer. He was trying to impress you.
    Captain Ursula Richmond: Then he should have chosen a girl friend who didn't know to the penny how much a lieutenant colonel makes.
  • Homicide Trinity: Hattie Annis has a soft spot for struggling actors and doesn't harass her tenants for late rent (Raymond Dell hasn't paid rent in years). Wolfe singles out Paul Hannah as a suspect because he's been paying his rent on time despite not having a job.
  • Teen Power Inc.:
    • In The Sorcerer's Apprentice, as a mugger terrorizes Raven Hill, Tom gets a job working for magic shop owner Sid Foy. Sid's shop has few customers, and what money he has made recently (along with the rent from an apartment above his store) is lost in one of the muggings. Yet, less than a week later, Sid can afford to bring in lots of new stock (such as expensive computer games) to attract younger customers. Sid is innocent, and the money is from a bank loan.
    • In The Secret of Banyan Bay, one inhabitant of a town plagued by smuggling is a painter with a fancy house and tacky (yet expensive) designer items, even though her paintings don't sell very well. The painter is the creator of the designer items but feels embarrassed about this.
  • In The Twilight Saga, the Cullens spent much more than they should have been able to on cool cars, designer clothes, etc. for Carlisle being a doctor and the only source of income. Bella wondered about this before she knew about Alice being psychic and able to predict lottery results and the fluctuations of the stock market.
  • Sherlock Holmes:
    • The Valley of Fear had Holmes mention that Professor Moriarty owned a painting worth many times over his legitimate annual income — purchased for that amount, not appraised. At the time, this was the most tangible piece of evidence Holmes could find against Moriarty.
    • One of the clues in Silver Blaze was that the murder victim had a bill in his pocket that a) wasn't on his name (but had to be his, since very few people carry the bills of others) and b) was a sum he could hardly afford.
  • Mary Monica Pulver's Peter Brichter series has this. The hero lives in extremely comfortable circumstances for a police officer, which regularly causes other cops to regard him suspiciously. However, his wife is the wealthy one.
  • In What the Night Knows, by Dean Koontz, the Calvinos live in a house well above what honest cop John could normally afford because his wife has a financially and artistically successful career as a painter.
  • In the Prey novel series by John Sandford, Lucas Davenport is a cop who has a fancy house, nice suits, a Porsche and millions of dollars, but that's because he writes roleplaying games in his off-time. Who knew?
  • Played straight in The Da Vinci Code. A Swiss banker is impersonating a truck driver to help Langdon and Sophie escape the police. When the cops pull him over and ask what the "driver" is doing with a Rolex, he claims it is actually a 'Folex' knockoff and offers to sell it to the inquisitive officer for a paltry sum.
  • In one of the Tarma and Kethry short stories, Tarma figures out who The Mole is by realizing that one of the guards is wearing jewelry he shouldn't be able to afford (Though this is considered to be grounds for suspicion, not proof in and of itself).
  • In a Sweet Valley Twins book, Jessica and her friend Ellen find $200 dollars in a box buried in the latter's backyard. They show up at school with new things...just as money has been stolen from the class treasury. Sure enough, everyone, including Jessica's own sister, thinks that she and Ellen are the thieves.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Salvation's Reach, the senior officers are suspicious of Trooper Costin because of his conspicuous wealth (he's so conspicuous that even Daur's wife, who has no investigative training, comments on it). After hard evidence emerges of a fraud scheme, they immediately look to him but realize that the quantity of money being moved is too much for the dull, unimaginative trooper to be dealing with alone. His platoon leader, Captain Meryn, is behind it, and indirectly kills Costin on the next mission to keep it from getting back to him.
  • Stephen King's Different Seasons: In "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption," Red refers to this when he's talking about the scams the wardens of Shawshank have pulled, and how Andy is valuable in the prison because he knows how to wash filthy lucre:
    "And money itself becomes a problem after a while. You canít just stuff it into your wallet and then shell out a bunch of crumpled twenties and dog-eared tens when you want a pool built in your backyard or an addition put on your house. Once you get past a certain point, you have to explain where that money came from....and if your explanations aren't convincing enough, youíre apt to wind up wearing a number yourself."
  • In the Sidney Sheldon novel Nothing Lasts Forever, Paige suspects another doctor at the hospital of being responsible for the theft of drugs when she realizes "he's living like a millionaire on a resident's salary". She's right.
  • The Traitor's Hand: The investigation into a weapon-smuggling ring turns up a freight dispatcher "spending three times his annual income on obscura and joygirls".
  • Played with in East is East: At one point, the police inspector investigating the murder asks Thatcher if he was aware that one of his underlings had just gotten a house worth over $1 million. Thatcher tells the inspector that his records are off — the house might have been built recently, but the underling in question bought the land decades previously, well before Maui oceanfront property values skyrocketed.
  • Anthony Price:
    • In Soldier No More, a subplot involves the mystery of where intelligence officer David Audley is getting the money to perform extensive renovations on his ancestral home. It turns out he's the pseudonymous author of a trashy but bestselling historical novel mentioned in passing at several points in the story.
    • In The Old Vengeful, the late Commander Loftus had tastes in food and travel that he shouldn't have been able to afford on his income, let alone leave a significant amount of money to his daughter. It's the more puzzling because, by the time the story opens, an investigation has already ruled out all the obvious possibilities.
  • James Bond, at the start of Role of Honour, suddenly inherits a quarter-million pounds from an Australian uncle he has never heard of. The following spending spree mandated by said uncle's will makes him seem suspicious in the eyes of his employers since coincidentally there have been a couple of Soviets (called "ambulance chasers") hiring double agents lately. They decide to use that to make it look as if Bond was forced to resign over accusations of bribery and an "embittered" Bond would be easily recruited by that very organization to go undercover.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Magic: Discussed in the story Visions, where the girls briefly consider wishing for lots of money but decide against it on account of if they do so, they're sure to get investigated by nosy tax agents if they spend lots, or at least nosy families even if they just spend small amounts at a time (and one remarks on how her own mother considers her spending money on anything, other than building up her college fund, to be suspicious).
  • An Invoked Trope in Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell. Saul assassinates a businessman under orders from CIA spymaster Elliot, goes to a Dead Drop for further instructions, and finds a pile of cash and orders to play blackjack at an Atlanta casino. He's puzzled by this but obeys orders, not suspecting that Elliot is framing him as a Rogue Agent because the man he killed was a personal friend of the President of the United States.
  • In The Return of the King, Lotho Sackville-Baggins bought most of the supplies and the farms of the Shire with funds of unknown origin. It was later revealed these funds came from Saruman, and Lotho was eventually and secretly murdered by Wormtongue.
  • Discussed in the fourth arc of Worm. When the Undersiders go out on the town the day after they've successfully robbed a bank, Brian warns Lisa not to spend too much money shopping so the cops and superheroes don't get suspicious. When Lisa ends up spending almost five hundred dollars on clothes for herself and Taylor, Brian starts to get exasperated, only for Lisa to explain that it's not any more than she usually spends (Lisa also has ready-made excuses in case Taylor's father sees her new clothes).
  • You'll Be the Death of Me: Ivy's brother Daniel and Autumn's boyfriend Gabe are suspected of involvement in a drug ring for being able to buy new sneakers and a muscle car, respectively, despite having a low-paying job and no job at all. Gabe is guilty, but Daniel just bought used sneakers, which understandably cost less.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: Brass mentions in one episode that when he joined the Las Vegas Police Department, one officer had a really luxurious cabin where he threw parties and, in retrospect, Brass realized what that meant.
    • A man's wife dies in the bathtub in way that can't be explained as an accident, but there's not enough evidence to say he did it. He spends her life insurance on a flashy red car within a day or two of her death and while the team can only be angry, his insurance company impounds the car suspecting fraud.
  • Law & Order:
    • In the first season, when Cragen is suspected of being associated with a dirty cop, it's noticed he's getting a new swimming pool. Cragen later reveals that his wife (a flight attendant) is the one paying for it.
    • In one first season episode, it quickly becomes clear that the rumors of the late Officer Rennick's corruption are true when it turns out that he has a child in college, fancy TVs, and two new cars. He told his wife that he was taking overtime to afford all of this, but he never actually worked a minute of overtime in his entire career and had been seeing another woman during his supposed overtime hours.
    • When Dennis Farina was on the show, his character had a nice car, wore expensive suits, and had a massive roll of cash on him at all times, causing his partner and Lt. Van Buren to be suspicious. Turned out he had independent means.
    • It's seen throughout all versions of the series when it's noted that certain characters own things much nicer than any cop should be able to afford.
  • On Law & Order: UK, Ronnie interviews the widow of the murder victim, whose alibi is that she was at the hospital with her cancer-stricken son. During the conversation, she mentions that the medical bills have left her broke, but as the detectives leave, Ronnie notes that the boy was playing with a brand-new iPad.
  • Meadow from The Sopranos mentions this to Tony in one episode when he comes home with a massive wad of $20 bills, which she comments is somewhat unrealistic for a plumber.
  • The Shield:
    • In the first episode, a candidate for the Strike Team makes a pointed comment about Vic's boat and states that he wants to be "all the way in," implying that he knows about their illegal activities and wants a piece. However, he's actually a mole working for IA and Vic kills him, then stages it to look like he was killed in the line of duty.
    • Vic Mackey is the living embodiment of the idea. He's pretty smart about it, though: after robbing the Armenian money train at the end of season two, he forces the Strike Team to sit on the cash for at least six months (or closer to a year) before investing it in a real estate deal to launder it. Of course, everything goes pear-shaped by the end of season three, but it could have been a lot worse.
    • Knowing they're under suspicion, Shane meticulously documents all of the expenses for the house he's building, showing that the money is coming from his legitimate salary. However, it's revealed that all of his clean money is going to construction expenses, raising the question of how his day-to-day expenses are getting paid for.
  • Parodied in Father Ted's episode "Chirpy Burpy Cheap Sheep" when Ted notices that the villains have become ludicrously wealthy and can't resist showing it off (one of them even wears a crown).
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice uses this trope as part of a bluff: impersonating a professional hostage negotiator, the kidnappers asked how he could prove he wasn't a cop. He opens his jacket and says "This is Armani. Cops (salary) don't fit Armani."
  • Season 3 of Dexter features a cop who is being investigated by Internal Affairs. The only other person on the squad who knows about the investigation can't help noticing that this officer has a very expensive watch and a car he couldn't afford on a cop's salary.
  • The Wire:
    • When the Baltimore faction of the International Brotherhood of Stevedores, headed by Frank Sobotka, donates enough money for a great big stained-glass illuminated window for a Polish church, Major Valchek becomes suspicious and investigates the union for corruption, setting up the plot for the season. (Not that Valchek cared about the illegality in the slightest, he was only upset because Frank upstaged Valchek's own donation.) Valchek didn't know (and probably wouldn't have cared) that it was also an arguably good use of a lot of money — a senator Frank needed to influence in order to revitalize the Baltimore docks was in that church's congregation.
    • In the same season, Nick Sobotka warns his cousin, Ziggy, against this after the two of them steal a container of digital cameras from the docks. Ziggy ignores him. Later when Nick hands Ziggy a stack of cash in the bar where their union buddies congregate, Ziggy immediately orders A Round of Drinks for the House and lights a cigarette with a $100 bill. His father Frank calls him out for this with the implication that not only was it suspicious but that it was mean-spirited to throw money around in front of down-on-their-luck working men. Ziggy also buys an expensive leather jacket that draws the ire of his coworkers and mockery from Cheese.
    • There are allegations sprinkled throughout the series that Cedric Daniels used to be a Dirty Cop when he was in the Eastern District, and apparently the evidence consists of living beyond his means. The FBI investigated his assets far enough to see that he had more than expected, but Baltimore P.D. did not ask them to go further. Beyond the implication that Daniels does fear the accusations, the truth is never clarified.
    • The Barksdale drug gang also uses this trope to sniff out "corruption". Cutty confirms that a dealer is owed a beat-down by keeping tabs on his girlfriend to see how much new jewelry she wears. And the trope is outright invoked on D'Angelo's crew of dealers in Season 1; after D'Angelo's stash is robbed by Omar Little, Stringer decides to withhold the pay of everyone in the group to see who comes begging for an advance, and those who don't are to be scrutinized as potential accomplices in Omar's robbery. The ploy works, except that it only uncovers a couple of embezzlers, not snitches, and after confronting them D'Angelo generously declines to mention their Stealing from the Till to his bosses. The sequence also shows the extreme poverty of the low-level dealers in the city's drug trade, as simply buying eggs at a convenience store after missing the equivalent of a single paycheck is seen as a suspicious display of wealth.
  • I Dream of Jeannie
    • Jeannie magics up some expensive treasures to show off for some random guy who knocks on the door. This random guy, of course, turns out to be an IRS Agent.
    • Roger manages to have Jeannie as his servant. Tony manages to take a picture of him in front of his brand-new house and gets Dr. Bellows and the general suspicious about where the money came from.
  • NCIS: In one episode, McGee's coworkers are suspicious when he starts buying such extravagant things as a new phone, watch, clothes, car, etc. Turns out that they're right to be because he has the money as a result of his bestselling novel, which stars characters based on people he knows — based only on people he knows.
    • In an early episode, the team is reinvestigating an old case, and one of the old suspects is living a much better lifestyle than she had been despite having no real source of income. She quickly shows Kate an old lottery ticket she carries in her wallet, but Kate dryly points out that she can easily laminate a losing ticket. Kate investigates and learns that she did win the lotto but for a relatively insignificant sum; the bulk of her money did come from the old robbery.
    • After Gibbs is put in a coma from a bomb on board a freighter, Ziva notices that the ship's captain smokes Cuban cigars and wears a large diamond ring implicating that he's making extra money smuggling weapons and terrorists.
  • In season two of Republic of Doyle the mayor starts driving a very expensive car which causes Jake and Leslie to suspect him of corruption. When confronted he explains that he is merely leasing the car for a few months so he can appear more successful for the upcoming re-election campaign. He lied and actually bought the car using kickback money.
    • Des manages to intimidate a drug dealer into backing off when he points out that the dealer will have a hard time explaining to the police how he could afford an expensive sports car and thus cannot report Des for stealing the car and shipping it back to the dealer in parts. The dealer does not want the trouble and stops threatening Des and Tinny.
  • In one episode of Unforgettable, a murdered cop was suspected of being dirty because he was able to pay off his wife's extensive medical bills despite being seriously in debt. He had gotten the money by selling his boat.
  • On Suits Louis started spending a lot of money, including $60,000 for a club membership, just as Jessica and Harvey start suspecting someone in the firm of embezzlement. Louis was being framed and he had so much money to spend because he is simply very good at handling his finances.
  • In the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Is On The Run Part Two," Monk goes on the lam, but over the phone has convinced Captain Stottlemeyer that Sheriff John Rollins, who is on the manhunt, killed Frank Nunn and framed Monk for it. Stottlemeyer then helps Monk fake his death so that he can get the police off his back. Afterwards, Stottlemeyer looks rather uneasy whenever he's around Rollins, especially when Rollins confronts him about why he did not show up at the morgue to help identify a body that matched Monk's profile but turned out to be a dud (potentially planted by Stottlemeyer). Once Rollins leaves, Stottlemeyer privately tells Randy that he didn't go to the morgue to ID the body not because he knew it was a dud, but because he was doing a background check on Rollins for Monk, and has found more solid evidence that Rollins is dirty: he's bought a second house, a new expensive BMW sedan, and he has two offshore bank accounts, on a county sheriff's meager salary.
  • On Graceland Mike is told by his superior that Briggs is being investigated for corruption because he is spending too much money compared to what he earns as an FBI agent. However, we are never shown that Briggs lives beyond his means and many of the fancier items he has are provided by the FBI as part of his undercover work. It becomes obvious that Mike's superior has a personal grudge against Briggs and might be lying to Mike because he does not want to reveal the real reason why the FBI is suspicious of Briggs.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia episode "Sweet Dee Gets Audited", Dee is being investigated for tax fraud. She denies she's scamming the IRS during her audit, while riding around on an expensive scooter with a license plate that reads "$CAMMIN".
  • Breaking Bad:
    • This becomes an ongoing problem for Walt. Initially all the money he makes cooking meth goes toward his medical bills so people do not notice that he is spending way more than he earns as a high school teacher. When people start to notice, Skyler (with Walt reluctantly playing along) concocts a story about winning the money by playing blackjack. This is good enough for Marie to accept it to pay Hank's hospital bills and is supported by having Saul arrange for some casinos to report false losses and documentation. Walt then buys the car wash he used to work at and assigns Skyler to run the place and launder the drug money, but it soon proves to be insufficient. In the end, Walt has barrels full of cash and is unable to spend any of it.
    • With her background in accounting, Skyler is very aware of this trope and occasionally has to rein in Walt. Sometimes this is reasonable, such as when she makes him return the sportscars he got for himself and Walter Jr. But she also takes it to extremes, such as when she takes exception to Walt spending a couple hundred dollars on a fancy bottle of wine to celebrate buying the carwash for several hundred thousand.
    • Jesse has a similar problem as Walt but is generally less careful with his spending. However, the DEA already knows that he is a low-level drug dealer so him having extra money does not come as much of a surprise to them and they never suspect the scale of his involvement.
    • Gus Fring is a master in avoiding this trope. He has a large portfolio of legitimate businesses (Los Pollos Hermanos, Lavenderia Brilliante, etc.) to hide the income from his drug empire and aid in drug production. He is also being bankrolled by Madrigal Electromotive, a major German conglomerate. However, he spends less on himself than his legitimate businesses could realistically generate by themselves. We eventually learn that Gus's enterprise is partly geared toward revenge, perhaps more than material gain, so it may be that he was taking losses in places.
    • In order to bail Ted from investigation for fraud, Skyler persuades Saul to give him some of Walt's drug money using his "Great Aunt Brigitte" inheritance. Ted ruins it by leasing an expensive Mercedes as well as attempting to re-open Beneke Fabricators, which tips off the IRS.
    • After Gus's death, an attempt by Walt, Jesse, and Mike to destroy surveillance footage from the lab results in the DEA discovering a list of offshore bank accounts Gus was using to pay off the employees of his operation, most notably a large $2 million account set up in the name of Mike's granddaughter. Hank and Gomez haul Mike in to interrogate him but point out that they're not arresting him because, as Hank points out, Mike never touched the money in his account, giving him plausible deniability as to the account's existence. Hank points out that all the other henchmen involved spent the money on themselves and thus it was used to prove their involvement. Mike was saving the money for his granddaughter and was content to live on his (apparently very meager) legit salary.
  • Better Call Saul:
    • Daniel Wormald, an IT guy and newcomer drug dealer, spends his drug money on a bright yellow pimped-out Hummer H2 with red flames on the side and spinning rims. Mike, his bodyguard, sees this stupidly flashy car and immediately stops providing his services (especially since Daniel refuses to ride in Mike's more subtle 1980s Chrysler). Later, when Daniel calls in a burglary at his house, the cops see the Hummer and quickly become suspicious. Finally, when Daniel has to trade the Hummer to Nacho to get his baseball cards back, Nacho promptly announces his intention to strip it and sell it for parts, since he's smart enough to not be caught driving a vehicle that "looks like a school bus for six-year-old pimps".
    • After Lalo is arrested for murder and arson, the judge sets his bail at $7 million in hard cash. He has no trouble paying it (Jimmy less so), but the prosecutors are alerted to this and start looking into "Jorge de Guzman" for potential criminal links. Jimmy even tells him his alias isn't going to last long as a result of this, though Lalo intends to flee the country before investigators discover the truth.
  • On Ray Donovan Ray's accountant tells him that he cannot buy a new multimillion-dollar home because there is no way the accountant could justify that kind of spending if the government audits Ray's finances. Ray earns a lot of money as The Fixer but almost all of it is under-the-table cash that he has not reported. He is using Terry's gym to launder the money by inflating the gym's profits but it would be just as suspicious if the gym suddenly reported making millions in profits. Ray tells the accountant that he does not care and that he is buying the house no matter how suspicious the purchase looks.
  • On Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Lee is suspicious a fellow agent is on the take when he starts spending money after years of struggling on his paychecks. It turns out it's the guy's supposedly honest partner who's the real dirty agent as the other guy won a sweepstakes and couldn't resist spending.
  • Of the non-extravagant version: On General Hospital, when Carly's then-infant son Micheal is kidnapped, pal Jason suspects her ex-lover Tony, who'd gone off the deep end after learning he wasn't the boy's father. As such, he had his people follow him to take note of him purchasing the kind of things an infant would need — diapers, formula, etc. Much to his surprise and disappointment, Tony did no such thing, leading Jason to think he was wrong. As it turns out, Tony had kidnapped the baby, but already had the things necessary — he and Carly had been engaged and living together up until a few weeks before she delivered the baby — and therefore, he didn't invoke this trope. He's caught when Robin Scorpio picks up a receipt he's dropped and she sees that it's for the purchase of an infant medication.
  • Blue Bloods: In the episode "The Poor Door," a scandal hits the NYPD when the Daily News catches Louis Weems, a veteran Brooklyn North Narcotics Division detective (and former drinking buddy of Sid Gormley's) driving an expensive Ferrari convertible that, as Frank calculates, costs the equivalent of three years pay on a normal Detective's salary. Frank knows that the media will likely accuse Weems of being corrupt, so he summons Weems to 1PP for an interview and Weems explains that the extra money is because he runs a side business flipping real estate. However, Frank is skeptical, and at his insistence, Gormley digs deeper and finds that Weems skimped on many of his real estate deals by cutting corners and illegal evictions. Gormley ultimately decides not to fire Weems but leaves him with a stern warning that he won't be so lucky if he's caught cutting corners again.
  • Rome: After the Roman Senators leave the city to escape Julius Caesar's advancing troops, the treasury is raided but subsequently found by Pullo and Vorenus, two soldiers loyal to Caesar. Pullo considers keeping the gold for themselves and goes on a spending spree around the city, visiting dozens of taverns and giving away money for free. Vorenus points out that anyone with a brain will be wondering how a Centurion with a measly salary managed to come about such a fortune and tells Pullo to give the money back to Caesar before his men come calling. This ends up saving Pullo's life from possible execution since Caesar is so happy to have deprived Pompey Magnus of any funds for his war effort that he rewards Pullo instead of punishing him for thievery.
  • On The Flash (2014) master criminal Leonard Snart is savvy enough to avoid this trope and orders all members of his heist crew to not spend any of their loot until the heat has died down. Sam Scudders disregards this and immediately starts spending his share on fancy suits and jewelry for his girlfriend. Snart is furious and orders Scudders to stop. When Scudders refuses, Snart tries to kill him.
  • Quite a few Blue Heelers plots stem from this whether it be busting a doctor dealing drugs by comparing his income to his spending or suspecting Inspector Falcon Price is a Dirty Cop because he was spending up big, in this case subverted as it was an inheritance from his sick mother.
  • The Bill. One detective gets knocked back for a plum assignment because he's wearing an expensive suit, as DI Burnside points out to him. The detective concerned is not impressed with this, because he earns money legitimately by investing his pay.
  • Veronica Mars: One episode features the local rich kids being suckered into paying for an online purity test, only for several of them to be leaked in order to ruin reputations. Veronica and local computer geek Mac capture the people responsible for that Malicious Slander, but Veronica is left wondering who actually posted the original test online until she sees Mac arriving for class in a fancy new car at the end of the episode.
  • The Mentalist: In "The Desert Rose" after Jane points out how the victim's body was stored in a freezer like that of the diner that their in (and then describes his theory) the diner owner retorts that there are lots of other diners the victim could have been robbed and killed in. Jane agrees but then points out that this diner is the only one which could afford to put a fancy sign on the highway to attract more customers.
  • Ozark:
    • Marty tells another character that it doesn't matter how much money you get illegally, if you can't launder it all you have is a lifetime of gas and groceries (because buying cars/houses/boats/etc. would raise too many red flags).
    • Therapist Sue uses her knowledge of Marty and Helen's illegal activities to blackmail them, Marty warning Sue to be careful about spending. Imagine his reaction when this 60-ish woman living in a small Missouri town shows up at Marty and Helen's house in a bright yellow Lamborghini.
  • On Good Girls, Beth, Annie, and Ruby keep committing what Rio says is the classic mistake of crooks: Whenever they manage to land a huge windfall, they immediately go spend it on everything from paying off huge debts to flashy clothing, jewels or even a car, not grasping how suspicious it is for three formerly struggling women to be able to afford all this.
  • Narcos: One of the ways the DEA are able to track the cartel's movements is by finding the cars worth six figures in the slums of Medellin, at least until the Narcos wise up and start using more appropriate transportation. This is a problem for the Medellin cartel in general; despite owning many legitimate businesses for laundering purposes, their cash flow is so immense that they end up burying a ton of it because they don't know what else to do with it.
  • Bosch:
    • Though toned down from the books, many give Jerry Edgar a bit of suspicion since he dresses in expensive suits and has a nice car. However, he has a real estate side job that nets him much more than his police salary; it's implied that the only reason he remains on the force is that cops are more comfortable buying a house from a fellow cop, bringing him a constant stream of business.
    • Bosch himself has a very nice home in the hills overlooking the valley, well above a cop's price range. However, it's well known in-universe that he purchased the house with a large payout he got when a Hollywood studio made a film based on one of his cases.
  • Ironside (1967): One episode has an Impoverished Patrician burglary suspect who has a bigger house and better clothes than his salary as a society reporter should allow him. It turns out that he's innocent, and the money is from short stories he's been publishing under a Pen Name.
  • In The Millionaire, each episode features somebody anonymously receiving a check for one million dollars from an Eccentric Millionaire. One of the conditions is that they're not allowed to tell anyone where their newfound wealth came from, and multiple episodes over the run of the series have a recipient being suspected of having gained the money by illegal means.
  • Psych: Shawn suspects a nanny of being a burglar because she wears expensive designer sunglasses. It turns out she used to work at the store selling those sunglasses, meaning she's innocent and either got the sunglasses with an employee discount or stole them.
  • The Wild Wild West: In order to avoid this trope, Miguelito Loveless goes as far as to burn all the stolen money, as the bloody bank robbery was merely training for a future operation. One of his men, desperate for cash, "rescues" a few bills from the fire, setting James West on the gang's trail the moment he spends it.
  • Orange Is the New Black: as Luscheck starts making money from smuggling things in and out of the prison, he upgrades his car and starts wearing expensive sneakers. He's never caught, however.
  • In one episode of Hogan's Heroes, Hogan has to rob a bank to get the money needed to pay off an informant after Klink unknowingly and accidentally sets the prisoner's ready supply of marks on fire. At the end of the episode, Schultz tells Hogan of a story going around the local town, of a man who stole one hundred thousand marks from a local bank and then got caught when he walked into the same bank the next day to deposit one hundred thousand marks into his account.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In one of Max Allan Collins's early Dick Tracy strips (the final "Big Boy" continuity), someone points to one cop's extravagant lifestyle when they are looking for a mole inside the Organized Crime Unit. Tracy agrees that is suspicious, but far from conclusive.
    • Tracy himself wasn't immune to this either, having been investigated during the forties for how exactly he could afford all his fancy gadgets, his spacious house, his top-of-the-line car, etc. on a cop's pay (answer: in addition to being abnormally thrifty, many of the electronics and cars were provided free of charge by his friend Diet Smith as "test" models.)
  • Pondus: Lampshaded concerning recurring background character the clown-masked bank robber. Pondus points out the robber has been robbing banks for decades and has never been caught, partially because he defies this trope by not spending in extravagant ways that raises attention. The bank robber is Jokke's father, and he's very careful to spread his takes out for as long as possible and only spends in small, unobtrusive ways (like on some extra groceries or an occasional pub visit) to supplement his public pension. While a scrutiny of his cashflow over several years would probably reveal he's spending beyond his means, his day-to-day life is still spent way below the poverty line.

  • In Fiorello!, the song "Little Tin Box" invokes frugality as an excuse for the suspicious spending uncovered by Judge Seabury's investigations into municipal corruption.

    Video Games 
  • Max Payne's confrontation with B.B. in the first game is all over this trope.
    Max Payne: The garage was dead. B.B. showed up in his tailor-made suit, gold watch, and cufflinks to match. All way beyond a cop's pay.
    B.B.: Maxey...
    Max Payne: Oozing suave charm, he was guilty as hell.
    • Fortunately, Max can be forgiven for not noticing B.B. was corrupt before; he never interacted with him, except via phone.
  • One of the missions for the Italian Mafia in Grand Theft Auto III is a slightly atypical example of this trope. A bartender working for a made man is suspected of leaking information to the Columbian Cartel, who have been showing a remarkable amount of foreknowledge of Mafia movements. The bartender is a suspect because he is spending more than the Mafia is paying him, and because he is not pimping women or selling drugs, which would account for the discrepancy.
    • Fridge Logic sets in when you wonder how the Don knew he wasn't doing either of those things: the Mafia probably would have taxed him if they found out he was making money in such a fashion, which could be an incentive to keep his mouth shut about it. Although it would have been a problem in its own way, untaxed criminal activity probably would have explained the extra money. The point is partially moot. He was indeed selling out his bosses. He was, however, paid in drugs, which would not have accounted for the extra money unless he was selling them secretly.
  • Brucie Kibbutz from Grand Theft Auto IV is stated, in his police record, to be spending money more freely than his declared taxable income should allow.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Oblivion, a suspected corrupt police captain has items in his office that could not have been purchased merely on his own salary. The implication (later proved to be true, if the player has him arrested rather than killed) is that he is imposing outrageous fines on the city folk in order to bankroll his spending, including a large home for himself and his family for when he retires.
    • In Skyrim, at a certain point in the Thieves Guild questline, the rest of the Guild doesn't initially believe the claims made by the Dragonborn and Karliah that Guildmaster Mercer Frey is corrupt (even among thieves) despite the obvious fact that Frey manages to live a lavish and expensive lifestyle while they have to squat in a sewer and barely scratch out a living under what's assumed to be some bad luck. But then they check the vault where every coin and jewel they've ever stolen is stored... and discover it's been emptied out. Truth is, Mercer's been dipping his hands directly into the Guild's count of coin for years, using the Skeleton Key, a Daedric artifact that he stole from the Twilight Sepulcher which also caused the Guild's stretch of bad luck due to patron "goddess" Nocturnal's displeasure.
  • In Dragon Age II, the guard that allowed a Qunari delegate to be captured by fanatics is quickly spotted since he's buying expensive alcohol far beyond a city guard's salary. He's also openly boasting about what he did, since he believes — with good reason — that he acted on behalf of the Chantry.
  • In the first Lostbelt of Fate/Grand Order, Patxi is suspected by his fellow villagers and Ivan the Terrible's enforcers of receiving food from the rebel army after he shows up with a large amount of food that he couldn't have acquired from any of the known hunting locations. What actually happened was that Chaldea told him about additional hunting spots in return for him explaining the local situation, but since Chaldea is also an enemy of Ivan, he still assisted enemies of the state.
  • You, of all people, will fall victim to this in Papers, Please if you choose to keep the Order of the Ezic Star's bribe for aiding them instead of burning it; being a lowly border guard in an 80s Communist dictatorship, your regular pay is beyond abysmal, so your neighbours — who are implied to be ideological party hardliners — will grow suspicious of your sudden wealth and report you to the Secret Police. This presents the only worthwhile use of upgrading to a more expensive apartment: doing so with the bribe, waiting for the money to be seized, and then downgrading back to your original class-8 apartment allows you to recoup a little of the money suspicion-free.
  • The Boss blunders this way in Saints Row 2. In the course of trying to retake Stilwater from the gang called the Ronin, a Yakuza faction trying to make their way in America, the Saints shoot up their money-making casino and make off with a heap of cash. Despite the wise plan to launder the money, it's done in the same unsubtly manner that the Ronin are able to track them down. Unfortunately, they swiftly retaliate by murdering Johnny's girlfriend.
  • In Yakuza 4, Tanimura figures out that the dirty cop he's looking for is Sugiuchi by the fact that he wears an extraordinarily expensive watch and shoes.
  • A file found in the original Resident Evil 2 discusses how Raccoon City Police Chief Brian Irons has a habit of buying art that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, well out of the range of what he could afford. He's being paid off by Umbrella.
  • In the third arc of Persona 5, Ryuji notes a member of the protagonist's class is doing this, stating they had gotten a "really great job" and began spending money left and right. Turns out that he had been approached by Junya Kaneshiro's men in Shibuya, and is being blackmailed into silence about his job — drug trafficking. If he tries to approach the police about this, Kaneshiro's men will release pictures of him.
  • During the Smuggler Storyline of Star Wars: The Old Republic, you run into a Republic spy on Balmorra who got busted for buying customized speeders beyond his salary.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: On learning of Imperial activity that suggests a traitor in Gridania's ranks, tavernkeeper Buscarron quickly figures out it's a regular of his from the Wood Wailers. Having been a former Wood Wailer himself, Buscarron knows what the pay is like, so when a man who's normally sipping one pint because he can't afford a second suddenly starts buying top-shelf drinks, Buscarron has reason to wonder where he got the gil for it.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, Timmy is constantly showing up with stuff his fairy godparents got him through magic. His usual answer when asked how he got the stuff is, "Internet?". There's even an episode where he is suspected of shoplifting for this very reason. He then manages to catch the real shoplifter using a camera he wished for, leading his parents to stop questioning his excuse, even if they don't seem to believe it.
  • In 12 oz. Mouse, Fitz and skillet rob a bank and go drinking. Peanut notes, "Those are the expensive beers. You must have pretty jobs to afford those beers." This leads Fitz to realize that he needs a job to cover for the fact that he robs banks.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Joker's Millions", The Joker inherits a huge sum of money. He gets released from Arkham when a psychiatrist pronounces him cured; the psychiatrist is seen indignantly denying that he was bribed... then getting into a new car with an attractive woman half his age.
  • Happens from time to time on The Simpsons, generally with Homer (or occasionally Bart) earning money in a vaguely shady way and Marge and/or Lisa being suspicious when they use the money to buy extravagant presents for the family:
    • In "Lisa the Greek", Homer enlists Lisa to help him bet on football games, and Marge gets suspicious about the extra money he's been spending.
    • In "The Canine Mutiny", Bart uses the credit card he got in the dog's name (it makes sense in context) to buy a lot of expensive stuff, which makes Lisa suspicious.
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies: In the episode "The Secret of Shark Island", Hidalgo figures out that the crooks are illegally salvaging treasure when one of them spends some gold coins in town.

    Real Life 
  • Very much Truth in Television. Spending beyond one's means on luxuries is one of the things auditors look for when investigating fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.
    • Many agents in the FBI, DEA, etc. have advanced degrees in accounting, financial management, business, and so on. A great deal of time during investigations is spent reviewing financial records, spreadsheets, invoices, etc. People who are hiding money often find themselves caught in the web they weaved trying to do so.
  • On a similar note, if you have a security clearance with the US government, they will watch your credit reports and spending like a hawk, and if you suddenly start spending more than usual, they're going to pull you in and ask about it to make sure you're not getting money to sell secrets. It doesn't even need to be especially extravagant to raise eyebrows, just something that isn't your usual habit. There are stories of cleared workers being questioned because they bought nice cars or went on vacations they legitimately saved for or just treated themselves, but it was so out of habit as to cause concern.
  • A couple of Soviet moles in the U.S. government were caught this way. A lot more spies should have been caught this way but no one paid any attention to the fact they were spending more than they were legally earning. It was only after they were caught that someone finally looked at their finances. Aldrich Ames was among the most notable of these moles to be flushed out, who lived a particularly extravagant lifestyle, which was only seen as suspicious in retrospect. Everybody believed him when he said his Colombian wife came from money when she didn't. For a guy with a $60,000 annual salary, Aldrich Ames was somehow able to afford tailor-made suits that not even his superiors could afford, a $540,000 house in Arlington, Virginia, paid for in cash; a $50,000 Jaguar luxury car; home remodeling and redecoration costs of $99,000; monthly phone bills exceeding $6,000 (mostly calls by Ames' wife to her family in Colombia); and premium credit cards whose minimum monthly payment exceeded his monthly salary.
  • A standard police investigative technique used when a seriously large theft of money is accomplished, usually in an armored car or bank robbery: keep eyes open on the street and see if all of a sudden someone is making unusually large purchases or spending extravagantly at clubs and casinos. If so, the police take a look at them.
    • A variation in the case of inheritance murders, where even if it's known that the person has come into a large sum of money, it raises cops' eyebrows that their first instinct is to spend lavishly rather than mourn their loved one. While it might not be strange to spend money as a coping mechanism after losing somebody close to you, spending it on new houses, luxury cars, and fancy outfits is going to raise the eyebrows of the cops.
    • The above was a major reason for the arrest of the Menendez Brothers, who spent the months after their father's passing living large, spending $700,000 in under a year. It also ended up being a major reason they were found guilty, as while their father had been severely abusive (which might allow the verdict to be lowered by way of self-defense), the fact that they were so happy to blow their cash convinced the jury that their real motive was to get his money.
  • In one case, a Rhode Island man was arrested under suspicion of breaking into vending machines to steal money from them. It definitely didn't help his case when he attempted to make bail using nothing but quarters.
  • Al Capone's downfall is the stuff of legends. While the government couldn't prove that the millions of dollars he spent on entertainment alone (far more than he earned in his official job as a hotelier) every year was earned illegally, they could prove that he hadn't paid taxes on it.
  • During the Prohibition era, the police and the bootleggers were public enemies but secret partners, and the police would casually look the other way on speakeasies and gin mills for a small fee. Many of the cops were fired when they were seen buying diamond rings and expensive furs.
  • In late December 1992, 9-year old Katie Beers disappeared. Police were suspicious of the story told by the last person to see her, a family friend who claimed to have lost track of her at an arcade and so had him followed. As it turned out, they were correct — the man was holding the girl prisoner in his basement and growing increasingly frustrated as he needed supplies but didn't dare to buy anything lest the cops see this and instantly take him in for questioning or arrest him.
  • Many U.S. banks and creditors will suspect something is up if their customer suddenly starts making large purchases when they normally don't do so and/or at places that they've never been — ex: a person from New York suddenly spending money in Arizona, etc. The institutions will either freeze/decline the purchase or call the customer to confirm that it is them authorizing the purchase and not an unauthorized party that got into their account. Most banks will suggest that you call them before making a larger-than-normal purchase so they can authorize it when you make the purchase. Banks may also require additional paperwork if one is withdrawing or depositing a large amount of money to ensure that the money is not being used for illegal means. For the same reason, it's also recommended you call them in advance if you're going to be traveling overseas and using your credit or debit card on your trip.
    • Others have been caught for consistently depositing just below the amount legally required to be reported by the bank. It's actually used as evidence in financial crimes, or sometimes a separate crime itself, because it shows the person was aware of what they were doing enough to try and circumvent procedures the public doesn't generally know about.
  • In 2013, the NCAA investigated college basketball player Shabazz Muhammad after he was seen wearing an expensive Gucci backpack (Shabazz had already been suspended previously for receiving benefits not allowed under NCAA rules). He was eventually cleared when it was proven that the backpack was a gift from family members.
  • In some places with vagrancy statutes punishing those without fixed abode nor determinated means to gain livelihood, those deemed as vagrants could be punished for having expensive items without justifying their provenance, with the suspicion they might have stolen them.
  • Actually an Enforced Trope in France, where laws punish those without visible means to gain their livelihood who are consorting with persons involved in drug trafficking, prostitution, or terrorism. In cases where the declared income is vastly inferior to the real expenses, another disposition allows taxmen to calculate an imputed income based on expenses such as memberships at golf clubs and hunting lodges, rent for housing, among other clues which allow the estimation of a person's income.
  • In Canada, some divorced people who owe spousal support or child support claim to have no income (which means they cannot pay support), yet they live a luxurious lifestyle. The government can impute an estimated income for the support-paying parent, based on their lifestyle (e.g., owning luxury cars, living in a Big Fancy House, owning a yacht).
  • Much like Ames above, some political leaders in corrupt countries manage to hold a higher amount of property and have a better lifestyle than their official income would afford them.
  • In 2017, the UK devised the Unexplained Wealth Order, where suspicious spenders can have assets seized unless they can account for where the money came from (London is renowned for being a hub for both legitimate finance and dubious money laundering). The first person hit with such an order (the wife of an Azeri banker) had to explain how she could afford a £15m home and a golf course, while another businessman with links to a convicted murderer was forced to give up 45 properties.
  • Self-styled "rich kids of Instagram" have often landed their parents in hot water by showing off valuables beyond their parents' reported wealth.


Video Example(s):


What Did I Tell You?

Jimmy "The Gent" Conway is not happy to see his co-conspirators' luxurious spending after the Lufthansa heist.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / SuspiciousSpending

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