Charlie Engle today. Engle is a marathoner who participated in a liar loan during the housing bubble. The IRS – really one vindictive agent of the IRS – tracked him down, searched through his garbage, sent an undercover agent with a wire to get him to admit guilt, and coming up empty on any tax violations, prosecuted him for the liar loans. It turned out that the mortgage broker inflated his income on the loan document after the fact. But Charlie Engle, not the broker, was prosecuted, and sent to jail. He gets out this week, still burdened with a felony record and five years of probation.

Nocera makes a very provocative but accurate point about how the Justice Department has conducted itself during the aftermath of the financial crisis. It’s not just about avoiding any prosecutions for the top Wall Street executives whose fraud led to the crisis; it’s about making up for that through prosecutions of the bit players.