Donald Ray Cressey (April 27, 1919 – July 21, 1987) was an American penologist, sociologist, and criminologist who made innovative contributions to the study of organized crime, prisons, criminology, the sociology of criminal law, white-collar crime. Born in 1919 in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, he obtained his bachelor’s degree from Iowa State College in 1943 and earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1950. He taught sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Along with Edwin Sutherland, he co-authored Principles of Criminology, for 30 years the standard text in criminology. He also wrote Other People’s Money, a study of embezzlement, and co-authored the popular textbook Social Problems. After his retirement, he was president of the Institute for Financial Crime Prevention, a foundation for the research of white-collar crime.
He served as a consultant on organized crime for the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice in 1966 and 1967. Based on research conducted in this capacity he wrote the acclaimed Theft of the Nation, a treatise on the Cosa Nostra, and later the smaller Criminal Organization, in which he extended his conceptualization of organized crime to include criminal groups other than the Cosa Nostra.
Cressey is credited with the theory of the “fraud triangle,” three elements that must be present for occupational fraud.
Dr. Cressey died in Solvang, California, in 1987.