Brazil: Where the Crooks Can't Go

There is a certain element of U.S. society that has always had a tender spot in its heart for Brazil—the crooks who go flying down to Rio to escape the law. Alone among hemisphere nations, Brazil has long refused to sign an extradition treaty with Washington, preferring to let bygones be gone. No one knows how many U.S. criminals have fled over the years, but they numbered in the hundreds.

Among the big-leaguers, Lowell Birrell (who embezzled $14 million), Edward Gilbert (about $2,000,000) and Earl Belle ($800,000) have all voluntarily returned to...