Attorneys have their specialty and so do private investigators. Having a specialty enables you to be an expert in an area of law – and the same is true with private investigators. For your client’s white-collar issues, you need an investigator who has extensive white-collar experience.
If you represent a client accused of fraud, FIS can help level the field of expertise. FIS understands the faults and intricacies of the numerous fraud schemes that support you in determining the best way to represent your client. For victims, FIS has the expertise to not only investigate, but also package the investigative results for presentation to authorities for prosecution. Just as beneficial, if your client does NOT want to have it publicly known that they have been victimized (and there may be many good reasons for your client to “keep it confidential”), then FIS can discreetly identify and recover assets for your client.
Not all frauds are the same and not all investigations are the same. If you hire an investigator who has limited experience in white-collar investigations then you could be throwing good money after bad. Chose an investigator with significant experience to benefit your client’s situation – experience that 25 years of federal and state cases brings. Andrew has probably investigated more white-collar cases in the Western Pennsylvania area than anyone- from any agency. Ensure that the investigator is bringing as much to the table in their area of expertise as you are with your expertise.
If you are an attorney with little experience in fraud matters but recently acquired a client with these issues, then FIS can help you.
Initial consultations are free.
References – Contact the Western District of Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney’s Office White-Collar section or any criminal defense attorney who handles federal fraud cases. Back to Top
As soon as you believe that your company is the victim of a fraud or embezzlement - DO NOT OVER REACT. This would cause more harm than good. Play it smart. Keep the discovery as confidential as possible. You do not KNOW who is involved or how many are involved. You also do not know if evidence of the fraud can be easily altered or disposed.
The best scenario (for an investigator to help you) is for the suspect to believe its “business as usual”. During this period an experienced white-collar investigator can acquire overwhelming evidence - getting you a faster resolution. The resolution is not when the person is confronted, but when you, the victim, get your money back. The difference can be a matter of a couple of months versus a couple of years. It is also very common for multiple schemes to be going on simultaneously – so you may discover one aspect of a fraud, and yet be unaware of other, possibly more significant, issues. So which would you prefer? Sitting back like a fox has so many advantages.
Ask yourself – Do I want this person/company prosecuted? You should know that fraud cases are NOT a priority with federal and state agencies. Fraud cases are difficult, lengthy and costly to investigate. It takes expertise and experience to do it right. Law enforcement priority investigations are violent crimes, narcotics, or homeland security issues. Even on the fraud spectrum, the priority is for consumer victimization – not businesses. You may be able to meet with the prosecutor’s office to discuss the scheme, but ultimately, it’s the investigators that set the pace of the case – and that’s not always a good thing as they are drawn in so many directions – most of which have nothing to do with your needs. Even asset recovery has issues – investigative agencies go after drug money that they get to keep (after seizure of assets the agencies apply these funds to their other investigations and crime prevention efforts), but your assets go back to you. So which asset recoveries do you believe they prioritize?
Remember – not all frauds are the same; not all investigations are the same; and not all investigators are the same. If you hire a private investigator who has limited experience investigating white-collar issues, you may not get the results you hope for.
Initial consultations are free. Back to Top
Being the victim of a fraud or embezzlement draws many emotions. These are amplified when the one victimizing you is someone you work with or know personally. My suggestion – get past the emotions for now. Money is the issue –and recovery of the money should be your primary focus – not prosecution, not “getting even” – just recovering your assets. The rest will follow in due time, but assets dissipate and disappear as time can be an enemy of asset recovery.
Identifying what’s been taken and how it was obtained goes a long way to locating your stolen assets. Sometimes this is easy to do and may take only a few investigative steps. In asset recovery, the first movement of money/assets away from your control is usually not hard to identify – it’s what happens after the first movement of money and the further acquisition of property or investments using your money. This is where it becomes challenging.
Asset searches and asset recovery are more accurate and more successful when searches are done in conjunction with surveillance. “Paper/computer” searches have limitations and often do not disclose hidden assets converted into someone else’s name.
- Keep your discovery confidential
- Keep quiet about your discovery of the fraud or embezzlement.
- Do not confront the person – that would be warning them that you are “coming to get them” and any assets may be moved, sold, lost – and much harder to locate or reclaim.
- An ACTIVE fraud or embezzlement is much easier to identify, investigate, and locate assets for recovery.
- Determine your goals:
- Asset recovery – this should be your priority.
- Prosecute – prosecution of the average fraud or embezzlement is usually about a year from the initial complaint. If it is more complex, it can double.
- Should you have the situation made public or not? Would making the fraud public further damage your company? Would having a discreet investigation done, recover assets, and fire the employee be “better” for the company? Unless your company is under a mandate to report these occurrences to law enforcement (or regulatory agency), then your options are open.
Asset recovery is usually, but not always, a component of a criminal investigation. Some agencies are better at asset recovery than others, some have more resources. Many agencies focus their asset identification in narcotics cases (victimless crimes) – not fraud or embezzlements. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a large portion of the recovered assets in drug cases as there is no “legal owner” of the drug money, but that’s not true in your case. So which cases do you believe they tend to focus on to recover assets?
Whatever your situation, you may want to consider discussing it with FIS in greater detail – the sooner the better.
Initial consultations are free. Back to Top
If you’re a business owner then you have “trust” issues – that is – you should have trust issues. Owning a small business is like raising a child (overstated – but you get the idea). Your attention to the business is 24/7 - it can be frustrating, it’s always rewarding, but you invest everything into it.
As your business grows, reliance on employees becomes necessary. You may have ways to “check” on employees from time-to-time, or perhaps you have been so trustful that you decide not to check on your employees. Quite often owners will keep hiring in the family – hiring relatives can give a sense of security. Most often this works well – but not always. I have investigated cases where relatives have defrauded or embezzled from each other for a variety of reasons – the motivation varying from case-to-case.
Have you fully vetted your employees, especially those in influential or fiduciary positions? Do you periodically conduct background checks for criminal violations or financial irregularities? Have you verified their credentials including education and professional certifications?
If your business is larger – you may know your employees’ names, but you might not know their personal situations – remembering that personal circumstances change in time. As part of your oversight you might have an employee responsible for internal audits. If you don’t – you contracted an auditor to review your books. Here’s the problem – very few embezzlements (statistically 13%) are discovered in the audit process. In one case Andrew investigated, the scheme went on for 17 years – that would be at least 17 annual audits that did not disclose the scheme. The average embezzlement lasts for 5 years.
You might ask – why wouldn’t an audit discover an ongoing scheme in your company. I give presentations to business and professional groups on this very issue. So many frauds and embezzlements are discovered by accident – that’s correct – by accident. Don’t misunderstand – the audit process is necessary and productive for so many business reasons, but auditing does not cover all aspects that need to be reviewed and it can give you a false sense of financial security. Discovering fraud and embezzlements is NOT about balancing the books.
So what can you do? Consider hiring an experienced private investigator to be a part of ensuring that you are not being victimized by your own employees or by outside vendors working in concert with your employees (kickback schemes). For this to be effective you should keep the arrangement confidential. If others know an investigation is pending, it may mitigate the effectiveness. If you decide to hire an investigator, retain an experienced fraud/embezzlement investigator with 25 years of experience who knows what to look for.
Initial consultations are free. Back to Top
DUE DILIGENCE INVESTIGATIONS
Due Diligence Investigations are based on a need for vetting vendors, employees, or businesses. Some investigative companies that claim to complete comprehensive due diligence investigations will base their research entirely
upon work performed from their office. A percentage of their work is completed by an office employee and not an investigator. That is not how we operate.
Vendors: (Vendor for products or services)
- Vendor schemes are one of the easiest methods of stealing from a company. For the protection of the business, all vendors should be vetted before they are approved for service. If they have not been vetted, then the
process should start as soon as possible.
- These schemes can be accomplished with or without an inside employee’s assistance, though most are committed with a conspiring employee. Unlike other employee-involved schemes, vendor schemes can involve an employee
from almost any department in a company – high level, mid-level and even lower-level employees, as part of either the billing or service process.
- Due diligence investigations may uncover billing schemes; kick-back schemes; false invoice schemes; and basic embezzlements – so a due diligence investigation is well worth while.
- Organizations that track fraud, report these schemes average five years in duration and cost the company in excess of $300,000.
Employees: (Back ground of selected employees or employee candidates)
- When hiring anyone into a key position, it is suggested that the person have a background investigation that goes past a simplistic criminal background, or a few calls to previous employers.
- If there is a concern about a current employee, these investigations may provide the key information needed to address or validate these concerns.
- A key position is any level employee that may influence the bottom-line of a company in a negative way. (Example – supervisor for shipping – may give preference to a shipping firm in order to get a kick-back for
steering business to that company.)
Business acquisition: (Purchase of another company due diligence)
- When considering purchasing a company, be sure not to inherit problems above-and-beyond what was provided. This may include vendor scams along with kickback schemes, ghost employee schemes; or an ongoing embezzlement.
These schemes can transfer from one owner to another and need to be discovered before being exposed to or acquiring the undiscovered debt and liability. Back to Top
QUICK LINKS FOR:
Fraud Investigative Service, LLC
2199 Almanack Court
Pittsburgh, PA 15237
(412) 722 - 8380
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