Forensic Accountants Follow the Money
Forensic accountants help conduct the financial investigative portion of complex cases.
FBI Forensic Accountants
Following the Money
Accountants have been woven into the fabric of the FBI since its creation in the summer of 1908, when a dozen bank examiners were included among the original force of 34 investigators. Today, around 15 percent of agents employed by the Bureau qualify as special agent accountants.
Non-agent accounting positions at the FBI date back to the early 1970s, when we created a cadre of accounting technicians to help agents working increasingly complex financial cases. During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, the FBI’s ability to address complex, sophisticated financial investigations was elevated further with the addition of financial analysts to our ranks.
Post-9/11, the criminal landscape changed again with large-scale corporate frauds and a multitude of other complex financial schemes. And once again, we adapted by adding new resources and skills. One key element was the 2009 creation of a standardized, professional investigative support position known as a forensic accountant.
At the FBI, our forensic accountants conduct the financial investigative portion of complex cases across a wide variety of Bureau programs—investigating terrorists, spies, and criminals of all kinds who are involved in financial wrongdoing. Through their work, forensic accountants contribute to the FBI’s intelligence cycle. They testify to their findings in court. And they keep up to date with FBI policies and procedures, federal rules of evidence, grand jury procedures, and national security protocols.
Responsibilities of FBI forensic accountants include:
- Conducting thorough forensic financial analysis of business and personal records and developing financial profiles of individuals or groups identified as participating in suspicious or illegal activity;
- Participating in gathering evidence and preparing search warrants/affidavits associated with financial analysis;
- Accompanying case agents on interviews of subjects and key witnesses in secure and non-confrontational settings;
- Identifying and tracing funding sources and interrelated transactions;
- Compiling findings and conclusions into financial investigative reports; and
- Meeting with prosecuting attorneys to discuss strategies and other litigation support functions and testifying when needed as fact or expert witnesses in judicial proceedings.
FBI-centric training. On top of the extensive accounting qualifications they bring to the job (see sidebar), FBI forensic accountants take a six-week training course that focuses on Bureau programs and systems, available investigative resources, financial investigative topics and techniques, legal training, and expert witness testifying techniques.
Forensic accountants are located in every FBI field office. Larger offices might have one or more forensic accountant squads composed of both forensic accountants and financial analysts, while smaller offices might just have one or two forensic accountants. Then there’s our Forensic Accountant Support Team (think SWAT for accountants), based out of our Washington, D.C. Headquarters, that responds quickly—either in person or often electronically—to significant, high-profile investigations anywhere in the country involving large amounts of financial data.
FBI forensic accountants have been involved in a number of major cases over the past couple of years, including a $200 million Medicare fraud case involving two Florida corporations, the largest hedge fund insider trading scheme in history, and a $200 million fraud by executives of an Indiana financial company.
If you’re interested in a career as an FBI forensic accountant, check the website periodically for open positions.