With the publication of the 2018 Report to the Nations, I am struck by how this study, like the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners itself, is in many ways a tribute to the vision and dedication of our founder and chairman, Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA. When Dr. Wells created the ACFE, he did so because he recognized there was a fundamental flaw in how organizations were attempting to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud.Read More
The insurance company Aflac is probably known best for its ubiquitous duck mascot. It is also consistently ranked on Ethisphere magazine’s World’s Most Ethical Company list, and Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies and 100 Best Workplaces for Millennials lists. But in the coming months and years, it might also become well-known for fraud and worker abuses.Read More
Emily Primeaux, CFE
Associate Editor, Fraud Magazine
In my favorite Halloween movie, Hocus Pocus, Winifred Sanderson, played by Bette Midler, sings to the adults of the town while at their Halloween dance. As the lines of, “I Put a Spell on You,” drift around the dance hall, the townspeople fall under Sanderson’s sinister spell to keep them dancing until they die. Winifred then leaves to “suck the lives” out of the children of Salem to keep her young and beautiful.
Sure, Winifred doesn’t quite resemble your typical fraudster. But bewitching others to escape prosecution isn’t too far outside the world of white-collar crime thanks to one Chevy Chase woman.
According to an Aug. 29 Bethesda Magazine article, Dawn J. Bennett, a 55-year-old former financial radio host, faces prosecution from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly defrauding people out of millions of dollars in what is described as a Ponzi scheme.
According to the article, Bennett is accused of taking more than $20 million from dozens of investors for her company DJBennett. But instead of putting the investments toward the business, Bennett reportedly used much of the money to pay back earlier investors and make purchases to support an extravagant lifestyle.
Things get a bit spookier, though, when a chronology of the case showed she attempted to cast spells on authorities who were pursuing her. On Aug. 2, when FBI agents searched her Chevy Chase condo and D.C. office, they allegedly found instructions for putting people under a “Beef Tongue Shut Up Hoodoo Spell” — a spell intended to keep people from talking to her. Winifred would be proud.
Fraudsters come in many forms, not just the bewitching kind. In another case, a straightforward Halloween hoax left one Seattle woman bewildered. According to an Oct. 19 Q13 News article, Elizabeth Bender was upset when she never received a refund for a canceled “Haunted Booze Cruise.” Her $65 ticket promised food, drinks and revelry, but when it became clear that she, and others who’d signed up for the event, weren’t getting their money back, calls to the “entertainment” company went unanswered.
Veronica Craker of Better Business Bureau Northwest says in the article that there are a lot of “event scams” popping up. She explains if the event doesn’t have a specific time and location or the event’s pages have stock-looking photos, these could be red flags. Craker suggests calling the event location before signing up for the event and using your credit card when signing up, because there are more consumer fraud protections with credit card companies.
Halloween is a spooky, but fun, time of year. Don’t let tricksters ruin your fun. And if Winifred Sanderson just happens to show up in your town, do as Max, Dani and Allison suggest and “cover your ears!”
Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors
“Fraud is alive and well in Canada,” wrote Jessica Lewis of the Canadian law firm Bennett Jones LLP in Financier Worldwide magazine this month. “It is thriving and fraudsters are innovating,” she said. “The ongoing boom in white-collar crime is partly the result of Canada’s lack of a uniform regulatory system and ineffective law enforcement.”
I agree. There are regulatory frailties in Canada, particularly the absence of Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) identification during corporate registration. These regulatory anomalies and loopholes need to be addressed. But fraud is also on the increase globally.
Whenever austerity measures are put in place, fraudsters come to the fore to prey on the desperate and needy (not to mention the greedy). The U.K., for example, recorded a whopping 25 percent increase in 2016 for reported fraud in general, much of this fueled by banking and online scams.
Policing and austerity
As Lewis alludes, law enforcement in Canada does not come out well in these situations. Similarly in the U.K., The Guardian reported that “….the police have not been interested in investigating such cases even though the losses have been as much as £25,000.”
On the face of it, the police appear to be neglecting their roles as investigators and prosecutors of those committing such crimes. The U.K.’s Prime Minister (and then Home Secretary) Teresa May, said only last year, “Fraud shames our financial system.” But I don’t believe that criticizing the police for their perceived failings really touches on the root of this problem. It’s a much larger issue.
Most police forces across the Western world have borne the brunt of austerity measures imposed by their governments. The problem is that, as a consequence, they have inadequate resources and frontline policing must take priority. The U.K. has seen its fraud squads dismantled and specialist fraud investigators deployed elsewhere.
Investigating fraud is a highly specialized discipline, requiring significant training and ongoing courses designed to try to ensure that concerned detectives keep pace with a highly dynamic crime that is constantly evolving. In particular, fraud perpetrated by cyber criminals is extremely difficult to police. Not only does it require an added expertise that only few detectives possess, it also introduces cross-jurisdictional issues typically associated with this form of deception.
Fraudsters are not stupid. They understand that if they are in Russia, the Ukraine or China (for example), then attacking victims in other countries, such as the U.K., Canada or the U.S., makes perfect sense. By inserting the buffer of international borders, there is little likelihood of Western law enforcement agencies receiving sufficient levels of cooperation required to bring the culprits to book (especially given the current political climate).
Sadly, there is little prospect of this status quo changing anytime soon. The political differences make for uneasy relationships between the law enforcement agencies concerned. This means that criminals operating out of the Eastern Hemisphere can effectively attack their Western victims online with impunity. If we add to the mix the realistic prospect of corruption and its impact on the overall scenario, it is obvious why Eastern bloc criminals are confident in their doubtful activities going unhindered. They can simply pay off local law enforcement officers (who should be apprehending them).
Law enforcement agencies (and police in particular) are being blamed for failures to investigate fraud. In an ideal world, police forces would be able to open a “new box of detectives” and deploy them as demand requires. Unfortunately, this is not the case. So until there is a reinvestment in the police, fraud will continue to grow and go unpunished.
Martin Kenney is Managing Partner of Martin Kenney & Co., Solicitors, a specialist investigative and asset recovery practice based in the BVI and focused on multi-jurisdictional fraud and grand corruption cases. Mr. Kenney was recently selected as one of the Top 40 Thought Leaders of the Legal Profession in 2017 by Who's Who Legal International. He is the only fraud and asset recovery lawyer included in this list of thought leaders drawn from 16 different practice areas.
Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Content Manager
Jennifer Lopez once sang that her “love don’t cost a thing.” I can’t remember if this was before or after Ben Affleck bought her a Rolls Royce. Don’t worry, it worked out evenly. She bought him a Bentley.
But, alas, not every romance works out as merrily as Bennifer did. (They almost made it to the chapel.) For some, love really is blind, especially when it happens over the internet.
To remember how much of a battlefield love can be, here are some of the latest news stories about people who give love a bad name:
BBC Promotes Valentine’s Day Awareness Campaign
[Jenny] started communicating online with a "very caring, considerate" man who said he was an IT consultant. "Very early on in the communication he was telling me how much he loved me, how he wanted to be with me, I suppose I got to the point where I believed everything he said," she said. Read the full story.
Secrets: When White-Collar Crime Goes Dirty
In two unrelated but sadly similar cases, Harvey and Larry carried on secret, sexually aberrant lives that were decidedly at variance with their known, socially respectable lives. Unfortunately, Harvey and Larry encountered extortionists who exploited their secrets, which cost each man thousands of dollars and one his life. Read the full story.
‘Prince Charming’ Behind Bars in Romance Scam Case
Olayinka Ilumsa Sunmola, 33, of Nigeria was sentenced to 27 years in federal prison for an international criminal enterprise he ran from 2007 to 2014. Sunmola and his associates targeted hundreds of women across the United States, developing intense online relationships and promising them true love. Instead, Sunmola bilked them for millions of dollars. Read the full story.
As a fraud examiner, you may not wear your trust on your sleeve as many of the victims who fall prey to internet barracudas do. You know to ask questions, be cautious and remain curious. Let’s use these stories to help spread the word that love doesn’t have to cost a thing; it can actually be an endless love that will take your breath away.
How many love song references did you spot? Let me know in the comments. Happy Valentine’s Day from the ACFE!