Sentinels Come in All Shapes and Sizes



Timothy Hediger, CFE, CIA, CISA

Owner and Consultant, Polaris Risk Services, LLC

It’s a tremendous honor to talk with fellow CFEs at the 23rd Annual ACFE Fraud Conference & Exhibitionthis June in Orlando and to share my whistleblowing experience. There are many things that I am passionate about: woodworking, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan, reading and learning new things. But my greatest passion, and probably yours, is my chosen vocation as a fraud examiner. That passion and my belief that doing the right thing really means something are the reasons my family has persevered over the past few years. You see, I am a sentinel, a whistleblower.

I was the director of internal audit at one of the U.S.’s largest not-for-profit organizations that provided jobs for people with disabilities. Our company was supposed to help these people - from a teenager with a severe form of autism, to a soldier returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, to a senior citizen who has cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, my company was cheating the U.S. Department of Defense out of a no-bid contract. The organization was not accountable to the government, the disabled or to the public that allows 501(c) organizations to operate. 

I reported these issues to management in writing on 17 different occasions and the following happened: 

  • I was denied a raise
  • I was given a written warning
  • My coworker and fellow plaintiff was fired
  • My audit reviewing the no-bid contract was cancelled
  • I disclosed the problems with Corporate Counsel and External Auditors
  • I was demoted
  • I was a “lay off of one,” a way of saying I was fired

The entertainment industry depicts wearing a recording device for the Federal government as a lot sexier than it really is, and conveniently forgets to mention the nerve-wracking idea of a wire-wearing novice being discovered. In fact, that was one of the scariest propositions that I have had to go through in my professional life.

I never, ever want to go through an event like that again! When you have a wife and a newborn daughter to care for, it’s not easy to sacrifice your job for truth. However, it was comforting to know that the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies found merit in the argument we made:

While in Orlando, please feel free to stop by, introduce yourself and say ‘hi’ to a sentinel at my session, “The Landscape of Whistleblowing: A Personal and Professional Perspective” on Wednesday, June 20.