Mentoring Success Story: Steve and Melissa


Stephen Pedneault, CFE, CPA, is the Principal of Forensic Accounting Services, LLC, a CPA firm focused exclusively on forensic accounting, fraud and litigation support matters. Through his investigative work, Steve has examined frauds ranging from a few thousand dollars to amounts well in excess of $5 million. Steve recently participated in the ACFE Mentoring Program, where he served as a mentor for Melissa Frausto.

Melissa, founder and owner of A Paper Trail, is a CFE with years of accounting experience but wanted to take her career to the next level by starting her own consulting practice. That’s where the Mentoring Program came in. She was looking for a mentor who could help guide her through this rocky, uncertain territory.

Together, Steve and Melissa forged a strong partnership that is still in place today. They have some wisdom to share with those who are considering joining the ACFE Mentoring Program.

Why was it important for both of you to join the Mentoring Program?
Steve: Developing folks who are less experienced in the fraud field is the only way this profession will continue. They are the future. As seasoned veterans attrition out of this field to start the next chapter of their lives, a void is left behind that can only be filled with less experienced individuals eager to excel. There is no better way for them to gain invaluable experience and insight than to work directly with seasoned, experienced practitioners who are willing to invest their time by taking a personal interest in their success.

Melissa: As soon as I heard about the ACFE’s Mentoring Program, I knew I had to sign up. I was starting my own practice and saw this as an opportunity. My goal was to have a strategy to obtain customers and be prepared administratively to assist them properly without going overboard on initial expenses.

Steve, how did you know Melissa would be the right mentee for your experience and skillset?
I met Melissa at the 29th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas. The ACFE was just rolling out the new program, and I had signed up to be a mentor. Through in-person interactions during the conference, I could see Melissa’s passion for this field. She was starting her own practice from scratch, something I did 13 years ago, and I knew my experiences starting and developing my practice would accelerate Melissa’s launch. I have been very fortunate to have received much support and advice from others leading to my success, and I wanted to pass it forward by mentoring Melissa.

Melissa, what were you looking for in a mentor? And what inspired you to request Steve?
I wanted someone who had a successful consulting practice and who was approachable. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve at a conference networking event. He shared his insight with the group and his candidness inspired me to request him.

What advice do you both have for anyone who wants to join the ACFE Mentoring Program?
Steve: Being a mentor is not for everyone, but everyone can be a mentor. You, and the person you mentor, only get out of it what you put into it. You have to take a personal interest in their success, their issues and their journey. You have to draw upon your wisdom and experience, and be willing to listen, advise, support and counsel the person you are mentoring. Long-term relationships are often formed through mentoring, and a mentor’s reward is being able to celebrate their mentee’s career and successes.

Melissa: Take the time to find someone who will be a good fit for you and your needs. Don’t give up in the selection process. Sign up.

What has been the most rewarding part of your journey together?
Steve: Although Melissa may disagree, she has traveled far from where she was when we first met, establishing her practice and herself as a fraud investigator. Sound construction of buildings are established on solid foundations, and starting a practice is no different. Patience is a virtue, and done right, the investments she has made, and will continue to make both personally and financially, will pay her dividends. Through networking and interactions, she has started making connections that can and will lead to relationships. It is through relationships and reputation that referrals will originate, and Melissa is learning this type of marketing is a large part of building and maintaining a successful fraud practice.

Melissa: I am where I am today because of Steve. He has guided me through this process tremendously. He knew when to push forward and when to take a step back allowing me to learn from my mistakes along the way. He extended his personal resources to me and they have eagerly assisted. Wearing several hats in a solo operation is not easy, and his encouragement has been a blessing. I look forward to paying it forward in the future. I appreciate the ACFE for offering such a valuable resource to its members.

Enrollment for the upcoming session of the ACFE Mentoring Program is now open. Visit the Mentoring Program homepage for more information about the program. Or if you’re ready to enroll right now, click the one of the buttons below.