Member Spotlight: Mitchel Huffman

Member Spotlight: Mitchel Huffman

Mitchel Huffman, CFE, works as a staff accountant at Rea & Associates, a “top 100” accounting firm based out of Ohio. Earlier this year, Huffman was thrilled to get the two years’ experience needed to become a CFE. During his time with Rea & Associates, Huffman has done both tax and assurance services. He was originally more interested in the tax route, but due to his firm’s assurance department needing staff, he shifted his focus to assurance work. As Huffman became more familiar with this work, he started to really enjoy it and is looking forward to where it takes him in the future.  

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Networking and Volunteering Are Key to Growing Career and Business

Networking and Volunteering Are Key to Growing Career and Business

Early in her career, Gabriela Coldea, CFE, understood how beneficial networking and volunteering were for her and her community. She has devoted her time tutoring young students, serving on multiple boards and, most recently, volunteering as the chapter president for the Orange County ACFE Chapter. 

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CFE Prevents Fraud Through Immersion and Communication

MEMBER PROFILE

Britta Bohlinger, CFE, MA, BSc
Founding Director, RisikoKlár
Frankfurt, Germany 

Britta Bohlinger, CFE, MA, BSc (Hons), Quality Manager and Auditor (IHK Berlin), founding director of RisikoKlár, is no stranger to debates or uncomfortable discussions. From a young age, she enjoyed lively conversations with her father about his work and later became active in academic association discussions. She said, “The element of informal mentoring was invaluable — a source of motivation, challenge and aspiration. [The discussions] were also a source of comfortable discomfort as being an active member always reminded me of how much more I needed to learn.” As the only female CFE in Iceland, she now brings her passion for discourse and spreading risk management knowledge to the ACFE’s members-only online community and her clients.

How did you first become passionate about fighting fraud? 
When I turned 10, my grandmother gave me the biographies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Käthe Kollwitz — they laid the groundwork for my moral compass. I also witnessed my father working late at night and on weekends on machinery assessments and analyses. Deeply immersed, he was drafting, improving and inventing mechanisms, processes and devices that would reduce serious risks and protect the safety of fellow workers. He had suffered a work accident himself, but his loyalty to his employer never wavered and I understood that the awards and rewards he was given, in appreciation of the risks mitigated for the firm thanks to his inventions and improvements, played a key role in this lifelong commitment. We later enjoyed many arguments over environmental issues in his industry, and I consider myself fortunate for growing up with my father’s willingness to engage in ongoing intellectual battle over ethical matters with me. His respect for my perspective, coupled with my insight that risk can be mitigated — and that preventive measures in combination with a passion for risk detection and the right incentives can make a major difference — were character-building. Little did I know then that conduct and fraud risk would become central to my work one day, but the passion was instilled early and strongly.

My background in the social sciences, which entailed studies in social psychology and criminology, ignited my interest in fighting fraud and white-collar crime (German: Wirtschaftskriminalität). My work in mitigating and managing banking risk tied all these elements together in a holistic and passionate way.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE? 
Fraud prevention and detection, whether in Britain, Germany or Iceland, is far less known and understood than I used to assume. I realized that many, even professionals in the risk, legal and scientific professions, hold misconceptions and may have severe knowledge gaps when it comes to white-collar crime, fraud risk and fraudulent activities. As a volunteer in my spare time, I also witnessed charity fraud. Thanks to my CFE credential, I have become more aware of the pervasiveness of fraud and white-collar crime across all industries, and the need to fight it meaningfully.

The biggest lesson is that we need many more well-educated fraud fighters, not only in the English-speaking nations. I also learned that the ACFE is the best place to undergo this training in order to remain at the forefront when it comes to subsequent continued professional education.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?  
After moving to London in 2005, I worked at the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, an intergovernmental organization. It provides technical assistance in the promotion of the rule of law and good governance with a focus on sharing best practices and capacity building. I oversaw the organization of international anti-corruption and counter-terrorism conferences and training sessions in London, Jamaica and Malaysia. This entailed close collaboration with a highly diverse range of subject matter experts, including those at Scotland Yard, as well as government officials, criminal law experts and policy researchers in various nations. We worked towards very tight deadlines across three time zones, two of which were at the opposing ends of the globe. It was equally challenging, thrilling and rewarding. Germany is not a member of the Commonwealth, which meant I could only hold a temporary position (and was the only German), but having the opportunity to work with those high-caliber passionate fraud fighters and senior lawyers was deeply inspiring and presented a lasting influence.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?  
I love swimming in outdoor pools here in Iceland, and of course, hiking in snow-covered landscapes, especially when contrasted by black sands and blue waters. I have also tried stand-up paddle boarding with the Arctic surfers here, but I do prefer Mediterranean waters for my favorite water sport.

Discovering a new talent, whether music, arts, theatre or some other endeavor, is something I enjoy. The same holds true for exploring local cuisines, cultures and landscapes. Learning, reading widely and sharing knowledge is something that invigorates me, and I especially enjoy sharing this with my large extended family who have been a source of support in my fraud-fighting efforts.

Read Britta's full interview in the Career Center on ACFE.com.

From Fighting in the Cage to Fighting Fraud

MEMBER PROFILE

Josh Eckmann, CFCI
Registration Compliance Analyst, Allstate
Lincoln, Nebraska 

Many CFEs pride themselves on being fraud fighters, but it’s rare for a fraud fighter to also be an actual professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter; Josh Eckmann is one of those few crossover talents. While not yet a CFE, Eckmann is currently participating in the ACFE 90-Day Challenge — a sprint to prepare for, and pass, his CFE Exam. Eckmann has worked in the insurance anti-fraud field for years and finds that pinning down fraudsters in an investigation is more similar to facing down opponents in the cage than one might think.

What steps led you to your current position?  
I started off in the company’s national catastrophe claims team and during that time discovered I had a knack for investigation. I was fortunate enough to find, and be mentored by, a retired Marine Corps counter-intelligence expert who taught me most of what I know. I was promoted to my company’s life insurance division where I found a home for my investigative skillsets. I discovered a large, and vastly unrecognized, problem with the use of life insurance policies to commit multi-lien fraud for mortgages and SBA loans.

It was during that time that I decided to go back to school and earn certification for my investigation skill sets and completed the CFCI program at Utica College in Utica, New York as a distance learner. Eventually I felt a stagnation in my growth as an investigator and worked hard to find a position within my company that would allow me to test my abilities, learn another facet of the business and expand my skillsets and knowledge base. That brought me to my current position that required that I secure the FINRA Series 6 license. Preparing for, and passing, the exam opened my eyes to a whole new world of applications and knowledge for my investigative skill set.

Are there any comparisons between MMA and fighting fraud? Or, has one profession affected the way you see the other? 
There are very few sports or professions in the world that are more taxing on body and mind than MMA. It requires passion, perseverance, and an undying obsession to continuous learning, improvement and results. When the price for giving up or being ill-prepared quite literally could mean your life, you must be tenaciously vigilant. That mindset translates into fighting fraud. When failure and giving up are not options, you seek out additional expertise, angles, insights and details that will get you closer to your goal. MMA is so different from other combat sports in that there are so many options, so many techniques, so many ways to win and so many different styles. Mentally treating a fraudster like my opponent in the cage drives me to study, experiment, trust my instincts, be willing to accept when I am wrong, try a different approach and persist until I am victorious. (Chances are pretty good that said fraudster is not actually going to try to punch me in the face … but even if so, I’ve spent my life preparing for those moments).

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work? 
Outside of work, I spend much of my time training. I have gyms that I frequent and I have made a habit seeking out and training at new gyms that practice different styles of the same martial arts. If I am not in fight camp (eight weeks of extensive training for a specific fight or tournament), then I train three to four days a week. I take one day to focus on getting stronger and all the other days are MMA-specific. During fight camp I train six days a week: four of which are MMA-specific; one day is focused on strength training and one day is focused on endurance training. I specialize in submission wrestling and I spend a considerable amount of my time training in that style. I do like to travel as well, which I get as a two-for-one deal with MMA. Last October I was in Minsk, Belarus at the United World Wrestling Grappling World Championships representing Team USA, where I won the Bronze Medal at 92kg.

I also enjoy reading, mainly nonfiction. I love reading investigative case studies, the different sciences (physics is my favorite) and business journals. Latin dance is a fantastic way to bring body and mind together as well!

Read Josh's full interview in the Career Center on ACFE.com.

Mentoring Young Professionals Gives CFE Purpose and Passion

MEMBER PROFILE

Chelsea Binns, Ph.D., CFE
Assistant Professor
St. John’s University 

Chelsea Binns, Ph.D., CFE, knew from a young age that she had the skills and perception to be a successful investigator, but her life as a CFE has allowed her to take on more roles than she ever expected. Out of all the roles she’s filled — investigator, fraud hotline operator, professor — her favorite has been mentoring young fraud fighters. Currently, she serves as the Vice President and Training Director for the ACFE’s New York Chapter, where she’s driven to help student members forge their own paths in exciting anti-fraud careers.

How long have you been involved in the anti-fraud profession and how did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I was interested in the investigative field since I was a child. As a young person, I conducted many unofficial “investigations,” where I learned I had the qualities it took to be successful. But I started my official career as an investigator for the City of New York in 2003. There, I observed the realities of fraud and the harm it can cause its victims. I perceived the vast number of victims of fraud to include the city, its businesses and its private citizens. I recognized the tireless work and perseverance of city employees to prevent and detect fraud. This experience inspired me to continue the fight against fraud throughout my career.

What is your current role and what does it entail?
Currently, I’m an assistant professor at St. John’s University. I teach primarily in the Criminal Justice and Homeland Security undergraduate programs. As a licensed private investigator in the State of New York, I often teach investigative courses in the curriculum. I also teach courses related to fraud, leadership and the corporate security function. In those courses, I draw upon my experience working in an investigative capacity for the City and State of New York, Morgan Stanley and Citibank.

I also advise and serve as a mentor to many students. In this capacity, I have leveraged my relationship with the ACFE to benefit my students. For instance, I often extend opportunities for students to volunteer at ACFE training events, NYC Chapter training meetings and annual conferences. Several of my students have received employment opportunities from members as a result of their exposure to ACFE events.

What steps led you to your current position?
As I advanced in my career, I loved the idea of becoming a college professor. I always enjoyed and valued the training and mentorship aspects of my career. Thus, I gravitated toward a career opportunity that involved sharing my knowledge and experience to benefit like-minded students. I was equally interested in advancing research endeavors based on observations I made over the years.

To this end, I embarked on a doctorate program in Criminal Justice at the CUNY Graduate Center/John Jay College. It was a long road. I attended school at night while working full time during the day. It took me seven years to complete.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity that John Jay College provided me. They rarely accept part-time students. But my ability to have an investigative career in the private sector, while simultaneously attending school, greatly enhanced my educational experiences.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on, one that made you feel especially proud? 
When I worked for the city, I spent one day a week receiving telephone calls from citizens who wanted to report fraud, waste and abuse. I learned a lot from that experience. One key thing I took away is that tipsters can make a difference. We acted on all information that was received. If it pertained to something under our purview, we investigated it. If not, we referred the matter or the caller to the appropriate agency. I was proud to assist those callers. That experience made me appreciate the value of fraud hotlines.

Said experience inspired my first book, Fraud Hotlines: Design, Performance and Assessment, published by Taylor & Francis/CRC Press, which is due out this year.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work? 

Investigations are my passion, and I will often use my “spare time” to perform special research projects for select clients. I also enjoy international travel and outdoor activities, especially running, swimming, biking and tennis.

Read Chelsea's full profile in the Career Center on ACFE.com.