Career Center: Take Me to the Next Level
Chelsea Binns, Ph.D., CFE
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 one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since becoming a CFE?
Since becoming a CFE, I’ve learned the importance of training and networking within the anti-fraud community. As the Vice President and Training Director for the ACFE’s New York Chapter, I have been involved in the planning of six conferences, including three 2-day events and many networking meetings across the five boroughs. In that capacity, I have experienced and witnessed valuable collaborative experiences. I know several members who have benefited from the opportunities being a CFE provides — they have solved cases and found employment as a direct result of the training and networking that comes along with being a CFE. I am proud to have had a role in facilitating some of these connections.
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 do you like about being an ACFE member?
As I mentioned, I really like the networking opportunities that the ACFE provides. I’m a social person, and I appreciate the ability of the ACFE to connect like-minded fraud fighters across the globe. For me, those connections have resulted in employment opportunities for my chapter’s members and special guests at my chapter’s conferences. For instance, last year, we invited a member of ACFE Japan to come speak at our conference in New York. It was a rare and valuable experience to learn about the great anti-fraud work our counterparts were conducting nearly 7,000 miles away.
How has membership in the ACFE impacted your professional development?
My involvement with the ACFE has been a positive influence in my career. I have fully enjoyed the benefits of the ACFE professional network. Today, I am a Chapter Leader/Training Director in New York, a member of the ACFE Higher Education Advisory Committee and a member of the ACFE Advisory Council.
Over time, I’ve found the ACFE uniquely provides a professional platform that grows and evolves along with individual career paths. As my career changed and grew, so did my relationship with the ACFE. Throughout my career, regardless of my position, I have received training, networking, education and leadership opportunities from the ACFE.
I went from working in the public sector as an investigator, to working at major banks in the private sector, to becoming a college professor. Yet I always found training, committees and networks in my particular area.
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.
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