The Fraud Examiner
Investigator Enjoys Fascinating World of Unraveling Frauds
ACFE Member Profile
Maria Kress, CFE, serves as an investigator with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Los Angeles Unified School District. From watching crime dramas on television and becoming an undercover store detective, to her current role unraveling fraud cases using investigative skills, surveillance and other means, Kress has found a fulfilling career in the fight against fraud.
What is the function of the OIG, and what led you to this line of work?
The OIG is an agency that promotes a culture of accountability, transparency,collaboration and integrity through the performance of audit and investigative services designed to drive continuous improvement, support effective decision making, and detect and deter waste, fraud and abuse within district operations.
I work with the Investigations Unit of the OIG. The unit conducts investigations of waste, fraud and abuse to safeguard District resources, programs and operations. These investigations are designed to detect and prevent fraud and abuse by identifying systemic weaknesses in areas of program vulnerability that can be eliminated through corrective management actions, regulation, legislation, or by pursuing criminal convictions and monetary recoveries through the judicial and administrative processes.
I have always had an inquisitive mind and enjoyed figuring out ‘whodunit’ while watching the crime drama shows growing up. The process of putting the pieces of the puzzle together and following the paper trail intrigues me and captures my interest. So, it’s no surprise that I ended up in the investigations industry. My career began 23 years ago when I was hired as an undercover store detective at a major retailer.
What are some of your day-to-day responsibilities in your role?
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I manage the district’s fraud hotline. I process and track incoming allegations of fraud, waste and abuse, mismanagement and other improprieties involving district personnel, contractors and others in connection with district programs and operations. I plan and conduct confidential investigations, due diligence background investigations and special review cases, and prepare reports pertaining to these cases. I complete peer reviews on reports going before the Board of Education or to business partners. I coordinate and oversee multiple projects as directed by the Inspector General as they relate to the OIG’s strategic plan and initiatives.