The Fraud Examiner

To Find Control Weaknesses, CFE Tries to Think Like a Fraudster


September 2014

ACFE Member Profile

Danielle Supkis Cheek, CFE, CPA, CVA, is the founder of D. Supkis Cheek, PLLC, based in Houston, Texas. She enjoys working with her clients to help segregate duties for fraud and error prevention, and spends extra time to point out flaws in their internal controls or other issues as part of the audit process. In this interview with the ACFE, Danielle shares her passion for fraud examination and her thoughts on the global fraud problem.

What led you to this line of work?

I did not take the most traditional path... I look back on my childhood and realized that I showed the signs that I should be a CPA and CFE, but just didn’t know it at the time. My mother likes to joke about how I apparently always walked around with a clipboard. People think I am crazy for saying this, but I am very lucky to have found my true calling. Public perception is that we are boring, stuffy accountants -- but that is the furthest from the truth. I have never been bored in my career and cannot ever see myself being bored.

Which types of fraud cases (or subjects) are the most interesting to you, personally? Did a certain type of investigation really draw you in?

I find coming up with creative controls for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have enough resources for traditional segregation of duties the most interesting. While it can be harder to show value to your clients on the prevention side, I find it extremely rewarding to help a business owner and potentially prevent fraud, errors or waste.

What do you think are some of the most important things for fraud examiners to keep in mind when working to prevent and detect fraud? Is there an element that requires the most focus for you?

This may sound terrible, but I always am thinking about how I would defraud the company. Of course I don’t act on any of the ideas I have, but I think about it regularly as a key part of my risk assessment process. For the clients I am working with on prevention, it helps me find the weaknesses in the processes and helps me design remediating controls. For the clients I am working with on investigations, it helps me focus on the most likely place for fraud. I start looking there first to try to find potential fraud as quickly as possible and keep my clients fees as reasonable as possible.

What advice do you have for other fraud examiners who would follow in your footsteps?

Try to find a way to turn your passion into your profession. It really is true that if you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.

In general, do you think the global problem of fraud is getting better – or worse?

I think awareness of fraud is improving. Publications like the ACFE’s Report to the Nations, television shows like “American Greed” and news coverage are making more people aware of fraud and some of its warning signs. However, I don’t think fraud itself is becoming any less prevalent. As long as there is pressure/need, opportunity and rationalization there will always be fraud. While it would be nice to think that someday I might be out of a job as we have stopped all of the fraud opportunity — that is just not going to happen. People are innovative, and I just hope that we can be more innovative in our prevention and detection than those thinking about or committing fraud.

Where are you from?

I’m a native Houstonian. Houston has really changed since I was a kid — this city really is amazing and you really cannot beat the combination of its cost of living and the amount of economic opportunity here.

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of your anti-fraud work?

Running a firm is a 24/7 job, and sometimes sleep seems like a hobby, but my real hobby is sewing. I learned how to sew from my grandparents. When my Grandfather was shot down in WWII, the only equipment that worked was his parachute. Originally a tailor, after the war, he devoted his life to pilot’s safety for the Navy and then NASA. He worked on the design and fabrication of the Gemini and Apollo spacesuits as the Chief of Crew Systems. I think I got my sewing bug from him.