What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since entering the fraud prevention field?
Anything can happen, even when you are close to the end, a new event can occur and change your investigation path from one way to another. Nothing can be taken for granted.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on?
When I used to be a consultant for the department of investigations on organized financial crime of the Sureté du Québec (which is Québec’s provincial police force), I worked on probably the most extended and exciting files — sometimes involving Ponzi schemes and tax evasion schemes.
One memorable case I had was a group of fraudsters who were diverting funds from many victims’ pension plans. It was under the guise of helping them pay their taxes when they retire (50% of the amount transferred) since these types of funds cannot be used before retirement or the age of 65 years old. Basically, they were offering a tax redemption scheme. This group of fraudsters uncovered a weakness in the bank’s process form to transfer the money and used it to transfer funds to other shell companies they created with fake identities and figureheads to receive the pension funds. Those accounts were only transitional, and the money was not put under the proper regulatory specifications for these types of funds, which requires a valid certificate to operate them.
They used this scheme for more than 10 years before getting caught. The estimated amount of the fraud was $14.5 million and affected about 350 victims, in addition to the government and the AMF (the equivalent of the SEC in Québec). The challenge, in this case, was that they opened about 100 bank accounts in 11 different countries, so we had to deal with many other countries to obtain evidence (when possible, they used numerous tax haven countries). The fund movements between all these accounts were a real puzzle to understand and it was very meticulous work to be performed with thousands of documents and pieces of evidence. The lead fraudster who pleaded guilty ended up with a six-year sentence, which is actually a lot for the Canadian legal system, and sentences of a few months were ordered for his right-hand actors.
What do you like about being an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) member?
I am part of various associations, and what I like about the ACFE is that it provides a variety of high-quality products as well as adapted training for the field I am working in. The resources available online are beyond what I expect — every time I doubt something is fraud-related, I do searches on the site to find any article or document to help me solve my cases, and I always find out tips and clues to help me out.
How has membership in the ACFE impacted your professional development?
To have the title makes a big difference. I get called by headhunters at least once a month to get offered new opportunities, and it gives me a significant advantage compared to other CPAs looking to work in fraud-related fields without this title.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
I am a very active person since it’s the only way to get my mind off of work. I am a surfer — I know it sounds weird for a Montréal-based person, but we do have amazing river surfing over here during the summer, and anytime I get the chance to travel to the ocean I do so. I am also a great salsa dancer. I love the music; it gets my mind free.
ACFE membership is open to individuals of all job functions, industries and levels of experience who are interested in the prevention, detection and deterrence of fraud. If you want to level up your anti-fraud career, we can help.