Career Center: Help Me Leave a Legacy
Ann Petterson, CFE
Ann Petterson, CFE, Senior Manager at Baker Tilly, became passionate about fighting fraud at an early age. “As long as I can remember, I wanted to be a federal agent,” says Petterson. “As a child, I remember hearing about victims of an Irish Sweepstakes scam, empathizing with the victims and wanting to figure out ways to thwart the bad guys.”
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Hollis, New York, and was raised on Long Island.
What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
Cressey’s Fraud Triangle. It added a new dimension to fraud fighting. The thought of profiling fraud perpetrators by being cognizant of the relevant factors that constitute the perfect environment for fraudulent conduct was an idea that was previously never within my purview. Adding Cressey’s factors to a risk assessment helps optimize the analytics.
What steps led you to your current position?
I was employed as a Special Agent with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division for 20 years. As a financial investigator, I reviewed and evaluated financial records to determine whether a crime had been committed and, if so, to identify the perpetrators of the crime. The ability to “follow the money” is key in identifying crimes, determining motive and obtaining sufficient evidence to successfully adjudicate white-collar crime. I was also employed by the district attorney’s office and, again, I would follow the money to prove intent in murder cases, to prosecute mortgage fraud and money laundering cases, and to uncover embezzlements perpetrated by high-ranking officials of local government.
These skills have parlayed well to the private sector, where I conduct business fraud investigations, provide litigation support in white-collar crime cases, assist in integrity monitoring and apply money laundering skills to assist in regulatory compliance of financial institutions.
What is your current role and what does it entail?
I work as a Senior Manager at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause LLP, a professional services firm, in the Business Fraud and Investigations team of the firm’s Forensic Litigation and Valuation Services group. In this capacity, I work complex tax and corporate fraud cases. Depending on the case, I am retained by either the defense attorneys or by the government to aid in prosecution. I am often called to the witness stand to testify as either an expert witness or a fact witness to help “explain the numbers to the trier of fact” (Judge or Jury). A major portion of my days are spent training young staff members on the importance of building a comprehensive set of work papers, writing detailed memoranda and properly documenting every conclusion reached.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud? (Feel free to alter details to protect confidential information.)
One case that comes to mind is the Sweet ‘N’ Low tax fraud case of 1997. The case came to light when the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces program opened an investigation following allegations of drug trafficking at a plant owned by Cumberland Packing Corp., which manufactured the popular sugar substitute Sweet ‘N’ Low. No drug charges were ever filed, but the financial analysis that was conducted exposed large-scale tax evasion perpetrated by Cumberland executives.
Two Cumberland officers – brothers Gil and Mario Mederos – served as the company’s CFO and purchasing agent, respectively. These positions afforded the brothers an inordinate level of control over company finances. The Mederos brothers proceeded to create three shell corporations to divert money from the company for their personal use. They then submitted invoices from these companies to Cumberland for work that was never received. They also spent more than $1 million of Cumberland funds on renovations to private property.
In addition, Gil constructed a $1.3 million Long Island estate and paid for it with Cumberland funds. The brothers also accepted kickbacks from the contractors they worked with, allowing them to inflate their bills to Cumberland to cover the costs.
Each of the brothers declared individual annual incomes in excess of $1 million dollars for the years they were charged, but they neglected to report the illicit income they received from their activities at Cumberland. When a federal search warrant was issued to search company grounds, Gil instructed a contractor to conceal corporate records from two of the shell companies behind a wall at Cumberland. Eventually, the contractor pled guilty and revealed the whereabouts of the records.
Gil was ultimately found guilty of underreporting his income and was sentenced to 121 months in prison, while his brother Mario received 97 months.
What do you hope to personally pass on to the next generation of fraud fighters?
Technical skills are playing an increasingly crucial role in the fraud investigation field. For the next generation of fraud fighters, the ability to conduct sophisticated data analysis and partake in computer forensics engagements will prove invaluable. However, a high level of integrity and a passion for the job remain the fraud investigator’s most important assets.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
I am an avid cyclist and enjoy extended bike trips around the globe. I also like to spend time with my two grown kids.
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