Fraud Fighters Battle American Greed

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Actor Stacy Keach, who narrates the CNBC TV series “American Greed,” praised the efforts of the fraud examiners whose efforts put behind bars many of the perpetrators whose crimes are chronicled on his show.

Keach, who has portrayed figures as diverse as detective Mike Hammer and author Ernest Hemingway, told the audience during a speech Tuesday at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ Global Fraud Conference in Las Vegas, “As an actor, you would think I would know something about fraud.”

He noted that doing his show, “American Greed,” has opened his eyes to financial crimes, and he commended the CFEs in attendance for their efforts at rooting out fraud. “One of the primary things I’ve learned is the extraordinary work that many of you people here in this room are doing and have done,” he said. “Without you, we wouldn’t be able to catch the bad guys, and I commend you for it.”

The Golden Globe-winning actor showed clips from the show, including footage of former Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski and the lavish $2 million birthday party he threw for his wife on the island of Sardinia and the $6,000 shower curtains he purchased for his home. In a jailhouse interview, Kozlowski admitted he had enjoyed his old college frat parties a lot more than the birthday party, and he blamed others for his home decorations. Keach told the audience that when his producer visited Kozlowski in jail to interview him, the former CEO couldn’t even scrape together enough change to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine.

“My experience has been that when people are committing frauds, they are misbehaving all over the place,” said corporate intelligence expert Chris Mathers, during another speech Tuesday at the ACFE conference. “They’re cheating on their wife, cheating on their taxes, abusing drugs, abusing alcohol, kicking the dog. Whatever they’re doing, they’re doing all these things because of the pathology of their behavior. You don’t just do the one thing. When you’re bad, you do lots of different bad things, and it’s a very good point to watch out for people’s behavior. That’s what employee assistance programs are for. People start drinking, people go too far.”

He recommended that companies be careful about insisting on doing background checks on every employee. In one case, Mathers assisted a company in investigating a fraudster who had been hired on the recommendation of the company president, short-circuiting their traditional hiring process. He also noted that existing employees may get into trouble and even be jailed without the company’s knowledge. He assisted one company that wasn’t aware an employee was serving prison time on weekends.

Keach learned about fraud at an early age, when one of his relatives was swindled out of thousands of dollars investing in what turned out to be a fake oil refinery that Keach himself discovered to be empty when they went to take a look at it. The friend who had recommended the investment had left town by the time they discovered the fraud.

“The fact of the matter is, if a person is greedy enough, he or she will do just about anything to accomplish their goals and hope to go undetected in the process,” said Keach. “One thing’s for certain. Fraud isn’t going away anytime soon, and neither is greed. And that is why the work you all are doing is so important. There are lots of bad guys out there, and we’re depending on you to help bring them to justice. So keep up the great work that you’re doing, and who knows? If you catch enough bad guys, you may find yourself on ‘American Greed.””

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