Before former Pennsylvania Sen. Vincent Fumo was convicted of a $4 million fraud in 2009, FBI forensic accountants conducted a five-year investigation, building evidence for the case. In fact, these accountants had to sift through mountains of credit card bills, receipts and checks, and conduct interviews, according to Dr. Maria Sanchez, associate professor of Accounting.
“I read a lot about the Fumo fraud and became interested because it was fascinating that such a well-known politician was involved in such a large fraud and was able to get away with it for a long time,” said Sanchez, who grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and currently resides in Jenkintown, Pa. “Frauds typically increase during recessions, so in our current economy, it is more important now than ever before to educate current and future accountants on fraud prevention, detection, and prosecution.”
According to Sanchez, students, academics and professionals can learn a lot from the Fumo investigation. That’s why Sanchez applied for a 2010 summer fellowship through Rider University to research the investigation of Fumo, who represented South Philadelphia’s 1st District. She will present her findings as a case study, Forensic Accountants Nail Philadelphia’s Fumo: A True Case of Forensic Accounting, and plans to incorporate it in MACC 665: Fraud Detection and Deterrence course, which she will teach next spring.
“I think it will be interesting to Rider students because it is a local politician and it happened in Philadelphia, which is so close to the University,” Sanchez said. “The people and organizations involved should be familiar to students.”
This summer, Sanchez plans to analyze public records and media clips detailing the case, using forensic accounting techniques. Through the case study, she plans to explain the fraud, show how it could have been prevented, identify the role of forensic accountants and provide recommendations for professionals in the areas of fraud prevention, detection and prosecution.
Sanchez, who has been a faculty member in the College of Business Administration since 2002, said she will draw upon her research in auditing and forensic accounting, and her background in public accounting as an auditor.
Prior to coming to Rider, she worked four years at Ernst & Young, LLP. Sanchez said she always knew she eventually pursue career in teaching. Both of her parents were academics and “instilled a love for learning,” she said. Her father taught marketing at Villanova University, while her mother taught biology at Arcadia University.
“I wanted to get some real world experience first, but I always knew I would work in academia,” she said. “As a professor, you can find an area that really interests you. You can spend months, years, or your whole career investigating a specific topic.”