A team of IRS special agents waited anxiously outside of a seemingly abandoned house. Inside were the suspects of a finance terrorist plot the agents had been tirelessly investigating. Arrest warrants in hand, the agents were ready to finally bring justice to the criminals they had been tracking. The novice agents would need all of their defense tactics and weapons training to work together to complete their first arrests.
The contact agent – the agent who would be in charge of controlling the situation through loud and specific instructions directed at the criminals – banged on the door.
“IRS with an arrest warrant!” he shouted.
The agents didn’t wait for an answer; they opened the door, prepared for whatever was waiting on the other side. There was only one man inside. A man they didn’t recognize. And he had a knife.
The agents quickly handcuffed him when they noticed a closet door, which was locked. As some agents tried breaking down the door, their number one suspect walked through the door, virtually unnoticed.
“What are you doing in my house!” he roared.
At the same time, the closet door burst open. A woman with a gun ran out, followed by another suspect carrying a baby. The agents were startled, not sure whom to apprehend first, but they quickly recollected themselves, breaking off into smaller teams to control the situation.
When all the suspects were handcuffed, the agents broke into applause as veteran agents worked to release the criminals.
“Nice job,” said one of the suspects once his hands were free.
These “criminals” were actually IRS special agents, being collared by students from Rider’s College of Business Administration and from Sayreville War Memorial High School participating in the Internal Revenue Service’s Adrian Project.
The students worked alongside IRS special agents on April 19, investigating a simulated white-collar crime case in this interactive educational experience developed by the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division.
The students began their day at 7 a.m. when they were split into four teams and sworn in as honorary agents for the day. They were then debriefed on the case and given packets of documents. Using forensic accounting techniques, the students put their classroom knowledge to the test, analyzing the documents for clues and, more importantly, potential evidence.
“This kind of investigation would normally take anywhere from 1 to 2 years,” IRS Special Agent Rob Glantz said. “So we really pack a lot into this one day and the students really do a lot of work.”
To help them accomplish this daunting task, each team was led by a veteran IRS agent to help guide the students in the right direction. But with the students growing more comfortable as the investigation continued, they worked as a team, exchanging ideas to understand multiple perspectives.
After hearing an informant speak and examining tax forms, criminal records, bank statements and other documents, the students concluded they had a terrorist finance plot on their hands.
Their next step was to interview an accountant who seemed to be involved. The accountant was reluctant to divulge any information, but he students went back to the evidence they had already collected and filed for a subpoena.
Special agents then gave students a taste of defensive tactics and weapons training. Students dawned bulletproof vests and learned to hold a gun (life-sized props were used), how to control an arrest, and how to handcuff a criminal. Agents then demonstrated how to sweep a room in a team and make multiple arrests at the same time.
“This is the same kind of training we get,” Glantz said. “We want the students to experience everything we experience and to really feel like agents today.”
After a quick, working lunch, each group was given a suspect to track around campus. Using walkie-talkies, the groups split up to see just what these criminals were up to.
Students observed money transfers and suspicious phone calls, and found tax forms the suspects had thrown in the garbage. They now had enough evidence to make their case before a judge in order to obtain arrest warrants.
Although the day was long, the exhaustion was well worth it, students said.
“I had a blast,” Accounting major Annette Frankowski ’15 said. “I didn’t realize how much I’ve actually learned in class until I had to apply all that knowledge today.”
While the day was a unique educational experience, Glantz believes that the mock investigation serves an even larger purpose.
“It’s all about opportunities,” he said. “We want to open students’ eyes to the many possible career paths available to them. Law enforcement is just one of those options.”