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Expert Fraud Investigation: A Step-by-Step Guide


Praise for Expert Fraud Investigation

"Fraud is a constant evil that attacks businesses, consumers, and government. The financial and reputational impact of fraud can be devastating, but education and awareness are key weapons in the war on this crime. With this new book, Tracy Coenen delivers an excellent primer on the many fraud schemes as well as practical investigative techniques to detect and prevent fraud."
—Martin T. Biegelman, Director of Financial Integrity, Microsoft Corporation

"The lack of effective fraud training by auditors made my job easier as the criminal CFO of Crazy Eddie. I was lucky, since Tracy Coenen was too young to be a forensic accountant back in my criminal days. Acclaimed forensic accountant Tracy Coenen's fraud investigation book will cause many criminals to take early involuntary retirement or be forced out of business."
—Sam E. Antar,

"In Expert Fraud Investigation, Tracy Coenen does an excellent job of educating the reader on a wide variety of fraud schemes and providing a step-by-step process on how to conduct a fraud investigation. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about the basics of how to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud."
—Cynthia Cooper, Author of Extraordinary Circumstances: The Journey of a Corporate Whistleblower

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE is a fraud expert and President of Sequence Inc., a forensic accounting firm with offices in Milwaukee and Chicago. She conducts financial investigations for private and public companies, reports her findings to executives and boards of directors, and testifies in court as an expert witness. She has provided fraud-related commentary to television and print media. Her commentary has been featured on NBC news and on CNBC's personal finance show, On the Money, and her comments have been printed in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today,,, and, among others. Tracy writes articles on fraud for national business publications including Fraud Magazine.


Chapter 1: Finding Fraud.

Signs of Fraud.

Looking for Suspects.

Evaluating Fraud Tips.

Should You Investigate?

Confronting Suspects.

Skills of a Fraud Investigator.

Differences between Audits and Investigations.

Conducting a Fraud Investigation.


Chapter 2: Beginning the Investigation.

Assessing the Engagement.

Making Recommendations.

Budgeting and Cost Control.


Billing Practices.

Engagement Letters.

Chapter 3: Managing the Case.

Assembling the Team: Where to Start.

Assembling the Team: Company Insiders.

Assembling the Team: Key Participants.

Assembling the Team: Outside Consultants.

Importance of Credentials.

Management and Supervision of Staff.

Work Programs and Checklists.

Document Management.

Preserving Evidence.

File Maintenance.

Investigative Software.

Professional Standards.

When to Stop Investigating.

Chapter 4: Searching for Fraud.

Analytical Review.

Key Financial Ratios.

Write-offs, Adjustments, and Miscellaneous.

Manual Disbursements.

What about Financial Statement Audits?

Looking for Fraud in Little Things.

Chapter 5: Sources of Information.

Who Acquires Information.

Internal Records.

Private Records.

Public Records.

The Internet and Search Engines.

Chapter 6: Investigative Techniques.

Corporate Background Checks.

Individual Background Checks.

Searching for Friends, Family, and Associates.


Digital Data Analysis.

Computer Forensics.

Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects.

Confirmation with Customers and Vendors.

Creativity and the Fraud Investigator.

Chapter 7: Investigation of Asset Misappropriation Schemes.

Cash Receipts Schemes.

Disbursement Schemes.

Noncash Schemes.

Chapter 8: Investigation of Financial Statement Fraud.

Revenue Overstatement.

Channel Stuffing.


Asset Overstatement.

Liability and Expense Understatement.

Reserve Manipulation.

Misrepresentation or Omission of Information.

Improper Recording of Mergers and Acquisitions.

Off-Balance-Sheet Items.

Accounting Involves Judgment and Estimates.

Earnings Management.


Chapter 9: Investigation of Corruption Schemes.



Extortion and Conflict of Interest.

Related-Party Transactions.

Money Laundering.

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Prevention and Detection.


Chapter 10: Investigation of External Fraud Schemes.

Corporate Espionage.

Investment Schemes.

Pyramid or Ponzi Schemes.

Securities Fraud.

Hidden Income or Assets.

Insurance Fraud.

Bankruptcy Fraud.


Chapter 11: Reporting and Litigation.

Stick to the Facts.

Keep it Simple.

Background Information.

Investigation Procedures.



Draft Reports.

Unfavorable Opinions.

Follow-up to the Fraud Investigator's Work.

Being an Expert Witness.

Preparing for Testimony.

Deposition Testimony.

Trial Testimony.


Chapter 12: Other Issues.

Moving Forward as a Company.

Preventing Future Frauds.

Marketing a Fraud Investigation Practice.

Competing with Other Firms.

Conducting a Global Investigation.

Professional Liability Issues.

Reducing Fraud with Investigations.