University assists law enforcement by conducting AP audits, recovery audits

In response to observations that embezzlement in Spokane County, Washington, has increased over the past two years, an area university is giving local law enforcement a helping hand by carrying out accounts payable audits and recovery audits free of charge, The Spokesman-Review reports.

Gonzaga University's Justice for Fraud Victims Project puts accounting students to work conducting detailed forensic audits that go beyond the capabilities of police and would usually cost more than small businesses can afford. Professional accountants and forensic auditors volunteer their time to assist the students.

"Especially with cases when there’s been long-term theft and long-term fraud, those guys really come in handy," said John Nowels of the Spokane Valley Police Department, as quoted by the news source. "We would always see the large-scale frauds (but) now we're starting to see more, 'Oh, hey, I have this employee and I caught him stealing $800 to $2,000.'"

The ongoing economic uncertainty is thought to have contributed to both the rise in small-scale embezzlement and the increase in reporting.

"We're getting more reporting because the businesses just don't want to absorb those losses anymore," Nowels added.

Specifically, fraud and forgery reports in Spokane and Spokane County skyrocketed from 2,057 in 2009 to 2,765 last year.

Those responsible for misappropriation of company funds can come in all shapes and sizes, but according to a profile put together by Massachusetts-based litigation support and security consulting firm Marquet International, the typical embezzler is in their late 40s, has no prior criminal history and is likely to be female. In putting together the 2011 Marquet Report on Embezzlement, researchers found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the 473 cases they studied involved women. 

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