By Gary Mitchell
PORTALES — Four years ago, Certified Public Accountant Dr. Don Morris, an associate professor of accounting at Eastern New Mexico University, had never even thought about being a fraud examiner.
Now he is certified in the field.
Morris, 57, recently completed the requirements and examination qualifying him for that new role.
It started when Morris began receiving notices from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners for students to apply for scholarship funds.
“But students had to have a recommendation from a certified fraud examiner, and the closest ones were in Santa Fe or Albuquerque, so how could our students ever apply for that?” he said.
Morris then became an associate member just by paying a fee, and at least his students could apply for scholarships.
“I could start recommending students,” he said. “Then, corporate scandals, such as Enron and WorldCom, began to hit the news. I started pursuing (certification as a fraud examiner) more seriously. I taught a class on fraud examination, and the students really seemed to like it. The association supplied a lot of materials for the class.”
The process of becoming a certified fraud examiner took approximately a year to complete additional studies and pass the qualifying exam, Morris said.
“I took the exam two weeks ago and was notified last week,” he said. “I was excited about it. I took myself out to dinner.”
The criteria for becoming a certified fraud examiner involved a certain level of expertise in three major areas — accounting, law enforcement and criminology, Morris said.
“They want you to know about all three areas, so I had to do a lot of study in criminology and law enforcement,” Morris said. “It took about a year of additional study.”
As a certified fraud examiner, Morris could be called upon by government or business to serve as a consultant on suspected fraud cases.
There is a need for that kind of expertise in today’s world, said Kathie Green Lawrence, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners vice president.
“The battle against fraud is a challenging one, but together with our members, we are making inroads to combat it wherever it takes place,” she said. “By uniting anti-fraud professionals, both experts and novices, leading practitioners in the profession and others engaged in fighting fraud, we have built a diverse anti-fraud community that spans the globe.”
Each member of the ACFE designated as a certified fraud examiner has earned certification after a rigorous qualification process, Lawrence said.
“Certified fraud examiners come from various professions, including auditors, accountants, fraud investigators, loss prevention specialists, attorneys, educators, and criminologists,” she said. “CFEs gather evidence, take statements, write reports, and assist in investigating fraud in its varied forms. They are employed by most major corporations and government agencies, and others provide consulting and investigative services.”
Based in Austin, Texas, the 28,000-member Association of Certified Fraud Examiners was established in 1988.
Certified fraud examiners in more than 100 countries on six continents have investigated more than 1 million suspected cases of civil and criminal fraud.
“A lot of times, we’re called in because someone suspects fraud has occurred,” said Morris, now one of 17 certified fraud examiners in New Mexico. “Computer software is often used to pinpoint where it may have occurred. Most of it is accounting fraud, but trying to stay one step ahead of it is hard. A variety of techniques are used. As a CPA, I ran across fraud occasionally, but now I’m trained to detect it more readily.”