A dozen students enrolled in a Gonzaga University forensic accounting lab, their Certified Fraud Examiner mentors, their Gonzaga professor, an assistant U.S. Attorney, and a city of Spokane fraud detective have been honored by Spokane Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick for participating in the inaugural semester of the Justice for Fraud Victims Project. The initiative has become a valuable resource for law enforcement and fraud victims in the community.
The project, in its first semester, has so far helped victims of financial fraud in four cases where a full forensic accounting investigation would have been too costly and time-consuming. Chief Kirkpatrick awarded the Chief’s Citizen Awards to all involved on April 29. The award is the highest honor Spokane’s police chief can bestow on civilians and is based on the determination of a special Citizen Awards committee within the Spokane Police Department.
The idea for the project was formed last summer when K. Jill Bolton, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, approached Gonzaga accounting Assistant Professor Sara Melendy about having graduate accounting students assist local fraud victims with forensic accounting services. The students gather the paperwork, examine the books, compare the records, and quantify damages to prepare the cases for prosecution for victims who cannot afford to hire a professional forensic accountant, who may charge up to $250 per hour.
The Spokane chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners provided local certified fraud examiners to assist the student teams as mentors.
Gonzaga students who received the award were: Tracy Abdo, Nick Brock, Nathan Cacka, Priya Hempel, Cale Middleton, Thomas Houk, Kyle Krzyznieski, David Machado, Justin Ryan, Kristina Ryan, Myriah Sylvester, and Matt Throckmorton. Also honored were Assistant U.S. Attorney Bolton, Professor Melendy, Spokane Police Detective Stacey Carr and the four Certified Fraud Examiners who mentored the teams: Shelly Heston, Marie Rice, Lenore Romney, and Lisa Jangaard.
In addition to assisting victims and being a great help to law enforcement and prosecutors, the project provides hands-on experience in forensic accounting for students. In the long term, Gonzaga would like to develop this program into a full Center for Forensic Accounting funded by grants, community groups, and private donors.
“We hope to leverage on the success of this project to develop a Center for Forensic Accounting, focusing on not only the continuance of the JFVP but on development of research in this area as well as resources to aid small businesses victimized by fraud in the Inland Northwest and across the United States,” said Gonzaga Associate Professor Gary Weber, who coordinates Gonzaga’s graduate accounting programs.
For more information about the Justice for Fraud Victims Project, please contact Professor Melendy at the Gonzaga School of Business at (509) 313-7031 or via e-mail.