Getting the goods on the fraudsters

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  • Forensic accountant Todd Boyd (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Forensic accountant Todd Boyd (Photo by Mark Tatem)

  • Forensic accountant Todd Boyd (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Forensic accountant Todd Boyd (Photo by Mark Tatem)


HOW TO SPOT FRAUD

Forensic accountant Todd Boyd said there are a number of red flags to look out for when it comes to fraud, which usually comes from a lack of oversight and financial controls.
“Quite often the person committing the crime is quite controlling and they don’t want anyone else to do the banking. They have the passwords and the locked drawer but I bet when you open that drawer you see all they are doing is writing cheques to themselves,” he said.
“Cash is the easiest area of theft. That’s why when you go to a function you have to buy drinks tickets. It’s a rigmarole but it’s a simple control that has a positive effect.”
He added: “Quite often, the companies targeted are small and don’t have external audits or financial reviews. The owner puts trust in the book-keeper or the accountant and signs blank cheques for them before going on vacation. Electronic banking is also quite confusing at times and it’s not untypical to leave those responsibilities to the book keeper, even though there might be two signatories required.”

A local forensic accountant has been using a head for figures and a nose for crime to help sniff out frauds, thefts and corruption.

Todd Boyd, of Forensic First, has been working with the Bermuda Police Service to get to the bottom of financial crimes and aid the victims in recovering lost assets.

He said: “Businesses are in decline these days; unfortunately fraud is not one of them. In fact it would seem the economic pressures of the day have actually accelerated these types of crimes, be it a sticky fingered book-keeper helping him or herself to company funds, mysterious inventory shrinkage in the warehouse, skimming at the till, or a more complex manipulations by senior management.”

However, he said, the contraction in the economy has also made it easier to spot who’s been sticking their hand in the cookie jar.

“When the economy gets weaker those thefts and frauds start to reveal themselves a little more. You can hide it better when there’s a lot of money sloshing around but it’s less easy to conceal when there isn’t.”

Mr Boyd recently testified at Supreme Court in high profile cases such as that of Cedric Oates, in which case the defendant was convicted of defrauding a schoolteacher of her life savings via a house flipping scheme.

Mr Boyd also gave evidence in the case of financiers David and Antoinette Bolden, who were convicted last year of providing false financial information.

And he was part of the prosecution case against would-be politician Andre Curtis who eventually walked free from court after a jury cleared him of stealing nearly $130,000 from the public purse.

Other areas Mr Boyd has focused on include money laundering, shareholder thefts and employee embezzlements.

He explained: “A conventional financial auditor examines a company’s books to provide a statutory annual financial audit. The auditor looks at an expenditure such as the use of cash to purchase a computer and ask questions like ‘is the book value of the computer representative of its current value’ and ‘is it being recorded properly’.

“Forensic First examines very different questions, such as ‘who authorised the computer’s purchase’, ‘where did the money come from to buy the computer’, and ‘who is getting the benefit of use from the machine’.”

Mr Boyd, a chartered accountant as well as a Certified Fraud Examiner, cut his teeth in the fraud business when seconded full time to the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force’s Financial Crime Unit. He is married, with a young daughter.

In addition to working with the Bermuda Police Financial Crime Unit, he also works with private sector businesses often small family operations that have been taken advantage of.

“This is more often than not done by a trusted long term staff member who the business treated as family. In that type of environment, with few if any internal controls, regrettably stealing is fairly easy,” he explained.

“In Bermuda, the trust factor is prevalent. It’s not untypical for the affected employer to think about that person as family. It’s not uncommon that when you lay the facts out in front of someone, they feel that it can’t possibly be true.”

He believes the cases he has worked on are only the tip of the iceberg.

“A lot of it doesn’t get disclosed. In a lot of companies the employee quietly disappears and we don’t hear about it,” he explained.

“I have seen that quite a lot in Bermuda. Maybe it’s happened to an organisation or business that doesn’t want the embarrassment or any loss of reputational respect or goodwill affected, or they think a prosecution is too difficult and there’s no point in pursuing it. But I think they almost owe it to pursue these things. Otherwise the individual walks off into the next role and does the same thing again.”

Useful website: www.forensicfirst.bm

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Published Nov 21, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 21, 2012 at 12:38 am)

Getting the goods on the fraudsters

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