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White Collar Crime is Focus of Conference

May 30, 2011 (Savannah Morning News, Ga.) Blame Enron, WorldCom and Bernie Madoff. While accounting majors have always been more likely to find a job after college than, say, art history majors, they're even more in demand now. Especially ones who study fraud and forensic accounting.

Georgia Southern University is among a handful of schools nationwide that offer extensive training in the field, including an undergraduate minor that prepares students to take the certified fraud examiner's test as well as a master's degree in forensic accounting.

The Statesboro school is hosting its fifth annual fraud and forensic accounting education conference Thursday through Saturday at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah.

"It's a new and exciting field," said Don Berecz, director of forensic studies in accounting and business at Georgia Southern.

Demand for specially trained accountants has surged in recent years, he said. The Enron and WorldCom scandals spawned the Sarbanes-Oxley law of 2002, which toughened auditing and reporting requirements by public companies.

The recent economic meltdown led to passage of the Dodd-Frank Act a year ago, which increases regulation of the financial services industry. It includes whistle blower provisions aimed at preventing frauds such as Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme that bilked investors of billions of dollars.

And the Internet also has increased sharing of information and has brought to light fraud that otherwise might never have been recognized, said Margie Maguire-Krupp, owner of Coastal Empire Consulting in Savannah, an audit, risk management and fraud investigation firm.

"You're seeing the impact of the information and communication age," said Maguire-Krupp, who is on Georgia Southern's forensic accounting advisory board.

Exit the stereotype of pencil-pushing geeks and enter a sexy new image of smart detectives pursuing white-collar criminals, who turn into "red-collar" criminals when fraud leads to violence.

Graduates of the programs sometimes wind up working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Bureau of Investigation or Internal Revenue Service.

Berecz, a retired FBI agent, said the popularity of the field can been seen on television, in true crime stories and fictional series, including "House," where a major premise is that "Everyone lies."

As part of their studies, Georgia Southern students learn interviewing techniques and participate in mock trials. In some instances, they have helped investigate actual cases, Berecz said.

About the Conference
The conference will feature more than 35 speakers, including current and former FBI agents, federal prosecutors, fraud investigators, forensic accountants, lawyers, consultants, educators and researchers.

The keynote speaker will be Ernest A. Almonte, former Rhode Island auditor general and immediate past chairman of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Almonte is an internationally-known expert on fraud and government finance.

Topics include justice for fraud victims; detecting fraud through data mining; big risks in small shops; and anti-fraud technology for small businesses.

Signed up early for the conference are 170 practitioners and educators from all over the country.

The meeting is sponsored by the Atlanta accounting firm Porter Keadle Moore LLP.

In previous years, the conference has been held in Statesboro, Charleston and Atlanta.

The conference is Thursday through Saturday at the Hyatt Regency in Savannah.

Website registrations are closed, but new participants can come to the conference and sign up in the lobby. The fee is $645 for all three days, $500 for two days or $250 for one day.

For a list of speakers, go to and click on "events" and "fraud conference."

What is White-Collar Crime?
White-collar crime is a criminal offense, usually nonviolent, involving fraud and illegal financial transactions.

Some examples: Cyber crimes, consumer fraud, financial institution fraud, insurance fraud, health care fraud, mortgage and real estate fraud, corporate crimes, securities fraud, environmental crimes, government fraud, tax crimes, bankruptcy fraud and public corruption.

Copyright (c) 2011, Savannah Morning News, Ga.

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