Fraud is a serious concern for any organization, and also for individuals that are under investigation as well. The investigative process can be a long and arduous one, where information and documentation are closely examined over long periods of time. Prosecution typically is a shorter process, after evidence of the wrongdoing has already been obtained. Here is information that you need to know if you are in the middle of a fraud investigation;
What to Do When an Investigator Comes Knocking
It is important to remember that an investigator is not your friend. They are not working for your benefit. They are working for their own interests. Make sure that when they first reach out to you that you do not panic, and keep a level head. Keep in mind that the passage of time only works in the favor of the accused, so be willing to take things as slowly as possible.
Know who is investigating you. There are a huge number of different law enforcement agencies, and just knowing who is investigating you can be quite telling. Additionally, you want to make sure that you know who the individual under investigation is. Are they looking directly into you? Or, are they taking a look at someone you might be affiliated with?
Then, figure out what they are investigating. Knowing what the investigation pertains to will allow you to plan ahead and work with representation to prepare your defense. Be weary of assurances of “routine investigations” and similar statements. These are often meant to minimize, and keep you from properly defending yourself or seeking representation when the time comes.
Then, work with your representation to determine if you plan on speaking with the investigators or not. Depending on the situation, you may be able to avoid speaking with them directly.
Effective Fraud Prosecution
There are a few traits that are common to every effective fraud prosecution. Prosecuting fraud is often arduous and time consuming. Successful fraud investigations often show an aptitude in the following;
Detection. The fraud investigations that are successful often excel at detecting fraud. Investigation and prosecution never happen if the act isn’t detected in the first place.
Training. A large number of people are involved in the process of detecting, investigating and prosecuting fraud, it is important that those involved are trained to work with one another toward successful prosecution.
Coordination. Training must place an importance on coordination. Many individuals from different fields will be taking part in the investigation. A fraud investigation will pull resources from any area of the company that the accused may have touched.
Effective fraud prosecution begins with detection. Then, hinges on the ability of those involved being able to coordinate and work well as a team.
The Investigative Stage
Most serious fraud investigations begin with a complaint. These usually come from businessmen, private investigators or lawyers acting on behalf of an organization. Police are typically provided with the details of the situation, and information on who might be responsible. The officer may ask that the organization conduct their own research.
Prior to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984, police did not have the power to require evidence prior to beginning proceedings. Today, a warrant must be issued for the seizure of evidence if information held in confidence would reasonably lead to the belief that a serious arrestable offense has been committed, the evidence would be of value and relevant to the investigation and there is no prospect of the information being obtained without the warrant. When this process is completed and banking information is sought by police, there is almost never an objection from banking institutions. To refuse would place them in contempt of court, and lead to possible imprisonment. To date, these punishments have never been utilized because the requests are never refused. No warrant is required for information that can be legally obtained, and no warrant will ever be issued for legally privileged information, such as a clients correspondence with his lawyer.
One of the most common issues police run into in fraud investigations is not knowing where certain information and documents can be found. They might suspect these documents exist, and even have a good idea of what those documents contain – but that does not mean that they can specify who is possession of those documents, so no one can be summoned to produce them.
Typically, these investigation are highly scrutinized and police undergo a painstaking process to ensure that they are within the law with any seizure. Courts will not hesitate to throw out information that was obtained outside of standard procedure.
Today it is quite common for prosecution to last a great deal of time. Previously fraud cases were often shorter and non-complex. The SFO would take on around 40 cases annually, many of which would not be seen as serious cases today or given any kind of priority. Since 1987, complex fraud cases has risen considerably. There are more ways to commit fraud, and more ways to hide it as the disposal of lower level employees.
Many powers held by the Serious Fraud Office have come under scrutiny in recent years. Perhaps their most controversial power is under s.2 of the Criminal Justice Act of 1987, which requires suspects to answer questions that may incriminate them during the interviewing process. It is tools like this that make the Serious Fraud Office much more effective at combating fraud that other agencies. These powers are often used sparingly.
Many of these powers were put into place to relieve certain professionals (typically bankers, lawyers and accountants) from their legal obligation to withhold information, allowing them to communicate with authorities. While these powers have seen some negative response from the general populous, they are not entirely controversial in their usage.
The Role of Forensics in the Detection and Prosecution of Fraud
Forensics plays a key role in the detection and prosecution of fraud. Today, many organizations employ sweeping systems to watch for, detect, and stifle fraud as it happens. Computer fraud is very common today. Employees at all levels have a tool at their disposal that is extremely powerful, and many have access to integral organizational systems within companies.
Technology and fraud prevention systems can be used to detect when possible fraudulent activity is identified, restrict access to evidence, document who has access, and alert all interested parties as the investigation goes on.
Information gathering through computer forensic investigations is meticulously planned. The gathering, organizing and understanding of digital evidence can take time. Often times, computer forensics specialist are spending a great deal of time looking for very specific footprints or lines of codes with a large, complex system – and may not not know exactly what they are looking for.