Gabriela Pearson is a professionally certified independent forensic accountant. She has more than 20 years of experience investigating fraud and has testified numerous times in both state and federal courts in both civil and criminal cases. She was recently hired by WindSand Hotels, a closely held corporation, to investigate a company purchasing officer who was suspected of taking kickbacks on purchases.
Gabriela gave WindSand her standard engagement letter with the scope of the investigation to be limited to investigating the one suspect. It promised no guaranteed findings or results.
She deal directly with Sam Markoff, the company's controller, and Joanna Rodriguez, the outside attorney. Gabriela was working under attorney-client privilege.
At their first get-to-work meeting, Sam said, "We've had three different tips from our Web site about this. All three were short messages that simply said Tania Perez, our main purchasing agent, was taking kickbacks from our suppliers. One tip even named a particular supplier, the Whole Coast Seafood Supply, a company that supplied fresh and frozen seafood to our restaurants."
Gabriela responded, "Any documentation that supports her involvement in this?"
"Not yet," said Sam. "That's why we hired you. If she's selling us out under the table, it could be costing us a fortune."
Joanna, the outside attorney, jumped into the conversation. "I've already talked to several employees about Tania Perez, and I'm convinced that she's guilty. I heard from one reliable employee that one of your suppliers paid for her vacation on a Caribbean cruise ship. And there are rumors that she had bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Brazil."
Page 246Gabriela thought about the situation. She knew that kickback schemes were difficult to break.
"Don't worry," said Sam. "I've known her since she was a little kid. She'll confess if we confront her and tell her we have the evidence against her."
"What evidence is that?" asked Gabriela.
"All we have to do is bluff," said Sam. "I know her. She'll buckle right away. All she needs to do is believe that a forensic accountant has the goods on her."
"It's against my ethics to lie to suspects," said Gabriela.
"But the police lie all the time to catch suspects, don't they?" asked Sam.
"You'll have to let me run the investigation," said Gabriela.
a. What steps might Gabriela follow to proceed with her investigation?
b. What mistakes, if any, have already been made in the investigation?
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