College of Business: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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LYCEUM: Uncovering Fraud – by Accident and by Applying Knowledge


3/1/2006

Ernest Almonte.Ernest Almonte, auditor general of Rhode Island, discussed some of his fraud cases with students during his mid-February visit to the College of Business. During his presentation, Almonte talked about his experience in fraud investigation and audit work.

“Most frauds get uncovered not by great audit work, but by accident,” Almonte said. “Someone tells you something, and it turns into a fraud [case].”

Almonte also discussed the care he takes in his work, making sure that he doesn’t destroy someone’s career by false accusations. He also mentioned how dangerous his work could be at times. “Within my first year as Auditor General, I got a bullet proof vest and a permit to own a firearm.”

As the only spokesperson for his department, Almonte must take measures to make sure his staff is not harmed as a result of their investigations. “I tell my employees to let me take the heat. I can get up and find a new job the next day, so let them (the suspects) use their power to come after me.”

Having investigated many high profile public figures, Almonte warned students about being intimidated by celebrities. “Don’t be in awe, don’t be intimidated, just do the job in a professional manner,” he said.

Almonte gave some examples of his investigations over the years. One story involved tracking down the director of a Rhode Island hospital who would use the hospital’s money to finance his vacations.

Almonte has also served as chairman of the Electronic Government Committee of the National State Auditors Association. As Chairman, he made sure that the appropriate department in each state followed the rules on computer security. He and his team would break into state computer systems to prove that there were vulnerabilities that needed to be patched.

A graduate of Bryant University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Almonte is a certified fraud examiner and government financial manager. Before being appointed as Rhode Island’s Auditor General, Almonte owned a CPA firm serving clients in New England.

 

–Lane Song

 

 

UIUC College of Business