Gonzaga Students Investigate With Police
Rice mentors accounting students at Gonzaga University as part of a pilot program helping Spokane Police investigate fraud and embezzlement cases.
"I see a large number of cases every week," said Spokane Police Detective Stacey Carr. "I can only investigate a small portion of those."
Det. Carr developed the class with Rice, Gonzaga Assistant Professor Sara Melendy and authorities in the US Attorney's office. The group formed a coalition called "Justice for Fraud Victims."
Twelve students spent the spring quarter investigating four different cases supplied by the police department.
"We're not trained to follow money through computerized accounting software," said Det. Carr.
It is specialized training the students learned about in class and practice under the guidance of mentors like Rice.
"They go through the bank records and tell me what they found, anything they've noticed," said Rice. "It's great when their faces light up and they get ‘it.'"
Rice and the other mentors are accountants known as Certified Fraud Examiners with years of experience investigating cases. The mentors serve to teach and guide, but would also testify if these cases go to trial.
"The mentors are fully responsible for taking the case through the court system," said Rice.
Investigative work like this typically costs at least $100 an hour but can cost as much as $250 an hour, according to Rice.
"It's a ton for the small business owner and certainly they've already incurred a loss by the embezzlement to start with," said Rice.
As a result, administrators focused the class on cases that involved non-profit organizations or small businesses in the Spokane area.
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