SOLUTION: International University of Management WK4 SEC Office of the Whistleblower Paper

Fraud examiners need effective interviewing skills to obtain admissions and confessions,
especially when dealing with difficult situations such as a hostile suspect. This session will focus
on proven interviewing techniques that the experienced fraud examiner can employ to apply
pressure legally, prepare evidence, take notes without making the suspect nervous, and obtain a
signed, written confession.
Program Analyst
Den Haag, Netherlands
Sherman McGrew is a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. Army Reserve and a retired Captain of the
Waterbury Police Department in Connecticut. He grew up in New York City and currently
resides in The Hague, Netherlands. He currently works as a Program Analyst for the
Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), Department of Homeland Security.
He entered law enforcement in 1987 and retired in 2009, having served as a patrolman,
detective, sergeant, lieutenant, and captain. He has conducted thousands of interviews with
suspects and has lectured on interview and interrogation to police, military, and international
audiences. As a detective, he extensively investigated financial crimes securing convictions,
while at all times respecting the rights of the accused.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut, a master’s degree in
Forensic Science from the University of New Haven, and a law degree from The University of
Connecticut, School of Law. He is admitted to both the Connecticut Bar and the U.S. Federal
Bar. He commanded the Waterbury Police SWAT team, and founded and ran the Waterbury
police academy for four years.
He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and has had three
active duty deployments, including two combat tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2008. He lectured at the
2012 ACFE European Conference in London on interview and interrogation, one of his favorite
“Association of Certified Fraud Examiners,” “Certified Fraud Examiner,” “CFE,” “ACFE,” and the
ACFE Logo are trademarks owned by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Inc. The contents of
this paper may not be transmitted, re-published, modified, reproduced, distributed, copied, or sold without
the prior consent of the author.
Introduction: Reviewing the Basics
Before starting any in-depth discussion of advanced
interview and interrogation (I & I) techniques, it is always a
good idea to start with a review of the basics. Difficulties
with interviewing a fraud suspect can usually be traced
back to deviating from the basics. So, before we jump into
some of the more advanced techniques, let us quickly
review what we already know.
Why Interview and Interrogation?
Interview and Interrogation (I & I) is basic to any
investigation. The ability to be able to speak to people and
have them reveal to you what they know is an absolutely
critical skill for the financial investigator. Many times the
evidence we discover is indicative of the commission of a
fraud, but is not enough in of itself to allow us or our
employer to “take action” against a suspect. Evidence alone
is not always conclusive. Many times a confession
sometimes is the only way to solve a financial crime. This
course will give you some of the tools you can use to get
confessions and show you what to do when you have
reached a dead-end in your investigation. And, very
importantly, it will help to keep your actions legal.
What I & I Is … and What It Is Not
Television is the worst place to see what a real suspect
interview is like. I & I is not like what you see on TV.
You are never harsh to a suspect. You never browbeat a
suspect. You never demean a suspect. This will only
make him shut down on you. In real-world interviews,
tough guys lose. Yelling at a suspect may make you
feel good … but, what do you want? To feel good for
15 seconds, or to solve the fraud and get lasting results?
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
You Are Already Good at I & I!
We use I & I all the time with our friends, our family,
everyone! We use it every day. We instinctively
“know” when someone is lying. We sense it. We feel it
in our gut. You can use these natural instincts to get
confessions. You already know how to do this, but may
not realize it. This course will show you how to channel
your natural instincts and use them to your benefit.
Do Your Homework
The interview starts long before we even meet the
suspect. We need to learn all we possibly can about the
suspect in preparation for the interview. In short, we
need to do our homework. There is a tendency to take
shortcuts here. All I can say is … Do not! Do not try to
“wing” an interview without doing the prep work.
Sometimes, given the time pressure of a fraud
investigation combined with the perceived need to “get
some answers and wrap it up quickly,” a fraud
examiner may feel obliged to cut short the background
work required for an interview. This is a mistake. Take
your time and find out about what happened. Know the
facts of the fraud uncovered to date. Learn something
about the suspect. What type of employee is he? What
do the supervisors and coworkers think about him? Go
over his files, but be aware of privacy laws and related
concerns. Get a good picture of who the suspect is
before the interview. Remember, prep work pays off—
shortcuts do not. You will probably only get one chance
to interview a suspect. Make it count.
Relating to a Suspect
You must be able to relate to a suspect in order to
understand what motivated him to commit the fraud.
Use your own life experiences. As a fraud investigator,
you probably have a background in accounting or
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
auditing. Use it to your advantage! You speak the same
accounting/auditing language. The goal is to establish a
rapport. Are you getting through to him? Are you
relating to him? Not everyone is the same. Maybe you
are not the right person to do an interview with this
particular suspect. Be sincere. Sincerity is the key. You
cannot fake it. You must be able to empathize with the
suspect. If you cannot relate to this person, get someone
else to do the interview.
Where to Conduct an Interview
Do not conduct an interview at your desk or anyone
else’s desk. There is a natural tendency to want to do
this. It is a huge mistake. Do not conduct it in a noisy
room. Ideally, you want to use a designated interview
room. The ideal interview room is small and has no
windows. There is one chair for you and one for the
suspect. Nothing should be hanging on the walls.
Outside noises should be kept to a minimum. In short,
you are looking for a place with no distractions. You
want nothing that will allow the suspect’s mind to
wander. It is not always easy, but do try your best to
find a place such as this.
The Interview Starts as Soon as You Meet the Suspect
Be a friendly guy. Do not be afraid to shake hands. If
you cannot bring yourself to shake the suspect’s hand,
you are not the right guy to do this particular interview.
Engage in small talk on the way to the interview room.
The weather is always a good topic. The actual
interview starts as soon as you meet the suspect. Look
for signs of stress. The suspect may ask questions as
you walk to the interview room. This is because he
wants to know what you know! When a suspect asks
questions immediately, it is a sure sign of stress. He
cannot wait to find out what is going on. He probably
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
had a sleepless night worrying about the interview. The
innocent are also under stress, but it is nothing
compared to the guilty. Extreme stress is an indicator of
guilt. The more interviews you do, the more you will be
able to see the difference. And remember, it is always
an interview, never an interrogation. The word
interrogation conjures up images of bright lights and
rubber hoses. The word interview is softer. We go on
job interviews. TV hosts interview people. We
interview our suspects.
What Is Important to the Suspect?
Your prep work helps here. What is his upbringing? Is
your suspect religious? What is his moral background?
Does he feel guilt? Almost everyone does. Very few
people are truly amoral. What is important to him? Is
his family central to his life? How about his reputation
with friends and neighbors? Get inside his head. Find
out what makes him tick.
How Many People Present?
Easy! Only you. Remember, it is not TV. Keep it
between you and the suspect. As in much of life, two’s
company, three’s a crowd. It is twice as hard to build a
rapport with three people. It is embarrassing for a
person to confess to having done wrong. The more
people present, the harder it is for a suspect to admit to
Never! Okay, emergencies (real ones) only (e.g., the
building is on fire, an asteroid is about to hit the city,
etc.). Interruptions will always come at the worst time
and set you back—way, way back. There is nothing
worse than being so very close to a confession and
having an interruption ruin all your hard work up to that
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
point. There should be a small glass window in the door
to the interview room so you can be checked on for
your safety. Arrange a signal in the window (e.g.,
flashlight, post-it note) if there is a real reason why you
need to stop the interview and come out. Very rarely is
there ever a good reason.
Legal Matters
Do things the right way. Play by the rules. This protects
you, your employer, and the suspect. It is incumbent upon
you to know your legal responsibilities for the country and
jurisdiction where you are investigating. Sometimes, our
investigations can lead to criminal consequences. Are you
acting as an agent of the police? If so, then certain rules
may kick in. Are rights warnings necessary? Is he there of
his own free will? He should always come to the interview
of his own free will. One way is to arrange an appointment
to “talk about the case.” Let the suspect come to you.
Generally, he is free to leave at any time. Make sure he
know this, and get it in writing.
It is never as you see it on TV. Lawyers will almost
never let guilty clients (or innocent ones for that matter)
talk to you. Their clients have everything to lose and
nothing to gain. In over 20 years in law enforcement, I
have conducted only one interview with a suspect that
had his lawyer present (and that was because the client
was actually innocent). If lawyers get involved, your
chance for a confession is near zero. A lawyer’s best
defense is to let you prove what you can … without the
“assistance” of their clients. What if the suspect asks,
“Do I need a lawyer?” A possible answer is: “I would
never advise anyone not to have a lawyer.” The bottom
line: Make him decide if he wants a lawyer. Do not
make the decision for him. If he does ask for a lawyer,
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
follow the laws of the country/jurisdiction where you
are working.
Get Any Waivers in Writing
When you are about to get a confession, you do not
want to stop the flow of information. So, before you
start the interview, get the ground rules out of the way.
Make sure the suspect understands he is free to leave,
he can get a lawyer, and he is there of his own free will.
Have these points in writing prepared so that he can
initial next to each one. Then have him sign at the
bottom while you witness it. Also, write down the date
and time. Once it is signed, put it out of sight! You are
under no compunction to keep reminding him that he is
free to leave, and so forth.
Strong, Positive Opening Statement
This can be difficult to do. You are accusing someone of
something you are not certain of. I always found this very
difficult. It was not my style; however, many investigators
use it to great effect. For example, “I want to talk to you
about the money you needed. You know, that you took
from the safe.” Note the use of “needed” and “taken” as
opposed to “stole.” Minimize the event during the
interview. You can get many different reactions. The
suspect might confess right then and there. “Okay, you got
me.” That makes for an easy case. But, what is much more
likely is that the guilty will get mad. As a matter of fact, so
will the innocent!!! So what is the difference? You can
calm the guilty down quickly because they are faking their
anger. The innocent stay mad longer. Their anger is
If you remember nothing else, remember this point!
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
Anything Except a “No” Is a “YES!”
It is that simple, and it works! If a person did not do
something, he gives you a simple, “No!” The
guilty/deceptive will give qualified answers. For example,
“Did you take the money?” Answer: “Did I take the
money? No, I didn’t.” (He is telling you someone did, and
he probably knows who). Another delaying tactic is
repeating the question back to you. “Do you know how the
theft happened?” Answer: “Do I know how the theft
happened? [Pause] Not really.” This gives the suspect time
to think. The innocent do not need time! The truth is easy
to remember compared to lies. One lie leads to another, and
they all have to tie together. This is hard work and requires
time to think. If you are telling the truth, you do not have to
think if the truth ties in with your “story.” The truth comes
from memory and is simple to tell. Lies are much more
To Get a Confession, Minimize the Wrongdoing
Try to avoid the harsh words. Watch out for trigger words.
Not stole, but needed. Not larceny, but took. Not
embezzled, but fudged the books. What we are trying to do
is to make the fraud “less bad” in the mind of the suspect.
The principle here is that it is easier to admit to shoplifting
than to armed robbery. He did not commit a crime, he made
a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. It is not that bad! (Or
so you want him to think.) As said earlier, minimize the
event during the interview.
After you minimize the actions of the suspect, give him
a rationale for what he did. He will likely jump at the
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
Examples include:
First, minimize: “Using something without permission
just isn’t that big a deal. It’s like borrowing without
Then, rationalize: “Everyone’s taken something from
work.”; “Cops take things from work.”; “It’s just a
matter of degree.”; “You’re not the first one in the
world …”
Then, offer an out: “You were going to pay the money
back, right?” The bottom line is to convey that it is not
that big of a deal.
Interviews are stressful! All interviewees are under
tremendous stress. The guilty ones are under incredibly
great stress. They need information from you! They
need to know what you know in order to lie effectively.
Their minds are racing. The guilty are thinking a mile a
minute to keep ahead of you, and to make sure they do
not trap themselves. The innocent do not have to think
so hard. Get the guilty to commit, and then spring the
trap: “It couldn’t have been you because you say when
the theft took place you were at the local bar, right?”
Get the suspect to agree that he was at the bar. Lock
him in. Then say, “You must have seen the car fire
across the street from the bar, right?” (Got ya!) “The
street was closed down by the fire department and
everything. You couldn’t have missed it.” If he was not
really there, he will not know if there was a fire or not.
(Trapped by his own words.)
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
Let Him Talk!
Never, ever interrupt a suspect. Who knows what he
will say next. Let him ramble on. Learn how to be a
good listener. Practice not interrupting on your spouse
(they will surely appreciate it). What is a suspect really
saying? What words is he using? Is he confessing in so
many words? When he stops talking, let the silence lie
there. This builds pressure. To alleviate it, he will want
to talk some more. The silence works for you. Do not
feel as though you have to fill it. The hardest thing for
us to do is to shut up and listen.
Get a big manila folder with a lot of papers in it—lots
and lots of papers. Only a few pages are your actual
investigation. Put the suspect’s name and the type of
investigation on the front, where he can read it upside
down. Do not say anything about it, but if you need to
reference something, paw through all the papers until
you find the real paper from the investigation and pull it
out. He will assume that the whole huge file is your
investigation of his case. Videotapes with the suspect’s
name labeled on them work great. If he keeps asking
about the tape, he is culpable. If I did not do it, I might
have some curiosity about a videotape, but I will not be
obsessed with it. If I am guilty, I am dying to know
what is on that videotape, and I will keep asking you
about it.
Information Is Like Money in the Bank
Realize that you will never know the full story … ever.
Something is always left out. Something is always held
back. I was once told, “Information is like money in the
bank. You never close the account. You always leave
something for a rainy day.” Know the elements of the
fraud you are asking about. What do you need to make
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
a case? Get the suspect to admit to the necessary
elements. Start with the easier elements, such as having
an opportunity to commit the fraud, and then work
toward the actual fraud itself. Get all the facts you can,
but realize that there is always more and you will
probably never know the whole story.
Giving Hope, You Cannot Fake It
Do not gloat when the suspect confesses. This is
difficult when you know you could not prove the fraud
without a confession. He can smell smugness a mile
away and will shut up. You will then never get a written
statement. If you have done the interview correctly, you
will feel genuinely sorry for the suspect. You cannot
fake this. Ask him if he is sorry. He will be remorseful.
Ask him if he will ever do it again. It sounds silly, but it
helps get you the written confession, and, in all
seriousness, it is the first step to a true rehabilitation.
Taking a Statement
Again, it is not like TV. You write out the confession.
You make sure that all elements of the fraud are in the
statement. For example, “So, then you found out how
much money you owed and saw no other way out?” If
he agrees, write that out in the first person. When you
are finished, read it through together. Have him read
some passages aloud and make corrections in his own
handwriting. This shows not only that it is truly his
statement, but that he is literate. Use the kind of words
that he uses. Avoid “million dollar” words. In addition
to your signing as a witness, get a secondary witness to
the suspect signing the confession. Make sure the
confession has the date and time on it. This definitively
establishes the length of the interview because,
remember, you got the date and time on the initial
waiver before you started the interview.
2013 ACFE European Fraud Conference
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