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• Fraud tends to be accumulative. When one commits a murder, there is usually no driving imperative to commit two the next time and four the next. Fraud, on the other hand, usually tends to get bigger with time.
• Murderers are usually anonymous. We have the whole world to look at for suspects. Occupational fraud perpetrators are within the confines of our organizations: they wear the same employee badges we do and eat in the same cafeterias. They also have the same human resources files, full of potentially useful information about who they are, where they came from, how well educated they are, how many kids they have, and where they live.
• While there are occasionally witnesses to a murder, the victim can provide no information as to who committed the crime or why. While the exceptionally rare fraud may result in murder, we almost always have a victim available, usually with detailed knowledge about the perpetrator(s), the technique(s) utilized, and, perhaps, the motive(s).
• Since the penalties are less for fraud, the possibilities for cooperation are increased. Plea bargains in murder cases are the stuff of noisy headlines and stern editorials, but they still occur. The implicated fraud perpetrator is not facing death by lethal injection and we, the investigator/victim organization, may decide that in exchange for valuable information about the incident(s) we are willing to bargain.
We probably think we know more about the efficacy of deterrence than we do. Perhaps giving the white-collar criminal 30 years instead of 30 months will have a deterrent effect on others, but I would hazard that this proposition is built more on intuition and emotional investment than it is on empirical research. We
have seen the complexities that abound around the issue of deterrence of so simple a crime as murder, and these may tend to dissuade us from further research. If we choose this course, however, we continue to fight an important battle with our theoretical framework rooted solidly in little more than intuition and emotion.
I have suggested on several occasions the desirability, if not the need, for the forensic profession to look beyond its traditional boundaries if it is going to become capable of offering new answers to old questions about occupational fraud. I am also mindful of Bratton’s observation that the law enforcement field benefited greatly once it swallowed its fear and allowed the pointy-headed academics into the inner sanctum. There are many possibilities. In the arena of deviance and social control, one partner we may wish to consider is the American Society of Criminology. The organization describes itself as an international entity interested in research into the causes of crime and delinquency, as well as strategies for its prevention and control. It embraces students, scholars, and practitioners, and is also interested in issues of measurement and detection.4
Available through the Society’s Web site are abstracts of papers written under the Society’s auspices for the past 15 years or so. A review of the most recent five years’ works (1997-2001) is instructive. A cursory examination of these papers revealed 176 submitted during this period. Among some of the more interesting to the forensic professional are:
• “Snakes and Ladders: Upper-Middle Class Male Offenders Talk about Economic Crime,” by Sara Willott, Christine Griffin, and Mark Torrance (2001)
• “The Role of Public Social Control in Urban Neighborhoods: A Multilevel Analysis of Victimization Risk,” by Maria B. Velez (2001)
• “Social Altruism and Crime,” by Mitchell R. Chamlin and John K. Cochran (1997)
Such works and many others may be useful, or may be blind alleys of little benefit to what we are about. I believe we, as a profession, must begin to look at such materials broadly and consider involving independent researchers more deeply in our organizations and our profession if we are to grow and mature. There are many interesting questions to be answered. For example, we can recall the March 2002 poll conducted by the ACFE. It found, in the latest internal fraud incidents investigated by its members, that fully 27 percent involved 3 to 10 people and an astounding 9 percent involved more than 10 persons. Why do such group violations occur? Why did no one report them? One would think that if more than 10 persons were involved in the commission of the same fraud, many more were recruited but declined to participate. Did any of these persons come forward? If not, why? Could we be dealing with a Leuci situation where the vast majority of employees are “waiting to see what happens”?
If the theories of Doctors Fehr and Gachter have validity with regard to the control of social deviance, under which sets of conditions do they tend to operate and under what other conditions can these apparently basic human instincts be muted or overridden? Until we are able to begin to formulate answers to such basic questions, our goal of deterring fraud in the workplace will continue to be a formidable one.