IRS Adrian Project making Wisconsin debut here Friday
Academics - posted on 10/25/2007
The investigation will get started with an anonymous tip, a meeting with law enforcement or maybe something as innocent as a bag of garbage.
From there, 25 Lakeland College students on five teams will have four hours to work with special agents of the Internal Revenue Service to solve one of five hypothetical financial crimes.
Lakeland will partner with the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, the law enforcement arm of the IRS, on Friday, Oct. 26, to conduct the "Adrian Project" Student Fraud Conference. It's the first time the event has been held in Wisconsin.
"We are excited to have this opportunity to work closely with Lakeland College and provide the students a 'hands on' exposure to the work of an IRS Special Agent," said Francine L. Evans, the Special Agent in Charge of the St. Paul Field Office for IRS Criminal Investigation, which covers Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota.
"This is a great way for the students to see a unique side of the accounting profession. Hopefully, some students will walk away from this experience thinking, 'This is what I want to do with my career path.' "
The mission of the interactive learning experience is to expose students to the inner workings of a fraud investigation through the eyes of an IRS Special Agent, and to present forensic career opportunities to students with an accounting degree.
The "Adrian Project" is being conducted with students enrolled in Lakeland's forensic accounting course, as well as senior level accounting majors from several of Lakeland's Kellett School of Adult Learning Centers. A group of 14 IRS Criminal Investigation Division employees will be at Lakeland, five coaching the five teams and the remaining nine serving as role players during the exercise.
Following an overview meeting with the whole group, five teams of five Lakeland students each will be coached by two IRS Special Agents as they tackle cases involving identity theft, embezzlement, tax fraud or some other financial crime.
It's up to the students to follow the paper trail and expose the fraud. They select their next steps in gathering evidence, usually taking them to potential witnesses, played by seasoned IRS Special Agents and other volunteers. Some of the students utilize the tools available to federal law enforcement officers, including use of undercover operations, surveillances, subpoenas, and search warrants. At the end of their scenarios, the students meet as a group to discuss their investigation, while receiving an evaluation from their coaches.
"We're going to have rooms in the Laun Center that will be set up for surveillance cameras to be installed, evidence will be scattered in various places for students to find, interrogation interviews will be conducted and arrests will be made," said Rick Gaumer, assistant professor of accounting at Lakeland. "Our students will be 'special agents' for the day."
Lakeland's forensics accounting class, which is being offered for the first time this semester, helped the college land the Wisconsin debut of the Adrian Project. Gaumer contacted the St. Paul Field Office for IRS Criminal Investigation looking for speakers for the course, and Kathy Enstrom, a Supervisory Special Agent in Milwaukee, suggested the Adrian Project.
"We're thrilled to be the first college or university in Wisconsin to host this project for the IRS, and this won't be a one-time event," Gaumer said. "The Adrian Project has been done in Illinois and Michigan with great feedback from students. This is a great Student as Practitioner experience for our students, and it allows the IRS to showcase the program."
It's the latest feather in the cap of Lakeland's accounting program.
In 2004, Lakeland's accounting program was rated among the best in the country according to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, as Lakeland was ranked in the top 10 in several categories among 2,000 colleges and universities in the nation.
This past fall, the IRS recognized Lakeland with an award for the college's version of the Volunteer Income Tax Preparation Assistance (VITA) program. The VITA program, which has Lakeland students preparing free tax returns for low-income Sheboygan residents, recently wrapped up its third year and has generated over $1 million in tax refunds for Sheboygan residents.
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