Students Assist State Police in Embezzlement Cases

Written by Hailee Sattavara & Rachel Harrison, Central Michigan Life

Last year, Michigan State Police Lt. Jerry Carter found himself with four cases of embezzlement and needed to utilize the expertise of accountants or the cases would have been dismissed.

But Michigan State Police doesn’t have forensic accountants to assist and act as expert witnesses with these cases, Carter said. He contacted Thomas Weirich, a professor of accounting, and asked for his top students in ACC 536: Forensic Accounting to assist in two of the cases.

Six Central Michigan University students assisted Michigan State Police in two arrests in two embezzlement cases.

“We were basically trying to put a big jigsaw puzzle together,” Weirich said.

These students received recognition Friday afternoon at the MSP Mount Pleasant Post, 3580 S. Isabella Rd., in the form of MSP mugs and a gratitude which could never be fully extended, Carter said. Students did not receive compensation for their work.

“Anytime a case is nailed down well in the investigation, there is no trial,” Carter said.

This was the case regarding embezzlement by a post leader at Veterans of Foreign Wars in Shepherd.

After more than 300 hours of pouring over banking documents, Wade Davis now sits in a Jackson prison. He was caught embezzling more than $1,000, but no more than $20,000, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Shepherd over the past three years.

Weirich and his students estimated Davis’s actual embezzlement was closer to $80,000, but the conviction would not have been possible without the group.

Each of the two cases took about two months.

CMU accounting students helped build the credibility of the case, as there was a great deal of documentation they had found leading to the conviction, Carter said.

“I think with these cases put to rest, the communities can now start to heal,” he said.

The most rewarding part was not the conviction, but getting to know the students, Carter said.

Davis will spend at least a year in jail after more than 300 hours was spent working on the case, which would otherwise be dismissed due to lack of funds available at the VFW.

“In many of these cases, they have many bank accounts (that) they transfer money from one to another,” Carter said.

CMU alum Jason Baird was one student who helped MSP.

“This case was such a great resume builder,” Baird said. “It was the first thing that was brought up by my interviewer.”

Baird has since graduated from the MBA accounting program and started a job in Grand Rapids.

“I also was trained on how to be unbiased, which is a huge attribute to the accounting industry,” Baird said.

The second case involved a man from Harrison, which Weirch and his students are estimating at $20,000 embezzled.

“If they could not have had our help, they would have dropped the investigation,” Carter said.

The suspect has been arrested, but has not been sentenced as of Friday.

This year marks Weirich’s 40th year at CMU, and he hopes MSP will utilize him and his students in the future.

“From my perspective, students got to apply what they learned in the classroom to the real world,” Weirich said.

Other students involved include alums Dedrea Flattery and Andrew Barclay, graduate assistants Jeff Horning and Tamra Mathews and senior Richard King.

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Item of Interest

The language barrier between English-speaking investigators and Spanish-speaking witnesses is a growing problem. (Updated 28 February 2011)