As a criminal fraud investigator for the U.S. Embassy, Jennifer Ikoghode, CFE, holds a myriad of responsibilities ranging from detecting visa fraud to investigating human trafficking. "I work to coordinate law enforcement responses," says Ikoghode. "This means building synergy between the various law enforcement interlocutors by combining investigations and training, and responding to investigative enquiries from host government agencies." Working for a U.S. embassy means that Ikoghode also has had to modify her interviewing style when trying to elicit confessions. "I find it very disturbing when I'm unable to get the truth out of a suspect," she says. "But I overcome challenges by being diplomatic in my dealings with suspects and using more database systems to help uncover truth."
I was born and raised in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. Benin City is an ancient city bursting with culture and vibrant people. It's in a rainforest area with abundant farmland and several rivers. At the southernmost part is the Bight of Benin, or Bay of Benin, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Benin City is famous for bronze casting and farm produce such as cocoa, rubber, kola nut, palm oil, rice and cassava. The people are receptive of strangers, and they thrive in tourism, as traveling is a predominant hobby for us. As a child, I enjoyed playing outdoor games, climbing trees and reading novels, and I wanted to be a lawyer when I grew up.
I attended Ambrose Alli University Edo State for my bachelor degree and Ladoke Akintola University of Technology Oyo State for my masters. I studied international studies and diplomacy for my first degree and public administration for my masters.
I became passionate about fighting fraud when I worked for the Nigerian government. I was an anti-corruption investigator for six years. I conducted investigations focused on allegations concerning corrupt government officials. Fact-finding missions were always interesting because top government officials were very easy suspects to break and to elicit good confessions.
As a criminal fraud investigator for the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, I conduct criminal investigations with a focus on counterterrorism, diplomatic visa fraud and human trafficking. I prepare training presentations related to travel document security features, and I develop and continuously maintain local relationships with host government law enforcement.
A top lesson I've learned in my career is that not everything you see is as it seems. There's always something new to find if only you're willing to dig a little deeper.
My most memorable case involved visa fraud. The perpetrator applied for a U.S. visa and stated that he was a "Grade 11" official at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC, a Nigerian government office), that he earned more than 300,000 Nigerian naira monthly salary and had traveled to several countries — Italy, Germany, Belgium, China and a few African countries. A close look at his Italian visa revealed that it was a counterfeit. I was able to spot the counterfeit because the security features weren't consistent with how they ought to be, the intaglio printing was too smooth when I touched it, the UV feature didn't reflect the euro, the sparkling purple effect of the printing wasn't there, etc. I scanned and emailed it to the Italian officials who verified the visa was fake, and when I called INEC, they verified that a Grade 11 position didn't exist in the INEC office. When I presented my findings to the applicant he confessed that he'd paid 1.5 million Nigerian naira for the fake visa to an agent who he claimed was dead.
I first heard about the ACFE when I attended a conference in Lagos in 2009. I met a CFE who introduced me to the association and even paid my registration fee. When I joined the U.S. Embassy I decided to earn my CFE credential so that I'd be recognized as an expert in my field.
A top lesson I've learned in my career is that not everything you see is as it seems. There's always something new to find if only you're willing to dig a little deeper. I also believe that in addition to this, you are solely responsible for your own action or inaction.
Having my CFE credential makes me an authority in the fraud-fighting circle. When I give testimonies in court, my findings are rarely questioned, and when I deliver trainings to law enforcement officers, they take me very seriously.
My greatest achievement is my lovely daughter, Shekinahglory, who brings sunshine into my life. Even in my most moody state, I can't help but smile when I look into her face or hear her voice.
Emily Primeaux, CFE, is assistant editor of Fraud Magazine. Her email address is: eprimeaux@ACFE.com.