Renee Hale, CFE

Senior manager of investigations at Dow Chemical Company

By Emily Primeaux

I'm a CFE

Renee Hale, CFE, knew from the moment she arrived at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia that she'd started on a perfect path to her dream job. Hale says of her time at the center, "Even on my worst day, it was the best job ever." Now as the senior manager of investigations for Dow Chemical, she conducts investigations based on specific allegations of asset misappropriation, corruption and financial statement fraud.

I've always had an innate sense of justice and the desire to stand up for those who might not have the knowledge, awareness or skepticism to avoid becoming a victim. I derive a great sense of satisfaction in knowing that fraud perpetrators' actions and crimes have been brought to light and that I've helped victims gain a modicum of closure.

I was born in Long Beach, California, and raised in a small town in Northern California. I grew up in the country, and as a young child I loved to ride horses. I also enjoyed school and I loved reading — I think that's where my love of travel and adventure began.

As a child, I didn't have a defined vocational desire. I only knew that I wanted to be in the business world, and that I wanted to travel. After college, I briefly looked at the FBI, but I was too young. It took 10 years working in numerous positions, searching for my "dream job," before I met a retired FBI agent who encouraged my interest and helped me understand that there were careers in federal law enforcement for someone with a business degree.

I attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia, to become an IRS criminal investigator. The day I drove up to the gates of the academy and saw the official government seal was one of the most memorable days of my life. I was trained and paid for six months to manage investigations, conduct interviews, carry out surveillance, perform self-defense and learn how to shoot as an expert marksman — it was incredible every single day.

I first began as a special agent with IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) where I managed criminal investigations with a financial fraud nexus. CI special agents investigate a variety of crimes that could include anything from tax fraud to terrorism.

I consulted for Dow Chemical while operating my own private investigation business. I primarily handled cases in the Gulf Coast (Texas, Louisiana, etc.) because Dow Chemical's North American investigators were based in Michigan at the company's headquarters. When a full-time position presented itself, I knew the job would provide increased opportunities to expand my knowledge in areas I'd yet to experience, such as international investigations.

While I was weighing the pros and cons of leaving the government, I learned of the CFE credential. Given my background and life goals, this seemed like a credential that would quantify my skills and knowledge in an easily identifiable way and would carry recognition to those both in and out of the fraud-fighting arena.

As the senior manager of investigations, I plan and conduct investigations based on specific allegations of asset misappropriation, corruption and financial statement fraud. I collect and analyze evidence, conduct witness and subject interviews, and I present investigative findings to management and ethics committees. My colleagues are located in Michigan, Texas, Europe and Asia.

One of my most memorable cases involved an investigation at a client's manufacturing site. An employee had reported that he suspected a colleague of running a "lottery." This was evidenced by the large numbers of employees and contractors that would come to the man's office to drop off money and "their numbers."

I reviewed the suspect's business email account and data files and found a treasure trove of evidence. The suspect had maintained Excel files dating back several years that contained names of players and the amount of the jackpots, some as large as $20,000. Additionally, I located incriminating emails between the suspect and players and a diary he maintained (going back years) that detailed how he spent his time at work running the lottery — notifying players, collecting money and numbers, updating spreadsheets, etc. It was in large part because of the electronic data stored on his work computer that we easily obtained an admission from the suspect, and the company was able to terminate him for cause.

I've learned that anyone is capable of committing an act of fraud. People who commit fraud are often, by all accounts, upstanding members of their community. It's not just "bad" people who commit crimes, it's the people you least expect who make poor choices — your neighbor, your child's baseball coach, your grandmother.

My favorite sporting activities include rowing, cycling and yoga. Rowing challenges me with every stroke — it's exhausting mentally and physically. Because of the extreme concentration needed, my mind is able to decompress from the day's events.

Emily Primeaux is assistant editor of Fraud Magazine.

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