I'm a CFE

Wendy Evans, CFE

Senior corporate ethics investigator, Lockheed Martin

“It’s fascinating to me how CFEs each have a different ‘investigative fingerprint,’ ” says Wendy Evans, CFE, senior corporate ethics investigator at Lockheed Martin. Evans’ investigative fingerprint first formed when she began her career as a radio reporter. She says she honed her ability to take a broad subject and condense it into concise sets of 30-second sound bites. Evans then worked at a police department in Kentucky where she learned the basics of evidence collection and handling. But she credits her experience as an FBI special agent for fine-tuning her interviewing skills. “I learned how to treat the subjects of a fraud examination with dignity and respect, without being afraid to ask tough, direct questions,” says Evans.

I was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but my family and I moved to Louisville, Kentucky, when I was five years old. I’ve always loved art, and I still paint and sketch for relaxation to this day. I also helped my father, a history buff, build and paint 1/72 scale airplane models because he loved World War II aircraft.

After graduating high school, I attended Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I majored in both government studies and broadcast news and public affairs. I grew up thinking I’d be the next Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric and would practice by reading the newspaper aloud. My first job in radio news was at WBVR, The Beaver 101 FM and later I became a news director at another station.

I had a defining moment that caused me to change careers. I was the first reporter on the scene of a tragic plane crash in a huge corn field. As the Kentucky state trooper moved through the scene, I remember feeling helpless and out of place holding my microphone. I decided public service was the way to go — helping people during their most challenging times. So, I moved back to Louisville and joined the Jefferson County Police Department. I became fascinated with all manner of investigation — from homicides to fraud. After almost eight years as a police officer (including a gig as the spokesperson, thanks to my reporter training), I became a special agent with the FBI where I started in white-collar crime.

After the events of 9/11, I moved from white-collar crime to the foreign counterintelligence squad. But after having my second child, it came time to return to work following maternity leave, and I thought a local position might be more family friendly. I learned of a position at Lockheed Martin with its security team and accepted a position at the Missiles and Fire Control Facility in Orlando, Florida. After a few years, I interviewed for a position as ethics officer, which is where I’ve been ever since.

I’m one of two corporate investigators assigned to Lockheed Martin’s Corporate Ethics Office. In this role, my colleague and I conduct investigations on behalf of the senior vice president of internal audit, ethics and sustainability. These investigations range from fraud (expense reports, corporate-issued credit card misuse, etc.) to various employee conduct investigations. Additionally, a really satisfying part of our role involves training and educating our colleagues in the ethics offices across the company on investigative matters.

Despite years investigating the “bad” choices people make, I still manage to see the good in people. Good people make bad choices — some worse than others.

It’s one thing to look at a box full of documents and analyze them — and I love this sort of analysis and detail required in the job. However, when you look in the face of a person in the sunset of life — who cries as he describes a scheme to defraud that took his life’s savings — it instills a passion to help make things right and bring closure and justice to those who have been duped. This happens not only to individuals but to corporations as well.

One memorable case stands out to me: We saw a spike of reports of missing tools, laptops and equipment over a period of about a year. I started to observe a pattern of thefts, which occurred over holidays and late nights. I checked our company’s access records for folks who had means and opportunity. Another pallet of laptops was due to arrive the next weekend, so we installed cameras to monitor the shipment. Sure enough, we obtained the perfect “mugshot” of the individual. I’d love to boast how I quickly identified him; however, a member of our physical security team walked into the viewing room and said, “Hey, that’s Bob. I ride with him in a carpool.” We obtained complete cooperation from “Bob” and recovered thousands of dollars in laptops, stolen tools and materials, like rubber gloves and glue. We made a full recovery of the items, stored in his home. The company chose to prosecute, and he was sentenced to some jail time and 13 years of probation.

I spoke with retired FBI agents and other investigative professionals who talked about this outstanding CFE certification. It wasn’t until I joined Lockheed Martin’s corporate ethics team that my leader asked how we felt we could fine-tune our investigative skills. My colleague and I chose to become Certified Fraud Examiners. This year, I attended the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, and it was such a great learning and networking experience. It’s like being part of a family — but one in which everyone “gets” you!

Despite years investigating the “bad” choices people make, I still manage to see the good in people. Good people make bad choices — some worse than others. A recent investigation resulted in serious discipline for an employee. I received a call from him a few months later to say “thank you” of all things. I was touched to hear how he’d turned his life and career around because of the investigation.

My greatest achievement is my family. One can’t do jobs like ours and not have a supportive, loving family. Being an investigator is demanding and time-consuming. It takes special people in your life to stand by you and support this type of career choice.

Emily Primeaux, CFE, is associate editor of Fraud Magazine. Her email address is: eprimeaux@ACFE.com.