From the President and CEO

Kathe Swanson's courage in a small town

One of the highlights for me at our annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference is presenting the Cliff Robertson Sentinel Award. This year was no different. I was heading to the hotel ballroom to check on logistics before our closing session when I spotted our 2018 recipient, Kathe Swanson. An affable person, she, her boyfriend, Tom, and I cracked a few jokes as we walked into the empty general session room. If she was nervous, she hid it well. But as we got closer to her standing in front of 3,000 fraud fighters and sharing her story, you could tell the gravity of the Rita Crundwell case had taken its toll on her. As she read from her note cards, I could feel the impact it had on her life. Watching Kathe speak through a few pauses and hesitations was inspiring because she didn’t speak from a slide deck; she spoke from her heart. The audience felt it, too, as someone from the front row shouted, “You got this!” followed by generous applause to give her support.

Most of our event speakers instruct from the knowledge they have in specific areas of fraud examination. But Kathe isn’t trained in law enforcement, auditing or compliance. She’s someone who noticed something wrong and had the guts and determination to shine a light on it.

Her courage didn’t stop at telling the mayor of Dixon, Illinois; she continued to help authorities until they had sufficient evidence to arrest Crundwell. That takes moxie, especially in a small town. A large weight lifted off her shoulders when the mayor told her that the FBI would arrest Crundwell.

True to her character, Kathe spent a lot of her time thanking others during her Sentinel Award acceptance speech: those who helped put Crundwell away, family and friends, plus coworkers and citizens of Dixon. At the closing of her address, she announced she’d finally received her closure.

We have many takeaways from Kathe’s story, including the importance of separation of duties, mandatory vacation policies and effective audits. But to me the most resounding lesson of Kathe’s story is about courage. Her parents taught her that you don’t take things that don’t belong to you, and you’re truthful and honest. It’s one thing to say that, but an entirely different thing to live it. And for that reason, Kathe is a true sentinel.

Bruce Dorris, J.D., CFE, CPA, is president and CEO of the ACFE. Contact him at