I'm a CFE

John Brosnan, CFE, CPA

Special agent in charge, Criminal Division, FBI – New York



John Brosnan, CFE, CPA, has learned many lessons working as the agent in charge of the FBI’s Criminal Division in New York. He advises CFEs to not rush to judgment early in an investigation, be prepared to encounter investigative hurdles that require perseverance to overcome, and to talk less and listen more when interviewing subjects and witnesses. “This career will provide you intellectual challenges, opportunities to work with talented colleagues and many funny stories along the way,” Brosnan says. “Surround yourself with good people and enjoy the ride.”

I was born and raised in New York City. I enjoyed playing and watching sports and participating in other outdoor activities.

From my early teenage years, I wanted to be an FBI agent. I became interested in the FBI after taking a tour of its headquarters on a family trip to Washington D.C.

I attended Villanova University, an outstanding college where lessons extended far outside the classroom. The school slogan is “Ignite Change,” which calls on each of the students to make a difference for the greater good of society — I’ve endeavored to do this throughout my career. Most importantly, I met many lifelong friends at Villanova that have had a positive influence on me throughout my life. I maintain many of these relationships to this day.

To lead the Criminal Division of the New York office has been the experience of a lifetime. As the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Criminal Division in New York, I lead and direct all aspects of the global criminal investigative program.

I’ve determined that the CFE credential would further distinguish me as an expert in fraud matters and would expand my professional network in the course of my dealings with both CFEs inside the FBI and in the private sector.

Upon my initial assignment from the FBI Academy to the New York office, I was assigned to a securities fraud squad. During this assignment, I developed an appreciation for the complexity of the violations and the sophistication of many of the subjects I was investigating. Investigating white-collar crime and public corruption matters have been among the most challenging and rewarding experiences I’ve had in the FBI.

I was the case agent on “Operation Uptick,” an undercover operation in which a front investment advisory business was set up and located in premises that were bugged with court-authorized listening devices. As a result of this investigation, 120 individuals were arrested and charged with a variety of federal crimes including racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud, securities fraud, mail fraud, pension fund fraud, bribery, illegal kickbacks, money laundering, witness tampering, extortion and the solicitation of murder. Subjects of this investigation included members from organized crime families, securities brokers, stock promoters, corporate officers, accountants and hedge fund managers, among others. This was the largest number of defendants ever arrested at one time in a securities fraud case.

The ever-evolving threats and schemes we investigate require successful investigators who continuously seek to develop and utilize new skills and techniques while refining others.

Throughout my 23 years of service I’ve learned how to conduct undercover operations and federal wiretaps from some of the FBI’s best agents. I’ve also learned the skills of interviewing, surveillance, financial analysis, document review, source development and other advanced investigative techniques. The ever-evolving threats and schemes we investigate require successful investigators who continuously seek to develop and utilize new skills and techniques while refining others.

The CFE credential has significantly expanded my professional network and enhanced my credibility as an expert in fraud matters. In this career, or any other, it’s important to continue developing your skills and to stay abreast of current trends and emerging threats. The ACFE membership allows you to do that by providing research materials, articles and training.

After 9/11 in New York City I heard a FDNY firefighter say, “We are all just ordinary people, but when we work together as a team we can accomplish extraordinary things.” This is a motto I’ve tried to live by in my various leadership positions throughout the FBI.

I’m most proud of my family, including my wife of 25 years and our three children. I enjoy spending time with my family, playing sports, engaging in outdoor activities and watching the Villanova basketball team win national championships.

[After “I’m a CFE” was written, Brosnan retired from the FBI in April to join Citibank N.A. as the director of investigations for Citi Security and Investigative Services (CSIS) North America - ed.]


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






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