I'm a CFE

Alan E. Small, CFE

Assistant Director, State of Maryland Office of Internal Audit and Compliance Management at Morgan State University

Alan Small, CFE, first became acquainted with fraud investigations in 1973 as a member of the Baltimore (Maryland) Police Department. His first assignment was with the criminal investigation division where he reviewed and followed the assignments of experienced detectives engaged in the investigation of high-profile cases, which included fraud. During the next 48 years, he worked in areas that required his attention for either awareness or investigation of fraud. Small now applies his diverse skills to preventing and deterring fraud at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

I was born in an outlying suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1950s.  I spent eight summers on Kent Island at our family summer residence on the Chesapeake Bay.

When I was growing up, some of my favorite activities included playing on the Kent Island Lions baseball club plus fishing, crabbing and boating on the Chesapeake Bay. I once hit three home runs in a Lions game! In Baltimore, my favorite activities included playing recreational soccer and baseball, and running varsity track at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

During my high school years, I volunteered at a local hospital, so I considered working in the healthcare profession. But I found myself personally engaged with police officers who’d come to the hospital after a car accident or on investigations. So, I set my sights on law enforcement.

I graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s in business management (cum laude). I obtained my certificate in accounting, which required 36 credit hours, and allowed me to obtain the Certified Internal Auditor credential in 1985 while still engaged in law enforcement. During this time, I was a police agent in the Baltimore Police Department assigned to the fiscal division where I worked with command staff throughout the agency investigating and resolving fiscal matters.

I realized I had business acumen, so I began work on an MBA in finance from Johns Hopkins University with a focus on accounting, internal auditing and fraud investigation. I also realized I needed experience in various fields of business to pursue my career objectives in law enforcement areas.

My work in the State of Maryland Office of Internal Audit and Compliance Management at Morgan State University includes, among other duties, conducting internal audits and reviews; assigning organizational and functional activities to ensure that various control objectives are met; identifying areas of fraud, waste and abuse; developing a risk-based methodology to identify and select appropriate university activities for audit; preparing audit plans; and managing all misconduct, fraud, waste and abuse investigations, and training programs.

Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to be integrated and employed into many industries. I attribute the success of my investigative skills that I learned along the way to an enriched ability to use my interviewing and probing skills.

At one of my jobs, the comptroller assigned me to a furniture retail operation to determine how the business operated. The comptroller believed expenses were higher than what an operation of that size should be experiencing. After several months, I did indeed notice that furniture repair expenses were inconsistent with what a business like this should have.

When I examined the invoices, I noticed that within a short period new vendors were added to the accounts payable journal that the purchasing department hadn’t approved. I discovered the vendors, which had post office box numbers as mailing addresses, were making thousands of dollars in furniture repairs.

I determined that company checks were being authorized in the check ledger with what appeared to be authorized signature authority. I determined that the signatures on the canceled checks didn’t match the authorized signature, although there was a very close resemblance. The accounts payable manager admitted to forging signatures on the checks to the unauthorized vendors and setting up the post office boxes. He would receive the checks and place them in his personal bank accounts. Subsequently, the company fired the employee and prosecuted him.

The top fraud examination lesson I have learned is to challenge responses to answered inquiries. Learn how to ask one question five ways to verify the creditability of the information you are seeking.

I first heard of the ACFE through other law-enforcement peers. Learning that the FBI acknowledged the CFE as a professional credential for recruiting encouraged me to earn it.

The CFE credential has benefitted my career by adding professional recognition to the authority I have been given to perform my work. A substantial amount of working knowledge of the profession is required to earn the credential. Applicants can only pass the CFE Exam by intensely studying the fraud examination body of knowledge for hundreds of hours. The ACFE then requires extensive hours of continuing education to maintain your credential. Combined with the experience from applying the principles and practices of the profession, you’re ultimately qualified to work in the field.

Organizations that truly seek to protect the assets of their operations often rely on professionals with the CFE credential to assist them in preventing and detecting fraud.

My career advice is to talk a little and listen a lot. And measure your evidence twice but record it only once.

My greatest personal achievement is having raised, with a very dedicated and loving wife, children who have achieved great things personally and professionally. My most cherished business-related achievement is obtaining a recognized and respected worthy reputation among my peers.

I love to attend Ravens and Orioles games with my grandchildren and their dads. I collect law enforcement agency coins with my peers, and volunteer in civic and religious organizations.

I am the most-recent past president, 2017-2019, of the ACFE Maryland Chapter and was a member of the ACFE Advisory Board.

Dick Carozza, CFE, is editor-in-chief of Fraud Magazine. Contact him at dcarozza@ACFE.com