Students get a ‘Clue’ with IRS

Students were given the opportunity to play a real-life version of the game “Clue” when special agents from the Internal Revenue Service kicked off the second annual Forensic Accounting Workshop.

Students from the School of Business and Industry and the College of Arts and Sciences gathered Wednesday in Room 447-B of SBI’s north wing to participate in an interactive criminal investigation workshop conducted by the IRS.

Florida A&M University got involved with the workshop because of one determined faculty member.

Jacqueline Perkins, the internship director for the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, said she wanted to give students the opportunity to become more marketable when entering the federal workforce.

“Many companies such as the IRS, FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration or FDLE or any agency that investigates financial crimes are requiring that students have an accounting background,” Perkins said.

Wanting to enhance the criminal justice program and give students a fair chance to compete with others entering the field, Perkins contacted retired special agent Joe Schuetz.

“As a frequent recruiter to the school we began to notice that many criminal justice students lacked the accounting courses needed to compete for our jobs,” Schuetz said. “I encouraged Jacqueline to find ways to get students to take the required courses because I too had to return to school to pick up the necessary accounting courses to become a special agent.”

Perkins said the sociology and criminal justice department now has an unprecedented alliance with SBI that allows students a great, unique and valuable opportunity to excel.

“We have a memorandum of understanding between the College of Arts and Sciences and SBI that provides criminal justice majors with the opportunity to take accounting classes without any objection from the school,” Perkins said. “An agreement like this has never happened before.”

Students paired with special agents “investigated” criminals who were involved with crimes such as tax evasion, embezzlement and filing multiple tax returns.

“Most federal crimes that are committed have a financial aspect or are purely financial – for a profit,” said Special Agent Norm Meadows, the public information officer for the workshop.

Schuetz said the workshop, known as the Adrian Project, began at Adrian College near Detroit before it came to FAMU. Schuetz also mentioned that FAMU is the only Historically Black College or University in this country that has this type of collaboration with the IRS and was handpicked for the workshop.

“We picked FAMU for a couple of reasons,” Schuetz said. “This is the largest HBCU in the South, we heard nothing but good things about FAMU and the School of Business and with the sociology and criminal justice department developing a new unique major with an emphasis on accounting, the choice became crystal clear to us.”

Perkins said the first person to graduate with a criminal justice degree and a concentration was Troy Diggs.

Diggs participated in the inaugural workshop in 2006 and then went on to the Law Enforcement Academy.

The agents in Wednesday’s workshop had a dual focus: to offer students job opportunities and explore the idea of having the workshop in other cities.

“I have agents from Miami, New Orleans and Nashville also looking to recruit FAMU students as well as explore logistics of bringing the program to colleges near those cities,” said Special Agent in Charge Victor Lessoff.

“Once I was informed about the school I thought it would be an excellent idea to bring them (agents) here,” Lessoff said. “Since we already developed a good strong foundation here, I suggested that we bring the program here every year.”

Keith Simmons, political science professor and assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said agents, faculty and staff at FAMU all agreed that the benefits of the workshop were worthwhile.

“This workshop gives students an opportunity to offer an education with application,” Simmons said. “As we educate with relevance students can be better prepared for today and the future; that’s the significance of this experience.”