CSI Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania district attorney uses Villanova accounting students to help root out financial crimes.
Kate PlourdMarch 1, 2008

Some Villanova University undergraduate students are learning first-hand how accounting skills can help take a bite out of crime.

Every six months, Pennsylvania’s Delaware County District Attorney’s office accepts an accounting student from the university’s business school into its cooperative work program. The student works in the economic-crime division, scouring the financial documents of people under investigation for everything from fraud to embezzlement. In the past four years, the program has not only saved Delaware County taxpayers an estimated $20,000 a year in forensic accounting and consulting fees, says District Attorney G. Michael Green, but has freed up detectives to conduct more interviews and take on larger caseloads.

The program also gives students a unique accounting experience. The most recent student to complete the program, Michael Busby, a finance and accounting major, spent last fall combing through financial records for a fraud case in which the secretary of a sewage-treatment company had been arrested for embezzling almost $1 million over nine years. “It taught me a lot about how accounting is applied in law enforcement, as well as about how different organizations keep their books,” says Busby.

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The program is a résumé builder as well, says Green, who has seen former participants easily land forensic-accounting jobs. “They’re investigating individuals who are extremely skilled at perpetrating economic fraud,” he says. “Exposure to this field is an experience you can never get in a classroom or at an accounting firm.”