With the only College of Security and Intelligence in the country residing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz., the university is a hotspot for potential FBI employees. 40-year old Suzanne Allen has been with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for almost a decade as a Special Agent and shared some of her experience in the role so far.
Allen started as a statewide accountant for the state of Arizona in its general accounting office. “That was my first career,” she says, “This is my second.” Now, she has what many see as a dream job: Special Agent. Though Special Agents can tackle a variety of projects, Allen works in the Complex Financial Crimes Squad, with her role specifically focusing on investment fraud cases.
The cases Allen works usually begin with a complaint. She says, “Somebody comes forward to the FBI and says, ‘I have been a victim of a crime. Somebody has stolen my money, told me they were going to invest it and that I was going to earn a certain amount of money. I didn’t. Now I’ve been victimized, can you take a look at this?’” Generally, the FBI will open a case on the matter and begin collecting information.
The work statement can vary dramatically for Special Agents. “What I do on a daily basis can vary literally from day to day,” says Allen. When she’s working a case, she could be doing any number of things from doing interviews with victims and witnesses, reviewing financial records, executing a search warrant, working with the legal prosecutors, or playing a supporting role for another squad.
The Special Agent on the case will usually work closely with the US Attorney’s office prosecutors to get the case indicted and the alleged perpetrator arrested. “There is a lot of legal process in this,” Allen says. It will be up to the prosecutor to use the evidence collected by the investigating agent to prove the case in the court of law.
One specific major case Allen worked recently was the 2017 Daylon Pierce investigation. Pierce is serving a 15-year sentence after “pleading guilty to two counts of Fraudulent Schemes and Artifices,” according to the Arizona Attorney General. “Pierce began romantic relationships with women he met through online dating websites and then convinced them to invest thousands of dollars in fraudulent investments.”
Allen is now serving justice in a job that she loves. “I had always known about the FBI and I had always wanted to do it, but was hesitant to apply because I was daunted by pull ups.” She periodically checked the physical requirements and found that pull ups were no longer required for females. “I felt confident about handling the casework, and once I saw the physical requirements were sit ups, push ups, a sprint, and a run, I thought, ‘That, I can do.’ I worked hard, and I did it!” The FBI has website documentation on fitness requirements as well as the FBI Physical Fitness Test mobile application to help potential applicants track their fitness and eligibility.
Allen says that when she applied, the FBI was receiving thousands of applications per year, and “literally a handful of them make it through to the academy.” Becoming a Special Agent can be difficult considering the volume of interest, and she found it important to maintain the marketable skill she had in her CPA certification: “I didn’t want to have all my eggs in one basket – that’s the accountant in me talking, not wanting to take on too much risk.”
Allen recommends students hoping to work for the FBI also consider their backup options. “For college students, have a plan in place. Continue with your goals and your dreams; if it is your dream to be an FBI agent, you shouldn’t walk away from that, but you also need a plan in place in case the unforeseen happens. Have something to fall back on. But if the FBI is your goal, keep at it.”
“This is my second career, and I have a job that I really love, and I am so glad I was able to do it,” Special Agent Allen remarked in closing. More information on becoming a Special Agent can be found at [https://fbijobs.gov/career-paths/special-agents].