Image courtesy of Larry Vigna.
By Vee Glessner, Chief Copy Editor
Supervisory Forensic Accountant Larry Vigna is a 25-year Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employee who, as he calls it, “follows the money.” Forensic Accountants investigate and analyze financial records, transactions, and relationships to understand the full story in a variety of FBI cases, across all programs. After 18 years as a Forensic Accountant himself, Vigna moved into the supervisory position, where he now manages a team of 12.
According to FBI Jobs [fbijobs.gov], Forensic Accountants work to “determine the who, what, when, where, why, how and how much on all financial aspects of a case.” They then provide the information to others working on the case: “We package the financial facts for our law enforcement and judicial counterparts and, if necessary, provide testimony on our findings,” according to the FBI Jobs website.
The team can play a variety of roles in FBI cases. “We’re a triple threat,” Vigna says. “We’re an accountant, we’re an investigator, and we’re an auditor.” The Forensic Accountants work hand-in-hand with Special Agents to develop the web of financial information as it relates to different cases. On different days, they might be requesting and reviewing bank records, accompanying Agents on interviews or search warrants, or following up on new financial connections. Then, the Forensic Accountants’ efforts can be used as evidence: “Ultimately, if it results in a trial, we’ll be called to testify to the work that we’ve done,” says Vigna.
Forensic Accounting positions at the FBI are highly competitive, and many applicants bring top skills. Vigna says that individuals who stand out the most might have a variety of certificates, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). In addition, they would have at least an undergraduate degree in accounting and a few years of experience in a financial field.
Before joining the FBI, Vigna had degrees in Criminal Justice and Accounting. He first worked at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in their asset forfeiture unit for 4 years, so he had experience investigating money flows in criminal cases.This job set him up perfectly to move to the FBI. “I was writing search and seizure warrants, and conducting financial investigations. I was basically doing the job of a forensic accountant; subpoenaing bank records, doing analysis,” he said. “All the experience I had was exactly what the FBI was looking for.”
For Vigna, becoming a supervisor was a natural choice after nearly two decades in the Forensic Accounting position. “[I had] knowledge of the position and experience in different programs in the FBI. I just thought it was the right move for me,” he says. “I knew I could lead the team.” Now, he can serve as a mentor to his team members and overlooks the variety of cases his accountants are working on.
Forensic Accountants can work a wide variety of cases, from financial crimes to counterterrorism, healthcare fraud, and more. Most accountants work multiple types of cases, 8 to 15 at one time, but might have a specialty they are most experienced with. “I assign them all types of cases, but they do usually have one area they are more specialized with. My healthcare specialist might have five or six healthcare fraud cases, but they’ll also have a few other ones,” says Vigna. The specialties are often related to past experience the accountant brings to the role, but the position gives flexibility for individuals looking to develop their career in a desired way.
Vigna also sits on the ERAU College of Business’ Industry Advisory Board, which will be hosting its annual round table virtually this month. Students interested in the FBI, Forensic Accounting, and a variety of other industry opportunities are encouraged to express interest as more information becomes available.
Information on FBI hiring can always be found at [fbijobs.gov], and more about the Forensic Accounting role at [fbijobs.gov/career-paths/forensic-accountant].