I met Stephen Pedneault for the first time when I heard him speak at a Glastonbury professional leads group that I am a member of. Steve had a stack of newspapers with him that he had saved. To demonstrate how common employee theft and embellishment was, he counted more than a dozen news articles that involved those type of arrests, in just two weeks. Steve is a CPA and also an investigator. He not only does detective work by pouring over accounting files, bank statements, and canceled checks, but he also interviews the individuals involved in the alleged crimes. His business card looks like a puzzle piece. He is kind of like the Jack Webb and Columbo of the accounting world. Steve is a Manchester resident and his business office www.fornensicaccountingservices.com is at 2389 Main St. in Glastonbury. Stephen also has several other occupations.
Timothy Becker: Steve, what business are you in?
Stephen Pedneault: I'm in the business of piecing together financial puzzles. I am a forensic accountant, a CPA (certified public accountant) a CFE (certified fraud examiner) and a CFF (certified in financial forensics) and a FCPA (forensic certified public accountant).
Timothy Becker: What is forensic accounting?
Stephen Pedneault: It is applying the skills of a CPA and an investigator. We do fraud investigation and we help set up internal controls to minimize employee theft and fraud. We also get involved in resolving matters that involve litigation and criminal cases.
Timothy Becker: How do you do that?
Stephen Pedneault: We would be retained to provide an independent, objective, unbiased, fact based report to help resolve the matter. Our role is to be the double yellow lines drawn down the middle of the road. We have worked on behalf of prosecutors and for the defense. We have worked for debtors and for creditors. Who retains us doesn't change our role in resolving the matter. Our role is to determine the facts. In some cases, what happened can't be determined. If records are not available and can't be reconstructed, there is nothing further that we can do.
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Timothy Becker: Has the economic downturn brought on more cases of employee theft?
Stephen Pedneault: I am seeing more theft today than I have seen in 24 years. Part of the reason, in the case of employers is that sales volume is down, so that thefts become more apparent. The majority of our cases are entitlement cases. People feel that they are entitled to the money they steal and they can rationalize why they took it. Our society has become more accepting that these things occur. The shock is gone.
Timothy Becker: Do you think that people's moral values have changed?
Stephen Pedneault: There used to be moral values in things like your name, reputation, and your work ethic. These all describe your moral character. It is how you will be remembered. As the world and society has changed, the value that people place on moral character has sadly diminished.
Timothy Becker: I understand that you are also a college professor?
Stephen Pedneault: I am an adjunct professor at the UConn Storrs campus. I teach for the masters of accountancy program. I wrote the curriculum and I have been teaching the course for five years. My class is typically filled within five minutes of it being made available by UConn. I am also an adjunct professor at Manchester Community College department of continuing education. I teach a one day course on forensic accounting.
Timothy Becker: You are also an author?
Stephen Pedneault: I have written four books on fraud and forensic accounting and they are all available at Amazon.com. They are: Fraud 101, The Anatomy of a Fraud Case, Preventing and Detecting Employee Fraud and Embezzlement, and Forensic Accounting and Fraud Investigation for the Non-Expert. I write the way that I speak. I can explain things so that anyone can understand. It doesn't need to be complicated. The books give me credibility as an expert and open up speaking engagements.
Timothy Becker: Can you tell me about your volunteer work as an EMT?
Stephen Pedneault: I have been an EMT for the Suffield Volunteer Ambulance twice a month for the past 15 tears. I work the weekend midnight shift. I average between zero and six calls per weekend. Each call usually takes about two hours and the calls are mostly medical and trauma calls.
Timothy Becker: You have seen human nature up close as as forensic accountant. Do you have any thoughts on what you have experienced?
Stephen Pedneault: I have become very cynical, but I am holding out on my belief that most people are good people doing the right thing. Spending most of my time with the five percent that are not, could easily influence how I view people. I work really hard not to let that happen.