Under arrest: UAA students participate in mock IRS tax fraud investigation

Students practiced their forensic accounting skills in a day-long simulation of an IRS sting operation.

Soren Orley under mock arrest while playing the role of a tax preparer working for Loopholes R US. Photo by Matthew Schmitz.

The second floor of UAA’s Rasmuson Hall became the center of operations for a mock Internal Revenue Service sting operation on April 14. Students had the opportunity to learn how IRS Criminal Investigation officers identify, track and bust tax fraud.

This program is offered across the country as part of the IRS Citizen Academy, otherwise known as the Adrian Project – named after its trial run at Adrian College in Michigan. The program intends to help students expand their knowledge of what they can do with an accounting degree while educating them on the lesser-known roles of the IRS.

Students were first given a presentation on what IRS Criminal Investigation is, as well as  a quick overview of its origin– which is largely a product of the fight against twentieth-century organized crime. Currently, IRS Criminal Investigation performs tasks such as finding and fighting tax fraud and tracking money laundering schemes.

After the presentation, students were split into groups that were tasked with piecing together evidence in a detailed mock-up of an investigation. They sifted through tax forms, bills, social security and identification documents, checks and other tax and accounting-related paperwork. All of this was in the search for those involved in a tax fraud scheme.

The IRS officers and accounting professor Soren Orley – who helped to coordinate the event – acted out skits that helped push the tax fraud narrative along. For example, Orley played the role of a tax preparer – working for the company ‘Loopholes R US’ – who falsified tax forms to maximize his clients’ tax refunds – a clearly illegal move.

Roles were given to students as well – allowing them to interview witnesses or take part in the sting as undercover law enforcement.

Students were also introduced to the gear that IRS officers use such as battering rams, hidden cameras and handcuffs. Officers even allowed students to take turns handcuffing one another after receiving instruction on how to properly do so.

TNL Executive Editor Matthew Schmitz arrests a fellow Adrian Project participant. Photo by Kyle Ivacic.

At the end of the day students were able to direct officers to make the long-awaited arrest of the mock investigation’s prime suspect, the dirty tax preparer played by Orley.

To learn more about UAA’s accounting program, students can visit the College of Business and Public Policy’s page on the UAA website.