Joe Epps 2013-04-04 07:09:44
Should Your Expert Be A Licensed PI? Joe Epps is a CPA and CFE with over 30 years of experience in forensic accounting. His litigation support experience includes contract disputes, anti-trust, economic damages, fraud investigations, business valuation and intellectual property litigation. Joe is currently president of Epps Forensic Consulting and teaches a graduate course on forensic accounting at Arizona State University. For more information, please call (480) 595-0943 or visit www.eppsforensics.com. Many experts offer services relating to the investigation of potential or alleged criminal activities. For example, forensic accountants hold themselves out to investigate employee dishonesty and other alleged illegal acts in the financial arena. This is an area where accounting and investigation skills intersect. This type of investigation requires the forensic accountant to not only analyze data, but often they interview witnesses and request documentary evidence. At the completion of their assignment, they issue a report outlining their findings. In some instances, the expert report may form the basis for pursuing criminal charges against an alleged perpetrator of a theft, embezzlement, or other wrongdoing. What many of these forensic accountants and other experts do not realize is that conducting such an investigation in Arizona requires a private investigator (PI) license. Conducting these types of investigations without a valid PI license is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If your forensic accountant or other expert is not properly licensed, it could impact their ability to testify and could jeopardize your case. Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) governs PI licenses and registrations. A person must have a valid Private Investigator Employee registration certificate if their work meets the definitions in ARS §32-2401-16 (see below). This registration certificate will only be issued under the sponsorship of an Arizona licensed private investigation agency. According to ARS §32-2401-16, “Private Investigator” means a person other than an insurance adjuster or an on-duty peace officer as defined in section 1-215 who, for any consideration, engages in business or accepts employment to: a. Furnish, agree to make or make any investigation for the purpose of obtaining information with reference to: i. Crime or wrongs done or threatened against the United States or any state or territory of the United States. ii. The identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, reputation or character of any person or group of persons. iii. The credibility of witnesses or other persons. iv. The whereabouts of missing persons, owners of abandoned property or escheated property or heirs to estates. v. The location or recovery of lost or stolen property. vi. The causes and origin of, or responsibility for, a fire, libel, slander, a loss, an accident, damage or an injury to real or personal property. b. Secure evidence to be used before investigating committees or boards of award or arbitration or in the trial of civil or criminal cases and the preparation therefor. c. Investigate threats of violence and provide the service of protection of individuals from serious bodily harm or death. The relevant statute can be found at http://licensing.azdps.gov/Licenseprivateinvestigator.asp. According to the above statutes and according to the president of the Arizona Association of Licensed Private Investigators (AALPI), forensic accountants, and anyone else for that matter, that does not have a PI license are violating the law. In fact, the AALPI actively seeks leads of individuals or businesses purporting to conduct investigations in Arizona via their website, which they then submit to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) for further investigation. Epps Forensic Accounting has licensed private investigators on staff. David Sutherland, CPA, CFE, CLEA is a former Phoenix police detective and holds PI agency license #1611650. Joe Epps, CPA/CFF/ABV, CFE, CVA holds license #1611652 and Karl Epps, EnCE holds license #1630667.
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