Unlike personal assets, business assets offer so many opportunities for locating property, accounts, sub-contracts, and maybe even off-shore dollars. Few companies are too small or unsophisticated to figure out how to move money outside the U.S. or how to hide money in unspecified columns in their own accounting paperwork. Keeping money in-country but hidden isn’t that complicated either.

In this 7-part series, we get into the nitty gritty of how Hg conducts business asset investigations for our clients. Last week, we discussed how investigators can find prior ownership of an old asset such as a product or property. This week, we look at asset investigations for employment purposes.

An employer needs to understand the financial strength of a candidate for an upper management position or a high-level accounting and financial position. If a company is going to trust the new hire with its financial records, vehicles, and office equipment, it will want to ensure that the person is reasonably financially secure. Indicators of a troubled worker will appear in a credit report as collection agency notices, bankruptcies, and severely late payments to vendors.

But investigating for employment purposes is not limited to FICA-Medicare employees. This type of investigation can include many “employee-employer relationships.” How well do you know your tax accountant? Your physician? Your investment advisor? Are they fully licensed? Have they ever filed bankruptcy? Handing over your physical and financial health to just anyone who hangs a shingle can be risky business.

Take my friend’s experience to heart. Usually when friends and relatives ask me to conduct an investigation or to “do a little research,” I pass them over to another investigator. On one of my weaker moments, however, I couldn’t help but respond to a friend’s bad tax story. He had received the call we, as Americans, all dread: The IRS. As it turned out, my friend’s accountant had misfiled his last two years of taxes, and he was informed that he owed an additional $10,000 to the IRS. I offered to “do a little research” on the guy and see what I could turn up.

In less than 20 minutes, I called my friend back to verify the spelling of the accountant’s name. Correct in my spelling, I had to tell him that he had been cheated by an accountant without a license to practice in his state. The state consumer affairs office did not have his name listed in their database, and a phone call to their customer service elaborated that he license had been revoked.

When I asked what lead to him losing his license, the friendly representative stated, “Oh … felons can’t obtain their license without going through a panel review first.”


I did a name search on the Bureau of Prisons website and sure enough, I had a match. My friend’s accountant had been convicted on drug possession charges and served almost 12 months. Later, I followed up with a media search and discovered a story about an arrest of three men charged with possession and intent to sell cocaine within a school district. My friend’s accountant was one of the three.

Unfortunately, this did provide a reduction in the IRS bill, but my unfortunate friend learned to vet the people he does business with, for no matter how polished them may seem, they could be fraudsters.

Cynthia Hetherington, MLS, MSM, CFE, CII is the founder and president of Hetherington Group, a consulting, publishing, and training firm that leads in due diligence, corporate intelligence, and cyber investigations by keeping pace with the latest security threats and assessments. She has authored three books on how to conduct investigations, is the publisher of the newsletter, Data2know: Internet and Online Intelligence, and annually trains thousands of investigators, security professionals, attorneys, accountants, auditors, military intelligence professionals, and federal, state, and local agencies on best practices in the public and private sectors.