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IRS partners with Georgia Southern University for Adrian Project

Students in former FBI agent Don Berecz’s white-collar crime class at Georgia Southern University recently had a real hands-on opportunity to learn how a criminal investigation operates when they took part in the Adrian Project, an IRS education program that reaches out to colleges and universities across the nation. From combing accounting records, to searching through trash, to handing down a grand jury indictment, this class learned by experience just what it takes to catch a crook.

‘We are an ideal location for the IRS to conduct this program,” said Berecz, director of Georgia Southern University’s Center for Forensic Studies in Accounting and Business. ‘Georgia Southern University is one of only a few colleges and universities nationwide offering a series of courses leading to a certificate, diploma, minor, or a major degree in forensic accounting. The IRS was pleased with the quality of our students and how informed they already are about tracking financial crimes.”

‘We got to use everything we’ve learned so far,” said Brianna Bishop, a senior accounting major from Savannah. ‘From the first briefing through the grand jury, it was exciting to be able to do the work ourselves.”

The Adrian Project’s five-hour exercise began with a briefing on the project and introductions for the four experienced IRS Special Agents who came from Savannah to role-play and coach the undergraduates as the investigations took place. Students were divided into four squads of ‘honorary” special agents, each with a student team leader and an agent who coached them in the fine points of investigation: dealing with a confidential informant; gathering evidence from many sources, including the suspect’s trash; working with other law enforcement agencies; and surveillance. They looked the part, too, as they donned IRS raid jackets, used handcuffs, and uncovered cocaine and weapons ┬áthe special non-functioning, red-handled simulation weapons used by the IRS for training.

Led by their IRS coaches, the groups went through four crime scenarios. One squad searched through trash and found a flyer for an anti-tax rally, another investigated a casino that kept two sets of books. Another squad looked at a fraudulent tax preparer, and the fourth squad arrested a drug dealer, who then ‘rolled over” on his supplier, who turned out to be grossly under-reporting his income.

At this point, Berecz and his class took the Adrian Project one step beyond the standard IRS program. Two days after their investigations, class members responded to their grand jury summons and met at the Bulloch County Courthouse, where they were duly sworn in and charged as a grand jury by the Honorable John Robert Turner of the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit. The evidence found by the fourth squad was turned over to the grand jury, which handed down an indictment.

Joshua Blanchard, a junior accounting major from Brunswick, applauded the IRS agents for allowing the students to ask and answer their own questions. ‘The agents that came to participate were great,” said Blanchard, who served as a squad leader for the group that investigated the fraudulent tax preparer.

‘We enjoy conducting the Adrian Project because it gives us a chance to work interactively with students,” said Supervisory Special Agent Lisa Holtz. ‘They learn about a forensic career opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise. At Georgia Southern the project operated very well, and some of the students expressed an interest in learning more about working in the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.”

‘The Adrian Project brings white-collar crime right to the students and makes it real,” said Berecz. ‘They conduct the actual activities of law enforcement agents. The hands-on experience is almost always eye-opening for the students who take part, and in many cases, the Adrian Project helps them make important life-altering decisions about how they will continue their education.”

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