Forensic accountant John Lash says he welcomes the challenge of “working against some of the top criminal minds in the world.” His experience shows no lack of such challenges in his work investigating diverse financial crime matters.

A member of the Charter Class of CFCS-Certified specialists, Lash finds the greatest fulfillment and gratification as a forensic accountant in locating assets to recompense the victims of a fraud or other financial crime. Conducting the pertinent investigation and financial analysis to locate assets taken by fraud and other financial crime to compensate the victims or to achieve financial ‘closure’ for them. This, he says, is of “the utmost importance in our cases.”

Lash is Manager of the Business Valuation & Litigation Support Services Group at Alpern Rosenthal in Pittsburgh. One of his career experiences was to serve as a project manager in 2010 as part of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Accounting Review Team.

He rendered forensic and investigative services as an advisor to the Fund Administration’s Fraud Team and helped detect fraudulent financial activities, including the detection of false settlement claims. He says he used a “lifestyle analysis” to determine “whether someone has a financial motive to perform a particular criminal act.”

In his work at Alpern Rosenthal, CPAs and Business Advisors, Lash specializes in complex commercial litigation, white collar defense and prosecution, forensic investigations, financial statement analysis, economic damage calculations and risk management administration.

Catching ‘bad guys’ is a motivator

Lash credits movies that glorified gangsters living well on their criminal proceeds with motivating him to work in the financial crime field. “Part of the motivation comes from the growing up in an era of commercialization of criminal enterprises. Movies such as Scarface and notorious gangsters like Al Capone, living lavish lifestyles from illicit funds (made their mark).”

“What drew me to the financial crime field was the ability to be part of a profession that allows you to actually dig into areas that are black and white and discover the numbers behind the crime,” he says.

“A lot of the work of financial professionals, particularly forensic accountants such as me, allows the removal of the emotional and human aspect,” he adds. “This can sometimes cloud judgment or confuse right from wrong, to simply analyze the numbers. To me, the numbers provide a solution to a problem – a conclusion to a criminal enterprise.”

CFCS certification

Lash says having the Certified Financial Crime Specialist designation supports his qualifications. He says it “strengthens and binds the financial crime field as a whole.”

“It makes it easier to communicate with other professionals in the field,” he says, “because having the certification provides the foundation for a trusting working relationship among accountants, attorneys, regulators, compliance officers and government officials and agents.”