Serving as an Internal Revenue Service special agent to solve a mock money fraud case on Central Michigan University's campus initially intrigued Taylor Tuttle.
That is, until the exercise for her forensic accounting class got too real as she dug through a garbage can searching for receipts to use as evidence in the criminal case. Then, class work became dirty work.
It was part of the afternoon-long training — known as the Adrian Project — that brought 11 IRS special agents from throughout Michigan to campus to lead a role-playing program that introduced students to accounting careers in law enforcement.
"It can get really intense, and we got to see that. I was 'lucky enough' to go through the trash to see if I could find useful information in there," said Tuttle, a senior accounting major from Grand Rapids. "It was a good learning experience because when you think of the IRS, you don't really think about interrogations and criminal activity."
Students experienced all parts of the criminal investigation process, from working with a CMU police officer to arrest and question a criminal suspect to conducting surveillance across campus and searching a vehicle — and a garbage can — for evidence.
"Through this exercise, our students get experience working directly with IRS agents and can apply what they're learning in the classroom to real-life scenarios," said Tom Weirich, the accounting professor who has brought the agents into class the past 11 years.
Detroit Field Office Special Agent in Charge Manny Muriel was one of the IRS agents who guided the students. He said he and his fellow agents look forward to working with the students to show them how finances and money tracking go beyond bankers and certified public accountants.
"There are two kinds of crime: crimes of passion and crimes of greed. Greed involves money, and that's when we get involved in the criminal investigations," Muriel said. "This is a great way to show the students a different type of work in accounting."