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University of Missouri

Accounting Confessions

FBI Special Agent Chad John uses his accounting background to nab white collar criminals.

money and handcuffs

By the time Chad John sits down across from people, he already knows they’ve embezzled money. He just wants them to admit it.

The world of FBI interrogation he inhabits is not what you see on television or in cinema. There’s no table pounding or shirt-collar grabbing. There’s just John’s understanding brown eyes and carefully parted brown hair, its hints of gray suggesting he’s lived long enough to have learned we’re not always proud of the choices we make.

The people who commit these crimes are good people; they’re known in their organizations or communities,” John says. “There’s always a reason why a good person would step over that line.”

John graduated from Mizzou in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a job lined up as a public accountant at Ernst and Young in Kansas City, Missouri. But a campus visit by an FBI recruiter during his senior year captured his imagination. “That would be a neat way to use accounting,” he remembers thinking at the time.

After four years at Ernst and Young, John applied to the FBI and was hired. For the past 18 years he has used his accounting background to investigate public corruption and white-collar crime. He digs through bank records and company ledgers with studied attention and a trained eye for out-of-place numbers.

But it’s his writing and oral skills that are his most important asset — the ability to persuade prosecutors and empathize with suspects.

After a stint in Texas, John is now stationed in Jefferson City, Missouri. For the past three springs he has taught an evening forensic accounting course at Mizzou, where he gets to share his love of investigative accounting.

As a teacher, “you can see when the light is on and when it’s not; that’s a lot of fun,” he says. “When students say this was their favorite class, that’s huge. There’s nothing better.”