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IRS Special Agents host Citizen Academy at UH West Oʻahu


Image courtesy of UHWO Staff

Students actively participated in an exciting day of mock investigations and arrests — complete with body armor and handcuffs — on Feb. 24 at the University of Hawai‘i–West O‘ahu as part of Citizen Academy, presented by IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI).

IRS:CI serves the American public by investigating potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code and related financial crimes in a manner that fosters confidence in the tax system and compliance with the law, according to its website.

IRS:CI field offices have brought Citizen Academy to college and university campuses nationwide for years to provide students a glimpse into the career of an IRS Special Agent and what a criminal investigation entails. This is believed to be the first time Citizen Academy was held in Hawai‘i.

“For over 100 years, IRS Criminal Investigation has worked some of the most impactful and complex cases in federal law enforcement,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Adam Jobes with the IRS:CI Seattle Field Office. “We are always looking for the best and the brightest to become the next generation of Special Agents.”

The event welcomed about 40 students, a majority of whom are accounting majors, who came from UH West O‘ahu, Kapi‘olani Community College, Leeward Community College, UH Mānoa, UH Hilo, and Brigham Young University-Hawai‘i.

Citizen Academy introduced students to a career where their accounting skills will be put to use in stopping crime. Students got a firsthand look at what it is like for IRS:CI Special Agents to carry out an investigation, tracking illicit money from the crime to the criminal.

Dr. Katie Landgraf, assistant professor in accounting at UH West O‘ahu and a faculty volunteer at the event, said the IRS:CI Citizen Academy is among the diverse opportunities she would like to provide UH West O‘ahu accounting students.

“Working for the IRS is just another great way to show off one’s accounting skills, while establishing financial accountability to ensure we are all treated equally and fairly,” said Landgraf, who is also UH West O‘ahu’s Accounting Club faculty advisor.

At the day-long event, students were “sworn in” as special agents in the morning and were provided law enforcement gear such as body armor, inert/inoperable training firearms, handcuffs, and radios for use during the event.

The students sharpened their forensic accounting skills and interviewed suspects, conducted surveillance, and performed document analysis. The day ended when the students solved the crimes and arrested the mock offenders (volunteer faculty and staff members).

Mary Yamut, a Kapi‘olani Community College accounting major who will soon transfer to UH West O‘ahu, was among the students who attended the event.

“Citizen Academy was a hands-on experience in which you work with professional IRS:CI Special Agents,” she said. “We worked with various cases that they would do on the job, for example, a drug dealer laundering money to finance his assets.”

Yamut said the most valuable part of the event was how engaging it was.

“Students had to use teamwork in order to investigate cases,” she said. “I also enjoyed seeing the teachers and faculty’s acting skills.”

Amy Little, a UH West O‘ahu Business Administration major with a focus in accounting and finance, said Citizen Academy was a really fun event for students that their professors and IRS Special Agents worked hard to coordinate for them.

“I was really excited to learn about other career opportunities outside the typical office environments I expected for my major,” she said. “Who knew that CPAs were running investigations, knocking down doors, and hauling criminals off to jail? I always thought a job with the IRS would have me stuck at a desk with a mountain of returns to look through, but I was thrilled to see there is more to a career with the IRS than just paperwork.”

Little said the event gave students a chance to ask a lot of questions and see what they do during an investigation, adding that it was “one of the most informative job shadow events” because it was more hands on.

“Most of us can only dream of putting our professors in handcuffs after midterms,” she quipped, “but at the Citizen Academy event we did just that.”

Organizers of Citizen Academy at UH West O‘ahu thanked the many faculty, staff, and volunteers who helped and supported the event, which was made possible in part by the generosity of Monica Adorno.

To see photos from the event, visit the “IRS Citizen Academy” album on Flickr.