Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Sartorial Sleuth - Here's how it's done

Dr. Churchwell, via A Suitable Wardrobe

Kim and I pedaled our bikes down 12th Avenue South on Sunday night in search of a cool glass of wine. Our usual haunt, Rumours, was closed for the night, so we dismounted and walked our bicycles across 12th, chained them to the bench in front of Fish & Co. and strolled inside, sweaty and ready for a drink.

A family of four sat in the booth directly behind us. They were trying to watch the Cubs v. Yankee's game and we were in their line of sight. I recognized the man at the table. Had I met him in the course of work? Had I seen him in court? From the neighborhood?

Then it hit me: I've been studying this man's style for the past several months on A Suitable Wardrobe, one of the best style blogs around. Dr. Andre Churchwell, Nashville's best dressed man. I introduced myself and told him of my semi-stalking practices. He smiled that beautiful smile and introduced Kim and me to his family.

Kim noticed his carnation and commented that I should adopt that practice. Dr. Churchwell entertained us for the next few minutes with a history of the carnation, the button on the lapel, and its importance to Napoleon's army.

In lieu of a long-winded post with my personal ideas of style, I point you now to A Suitable Wardrobe and the series of posts titled, Man In Style. Thank you Dr. Churchwell for a wonderful evening and thank you Will for bringing Dr. Churchwell to our attention.

[FIND] Lexicon - Discourse Analysis

"In the end, discourse analysis is one way to engage in a very important human task. The task is this: to think more deeply about the meanings we give people's words so as to make ourselves better, more humane people and the world a better, more humane place."
- J. P. Gee 

Don Rabon, former Deputy Director of the North Carolina Department of Justice, recently gave a lecture at the ACFE 22nd Annual Fraud Conference. Mr. Rabon is quite possibly a genius. After listening intently for 80 minutes about interview techniques, tied logically to historical literature (Interviewing From Head to Poe), I found myself lost in words; the dissection of words, the parsing of sentences, and the importance of listening and recording (documenting).

I left the class and near sprinted to the ACFE Bookstore, set up in the voluminous exhibit hall, and picked up my first Don Rabon book, Investigative Discourse Analysis. I read the book on the way home on a long flight from San Diego back to Nashville. It's a language nerd's dream.

Upon arriving back at my office the following day, I tried a small experiment. Several months ago a long time client asked me to look into a couple of emails he had received. They weren't necessarily threatening, but they were - just mean. We tried to identify the sender and have a strong idea who the passive-aggressive-cyber-punk was. We could not, however, tie them specifically to the emails. They used a gmail account, more on that at a later date, which when used properly is a fantastic way to mask one's identity.

We did have one email from the suspected ill-meaning-emailer denying all knowledge of the affair. Well, I put that denial email, the statement, under serious scrutiny using Mr. Rabon's book as a guide.

Structure - The email, the suspect's statement, showed structural imbalance, indicating that it was deceptive on its form. The anonymous-jackass-email-fiend told her account of the incident. The prologue made up roughly 10% of the narrative. The actual event (the sending of the email) took up 30%. The remaining 60% of the text was dedicated to the epilogue and a string of negations and denials. Structurally, this narrative is seriously indicative of deception, but it was the analysis of specific words that caught my attention.

Word Choice - The disgruntled-email-bully used the pronoun I, exclusively, throughout the first part of the email. She switched to a near exclusive use of the pronoun Me in the last part of the narrative. Indicating that she had somehow a passive role, almost a victim.

Sentence Length - When the narrative turned to the actual event, her Mean Length of Utterance (MLU) dropped from a Mean of 13.3 to truncated sentences of 5 to 7 words or less. Further indication of deception.

Other issues - The denial email, which again equated to a statement, had several other issues. The most interesting point I noted in the email was the bookending of the statement, first sentence and last sentence, with abjuration (I don't mean to upset you, but...).

I would not feel comfortable approaching a court, a lawyer, or a jury with my brief analysis. I do not possess the skill and training to apply this type of analysis in detail or for court testimony. I do, however, feel comfortable that we now know, based an analysis of the denial email, who wrote the original string of nasty notes.

This, for me, falls into the category of simply cool. If you get the chance, click over to Amazon or the ACFE bookstore and pick up a copy of Don Rabon's book, Investigative Discourse Analysis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 3

All of the sessions today, at least the ones I attended, were informative and entertaining. The class on interview skills was particularly creative. Don Rabon, the North Carolinian with the brilliant southern accent and winner of the ACFE speaker of the year award, managed to tie interview skills to literary references from Shakespeare to Poe. Mr. Rabon clicked his way through a deck of slides and videos like a presenter at a TED conference. If you ever have the chance, take a class, any class, taught by Don Rabon, do it.

The cocktail party on the roof of the Hard Rock Cafe extended well past the allotted two and a half hours. It seems these fraud fighters know how to throw a party. Great chance to hang out with some old friends and meet several new friends.

More later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 2

As usual, The ACFE has hosted a magnificent event. From the opening ceremony to the last session of the day, entertaining and informative.

I particularly enjoyed the talk from Joan Pastor in the morning general session. Ms. Pastor took the podium after the opening speeches and owned the room for far too short a time. I could have listened to her all morning. I am officially begging the ACFE to bring her back for more.

My favorite part of the day, aside from the evening cocktails, was a presentation on how technology has changed fraud investigation. Jean-Francois Legault is a large man, very large man, with a personality to match. He is a perfect example of the level of professionalism and skill that the ACFE has amassed. Professional experience paired with presentation skills, and what appears to be a very healthy avoidance of the standard bullet-point-boresome-PowerPoint-sleep-aid usually employed by Conference speakers. Thank you Mr. Legault.

Assuming I have the energy, I'll try and post again this afternoon. We'll see.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 1 (Part 2)

As usual, the ACFE delivers with a great educational offering, Social Networking. Ms. Hetherington put on a fantastic show. @data2know...She fishes, plays golf, and fights fraud... How cool can a person be.

ACFE Fraud Conference - Day 1 (part 1)

I got in last night around 7:00. Checked in, settled in, and struck out in search of a good martini. Found one at Royal India. There was an ACFE sign in the window.

This morning I strolled the Gaslamp and noticed that most restaurants have an ACFE sign in the window, including the Gaslamp Strip Club, which gave me pause. Turns out it's a steak house.

Not sure what to expect from the next several days, but I'm looking forward to learning a lot and meeting some good people.

More later.