Q & A with Michael Matkowski

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?
On March 13, 2015, I received notification of my CFE credential.  The committee approved my CFE package a couple weeks after I attended the training course in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I had submitted all the required references and documentation before attending the training.
Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Las Vegas and following the course you sat for the CFE Exam on-site.  Please describe your experience of participating in the 4-day course and then sitting for the exam immediately after.
For my particular situation, attending a CFE Exam Review Course was by far the most appealing and best method of accomplishing the CFE credential.  I was a member of the ACFE for many years prior to taking the exam, and I never dedicated enough effort toward preparing for and taking the exam.  I had studied some of the material in the past, but something always interfered with completing the task.  I did not work for an agency that allowed employees to attend a training session and earn the credential at work.   After retiring from federal service, I saw the opportunity to attend the course in Las Vegas, and I decided to go. The on-site training was clearly the best fit for me, as the entire week was dedicated to earning the credential without distractions. 
The trainers in Las Vegas moved through large volumes of material very quickly in the classroom, and I enjoyed that type of learning experience.   I also enjoyed meeting and speaking with the very diverse group of attendees.  After listening to the instructor presentations, I felt comfortable testing immediately afterward. This made for a long day, but in the end, I was rewarded with success.  I am very happy that I decided to attend the course; for me and my career situation, it was clearly the best option.
For a couple weeks prior to attending the event, I reviewed many of the practice test questions and related course material, and I focused on the sections that I felt most uncomfortable with based on my prior knowledge and work experience.  After each classroom session, I felt confident enough to immediately test for the section.  The trainers’ attitudes helped eliminate some trepidation with the financial and accounting sections that I felt least comfortable testing on.   
I retired months prior to attending the course.  After a fairly lengthy career in federal law enforcement, I felt my experiences and training as a federal criminal investigator would provide a great “head start” and the on-site training would allow me to successfully complete the course and testing on site. 
I also enjoyed meeting a very diverse group of younger and older attendees who work in the field.  
Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course? 
I most liked that I could attend with a goal in mind and accomplish that goal in a week, without worrying about distractions.  I liked that the classroom instruction and materials were catered to allow attendees to reach their goal as long as they came prepared, regardless of if their prior training was from instructional materials, real-world experience, and/or a combination.
Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?
I felt that the credential would be beneficial to bolster my resume and my ability to contract as a paid licensed private investigator/consultant with companies that perform work for the federal government. I hope to provide services to contractors who perform under federal grants, contracts, or other funding agreements, where my expertise lies.  The credential solidifies my career accomplishments--almost 27 years of federal service conducting investigations, primarily in the white-collar fraud arena and related to government contracting.  I started my own business after I retired.  
Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day?
I spent some time reviewing the financial statement and accounting material. For the most part, I had a beer(s) each night at the Guesthouse with another IRS 1811 who also tested each night.   He also passed each night, so we felt it appropriate to celebrate our successes. 
Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?
Yes, I already have. I recently recommended a friend, a currently employed federal criminal investigator who has around 7 years until he is eligible to retire.  I advised him to not wait as long as I did and that it will be of far more value to him in his career, especially since he resides in WA DC.  He also is employed with an agency that supports employee attendance at a CFE training session.  I had to pay for all my training, travel, and meal expenses.   I recognize that the course was expensive and attendance has to be weighed against the alternative testing methods, but I would recommend to a younger person to spend the money on a training course and get the credential much earlier in life than I did, as they will get much more return on their investment.  It may turn out that I merely accomplished what I always wanted to accomplish earlier in my career, and that I don’t use it that much, but I still have the pride in knowing I reached a goal.   
Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I began working for the federal government conducting background security and suitability investigations shortly after graduating from college.  My college courses were heavily weighted toward science, and summer jobs included research associate and field investigation duties for state and federal agencies related to invasive species problems in Washington.  I figured that employment with the “Office of Federal Investigations,” an Office of Personnel Management agency, would be a good start while I figured out if I wanted to work toward a master degree.  I also found that I enjoyed performing investigation work.  After a couple years, I was hired into a federal criminal investigator position (1811) with the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Inspector General.  The Energy department has some very interesting programs, very expensive and complex projects.  I found many of the energy projects fascinating and interesting to learn about.  I worked my entire career in Washington State and was responsible for investigating issues that involved DOE operations and/or funds in the northwestern United States.  The DOE OIG employs a relatively small cadre of Special Agents (criminal investigators) across the nation, to conduct criminal and civil fraud investigations.  Over my career, I worked on and/or supervised numerous cases involving federal and state criminal activity, civil fraud and tort claims, suspension and debarment matters, and significant administrative issues.  I thoroughly enjoyed the work.  When I retired, it was estimated that I had worked on and/or supervised over 325 open investigations and used discretion in reviewing many other complaints or issues to make referrals or case opening decisions.  I coordinated numerous matters with federal and local prosecutors, and discussed many issues with senior DOE and DOE OIG managers to effectively and properly resolve cases.  My work on and supervision of investigations resulted in at least: 121 criminal indictments, 93 convictions, 18 pretrial diversions, and investigative recoveries totaling over $45 million.  I thoroughly enjoyed the work. 
Coach: Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?
I enjoy spending time with my family--my wife of 23 years, 15-year-old daughter, and 12-year-old son. When not being a “soccer dad”, my primary interest revolves around the bass fishing industry and fishing competitive bass tournaments.  I enjoy working with the companies that sponsor my fishing efforts.  I grew up playing competitive sports and always enjoyed fishing and spending time in the outdoors in the great Northwest.  Around 1988, I became interested in competitive bass fishing and have become a well-known and respected regional tournament fisherman.  I really enjoy the camaraderie among friends and time spent in the outdoors pursuing an interest, that God willing, I can enjoy well into my retirement years.         
Thank you for your time and congratulations on your new CFE credential.