Q & A with Heather Yannello, CFE

Heather Yannello of New Jersey recently became a CFE after attending the CFE Exam Review Course in New York. In her free time, Heather enjoys gardening. The smell of dirt is what she loves most. This past October, however, she put some time aside to accomplish her goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Heather became a CFE to enhance her opportunities as she pursues a career with a federal agency. Heather says that when you’re a CFE, you put yourself in the top-tier of applicants.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential? 

Yannello: I received my credential in November 2015.

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in New York 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. 

Yannello: Intense—the course is fast-paced and really keeps you on your toes. I took the course and sat for the exams immediately afterward, while the information was fresh in my mind. There’s plenty of coffee and tea available, but you might want to bring a protein bar to eat after class, before each exam.
Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course?

Yannello: The learning environment in the live-event provides something for everyone—visuals, written materials, and class discussion. I also appreciated that the instructors kept the class moving. Too often, students can get sidelined with “war stories.” The instructors politely refocused those individuals, but then took the time to speak with them after class.
Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession? 

Yannello: I didn’t take the course to enhance my current career; I took it to enhance the opportunity for a second career. Many public and private sector employers look for an “applicant with a CFE.” When you’re a CFE, you put yourself in the top-tier of applicants, and you’re more likely to get that interview. I need to set myself apart from the crowd of other federal agents with similar experience.
Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day? 

Yannello: I did all the online prep I could. My expertise is investigation, not finance, so I felt I needed to work through all the exam prep questions, hundreds of them. I did some review at night, but not much. I felt it was more important to have a decent meal and a good night’s sleep.
Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Yannello: Yes; don’t go at it alone!  As a matter of fact, I took the CFE Exam Review Course with a colleague and my husband. After completing the course, I spoke to other agents who are preparing for a second career and encouraged them to get their CFE credentials, too.
Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Yannello: In 1984, just out of college, I began my career in federal law enforcement by joining the U.S. Secret Service—the Treasury was still issuing paper checks! I found the IG community offered a greater variety of fraud cases—bid rigging, bribery, public corruption, and, of course, mortgage fraud. I was working mortgage fraud cases 10 years before the mortgage meltdown, but few people understood it then. Try explaining a same-day flip, an A-C-B flip, or the role of a straw buyer to a 1997 grand jury!  I feel passionate about many of my cases. One that stands out was a foreclosure counselor who solicited cash from over 100 clients by telling them she would work with the mortgage company on a loan modification. Over a period of a year, she took almost $300,000, or $1,800 a day, and gambled it away. A 6-year prison sentence is small payment for the hundreds of lives ruined by her scam.

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?

Yannello: I am an avid gardener; I love the smell of dirt, and I enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs?

Yannello: If possible, work with someone who has a different area of expertise than you. They can explain terms and concepts unfamiliar to you. Also, use the online Prep Course materials, and answer the hundreds of practice questions for each section.

Thank you for your time and congratulations on your new CFE credential.