An Accounting Professor with a Flair for the Dramatic

Nothing like seeing a live demo of what the FBI and IRS are up against.

Yesterday, our Intro to Accounting classes were treated to a presentation about forensic accounting by one of our fellow teachers.

Professor Steve Liedtka, who I featured in a previous blog post (see the second video below), gave a wonderful presentation on the topic. He made it quite relevant for the students by first noting that there are several Villanova alumni working in this field. In fact, one of our former students played a key role in presenting evidence against Bernie Madoff.

He then spoke of the opportunity he recently had to take three students to have dinner with Frank Abagnale, of Catch Me If You Can fame. Steve pointed out how incredibly charming Frank was, suggesting that was part of what enabled him to pull off so many of his frauds. Frank now does consulting work with the FBI. Once again, Steve made this relevant to the students by telling them that the most recruited major by the FBI is accounting, because of the prevalence of white-collar crime.

For the final part of his talk, Steve discussed the world of illegal gambling. He noted how many times what brings illegal gambling rings down is not the gambling per see, but tax evasion.

Steve told of how these illegal gambling rings need to keep paper records, but have come up with clever ways to destroy such evidence quickly if they are raided by the police or the IRS.

One way is to have special paper that the gambling slips are kept on, and when these slips are dumped in water, they dissolve immediately, like Alka Seltzer.

Another approach is to have paper, that when set on fire, just disappears completely. Steve gave an amazing demo of this:

Not your typical accounting class.

It probably comes as no surprise that Steve is one of the best professors not only in our Accounting Department but at Villanova. Steve gave that presentation six times yesterday, and for one of them, I had to immediately follow the fire demonstration with a review of accounting journal entries.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

For those of you with a good memory, you may recall I briefly featured Steve on a blog post before, playing the guitar.

A man of many talents for sure…

*image from

70 thoughts on “An Accounting Professor with a Flair for the Dramatic

  1. Are you running a school of Accounting or a school of crime? That really was cool, to watch that gambling slip disappear in a fiery ball. I think if I was gambling and losing, I’d place an anonymous tip with the cops. Then when they raid the place the gambling slips would be burned, and I wouldn’t owe a thing to the mobsters. Could save on a few broken kneecaps.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. to catch a bad guy, you’ve got to think like a bad guy…

      most likely a guy that’s placing bets at a place that gets raided would probably find another place to place his bets, and he’d be in debt soon enough…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is a tough act to follow. Forensic accounting has been featured in a couple of recent movies — Central Intelligence with the Rock and Kevin Hart and The Accountant with Ben Affleck. Who knew accounting was so exciting.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. He was, like the Catch Me guy, very charming. And handsome. It was hard to process what he’d done – esp the part where he was recorded in his office singing songs about stealing people’s money.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I currently have no interest in accounting but feel like I would have really enjoyed that presentation. And just to reassure you, I have no interest in committing crimes either even though there was some handy info included.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Profs and lecturers with that type of skill and understanding are worth their weight in gold but extremely rare. I was luck to have profs like that during my chemistry university years especially a prof Sykes who taught kinetics of chemical reactions. I once saw him demonstrate how some chemical reactions can be made to β€œoscillate” where A+B would create C which was a different colour liquid, but then after about 5secs C would revert back to A+B and it’s original colour in what appeared to be a flash of light. If that wasn’t crazy enough A+B would then change colour and return to C …… I haven’t explained that too well but I think you get the picture. To a group of PhD students this was a complete mystery at the time, almost an optical illusion. We had many others, these guys in the 60s and 70s were quite brilliant!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree; teachers like this can spark a student’s interest in a subject that perhaps they didn’t know they had.

      I don’t quite understand what is going on with your example, but it sounds like it would have been fascinating to see the colors changing back and forth…


  5. Rule #1 Get your audience’s attention. I suspect I would have enjoyed his presentation very much. It sounds like there should be a talent show for Villanova accounting professors. You’d better work on your juggling act, Jim.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. i’d like to book the two of you in for a visit to my pre-k class. steve could do his performance artist bit and do a money volcano thing, and get everyone revved up, and then you come in to get everyone calmed down again with a quiet counting to10 and putting the numbers in sequential order act. both parts of the show are so important.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Well, Jim, you may have had to follow a great fire act with what seemed like boring accounting entries, but you and I both know that forensic accounting is the most boring job in the whole world, worse that racing snails, and that journals can be deeply interesting. Just think about IFRS 2 accounting for the unraveling of an old share scheme and the implementation of a new one – so juicy!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. well said, Robbie. The devil is in the details with forensic accounting. the day to day work could be quite monotonous, but the payoff could be big.

      I don’t know much about IFRS 2, but anything involving compensation has got to be juicy!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ooohh cool demo! I can certainly think of other uses for that tool! Hmmm like quickly downing a chocolate treat without my husband and then getting rid of the evidence wrapper! LOL Also, never knew forensic accounting was a thing and a sought-after skill within the FBI structure! Cool!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. it seems like your plan would work; you just need to find a place to hide the candy before you eat it. once you eat, then you can use the special paper to destroy the evidence πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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