Hussain's forensic accounting helps SEC crack securities fraud cases

Friday - 6/6/2014, 4:05pm EDT

Listen to In Depth with Francis Rose's interview with 2014 Sammies Finalist Sofia Hussain, senior forensic accountant in the Division of Enforcement at the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo by Sam Kittner/Kittner.com)

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Have you seen the "CSI" TV shows where forensic scientists use sophisticated technology to unravel the secrets hidden in a crime scene?

Sofia Hussain, 32, users similar skills as a forensic accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to crack sophisticated securities fraud cases.

Instead of test tubes and chemistry, Hussain uses data analytics to catch the bad guys looking to rip off millions of dollars through market manipulation, accounting fraud and securities violations.

In one case, Hussain's analysis is credited with revealing a $500 million Ponzi scheme, which led to the arrest of fund manager Francisco Illarramendi of Connecticut for securities fraud.

"Sofia got the attorneys and the accountants aware of the importance of electronic data and the advantage of using analytical tools in the investigative process. We have been able to identify cases based on the use of these analytical tools that we wouldn't have been able to identify otherwise," said Lori Walsh, chief of the agency's Center for Risk and Quantitative Analytics.

For her efforts in helping to solve more than 20 securities fraud causes, the Partnership for Public Service recently named Hussain as one of the finalists for the 2014 Call to Service Medal. The award recognizes federal employees for professional achievements that demonstrate important contributions being made by a new generation coming into public service.

Getting to know Sofia Hussain

Federal News Radio asked each of the Sammies finalists five questions about themselves. Here are Hussain's responses:

What three words best describe your leadership philosophy?
Do good work. I believe it's important to devote time to work that makes a difference, to you, to your colleagues and to the public.

What's the best piece of advice (or words of wisdom) you've ever received and who gave it to you?
My colleague and friend Matt taped a quotation onto my monitor soon after I started at the SEC that states "[She] will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight," taken from the "Art of War." It's easy to spend too much time trying to change everything — this advice helps me focus on where I can make the most difference.

Who is your greatest role model and why?
My mom. She's the kindest, most caring person I've ever met. I'm often amazed at her patience and generosity. She has worked hard always to maintain relationships with friends and family and goes out of her way to offer help and support whenever she can.

What's the last thing you read and what's next on your reading list?
I have always loved to read (I was also an English major in college), and the last book I read was "Eleanor and Park", a fiction novel about two teenagers very different from each other who fall in love. My next book is Colum McCann's "TransAtlantic". I read "Let the Great World Spin", and am looking forward to his new book.

The Call to Service Medal is just one of the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) presented annually by the Partnership for Public Service. View a photo gallery of all the Sammies nominees.