Here’s an icebreaker for the next office party: The third leading cause of workplace death—behind “falls to a lower level” and “roadway collisions with other vehicles”—is homicide.
This sobering data point comes courtesy of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics study on fatal occupational injuries. What’s behind all this shooting (the leading m.o. of workplace murderers, according to the study) and “stabbing, cutting, slashing, piercing” (the runner-up category)? News reports point to doomed love triangles and disgruntled co-workers. Another cause, however, has been largely overlooked: fraud. Imagine a boss who kills his assistant to keep a Ponzi scheme afloat, or a crooked accountant who poisons an especially thorough auditor. In the world of CFEs (certified fraud examiners), these offenses have their own, pulpy label: red-collar crime.
Frank S. Perri, a CFE and defense attorney who teaches forensic accounting at DePaul University, coined the term after working on a murder case in 2005, an embezzlement scam that ended with a salesman—Perri’s client—convicted of smashing his partner’s skull with a claw hammer. Perri says his client was well-spoken and had no known history of violence or arrests. That’s part of why he was so dangerous. “Research shows the more that people reflect our own image, the more we are inclined to give them what is called an ‘implied credibility,’ ” he told me. “But these people can be very predatory.”