Colleague Interview

A conversation with Ron Braver, Partner

Ron Braver, Partner, is a CPA, CFE, and licensed private detective based out of our Los Angeles office.

Before joining HKA, Ron was an IRS Special Agent and Supervisor. Ron will appear with his daughter Ashley Braver, a current IRS Special Agent, at the ABA National Institute on Criminal Tax Fraud 2023 on December 8 in a session called “Criminal Panel: Tax Enforcement Across Generations – Senior IRS Special Agents in Dialogue with Those Who Follow in Their Footsteps.”

How did you become an IRS Special Agent?

After I finished my BS in accounting at Northeast Missouri State University [now Truman State University], I didn’t want to sit behind a desk, so I looked for something interesting to do. I applied to various federal law enforcement agencies, and the IRS was the first to respond! I was hired in 1985 as a special agent in the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force since the IRS received funding from Congress to hire new special agents for this program at the time.

Was there anything in particular that drew you to the IRS?

I was interested in a job using my accounting skills to “follow the money” and my investigative instinct to arrive at the truth. I was also intrigued by the reputation of IRS criminal investigations. They were the difference maker in cases involving big-name figures like Al Capone, politicians, and those that some believe are too rich or powerful to prosecute if they commit a crime.

What skills did you learn as an IRS Special Agent?

You are given an enormous amount of responsibility immediately upon completing training. You spend approximately six months at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia learning various aspects of the job like qualifying with a pistol and shotgun, interviewing techniques, report writing, testifying skills, defensive tactics, evasive driving, executing search warrants, building and entry training, surveillance, etc. You are given equipment that require s a level of responsivity that is unlike any other job. I also studied human behavior and obtained my master’s in taxation while I was an agent to better my skills.

On the job, you learn to use a variety of covert and overt methods to gather evidence while understanding that you need to use the least intrusive method whenever possible. It takes finesse at times. I would frequently execute search warrants, collect evidence, and conduct surveillance and interviews in neighborhoods or with people that most would consider outside the norm. I used undercover agents to assist in gathering evidence. We were always professional, but you can’t be meek. There’s a certain psychology to the job. It’s not just accounting; it’s also understanding what makes someone do the things they do, how they would perpetrate the crime (if they perpetrated the crime), and knowing where to find the evidence to prove or disprove the allegation. It’s a job that combines accounting with behavioral science. Every investigation has nuances, and you need to adjust and learn about the person under investigation or the industry in which they operate.

What kinds of cases did you focus on as a special agent?

I was in the drug task force for five years before moving into investigations of failed banks and savings and loans in the early 1990s. Investigations into a failed bank led me to a large political corruption case called Operation Silver Shovel, then to the prosecution of organized labor leaders with alleged ties to organized crime, and then to several sophisticated white-collar crime cases. The IRS investigates not only criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code but also money laundering and its underlying crimes, such as bank, wire, and bankruptcy fraud, investor fraud, etc. I also had a few stints as an on-the-job instructor, training new agents after they graduated from the training academy, and retired from the IRS as a Supervisory Special Agent.

What was your most interesting case?

I’ve had a lot, and I remember all of them! I recommended and assisted in prosecutions that led to guilty pleas or findings of 75 individuals and seized and forfeited more than $41 million in ill-gotten gains from those crimes.

Drug Task Force

I had several drug prosecutions. When I was working in the drug task force, I was on a Chicago Vice Lords case where we arrested over 100 people; seized their bank accounts, assets, and homes; and put the top 19 individuals in federal prison and the others in state prison. Two of the top leaders went to jail for life for operating a continuing criminal enterprise. I worked on another case related to a Colombian drug dealer and organization. I had an international arrest warrant outstanding (also called a “red notice”) for the leader. I had put two of his brothers in jail who were part of the organization, and we were trying to find him as he was indicted on drug and money laundering charges. I got a call one day while I was at home late at night. They said, “We have him at the airport,” so I met the Drug Enforcement Administration special agent assigned to the case at the airport to pick him up, but it turned out that he was dead and in a casket. He had gotten killed in Colombia, and they were shipping him back to be buried in the United States, where his mother then lived. We had to fingerprint him in the casket to confirm he was the defendant.

Failed Banks/Savings and Loans

I was assigned to a case investigating the failure of Cosmopolitan National Bank. The case involved the executives of the bank, many of the borrowers, and members of organized crime. It was one of the most profitable banks in Chicago, and it failed after an individual purchased the bank and became the president and chairman. The only profit the bank made after the purchase was from day trading in 30-year United States securities, and there wasn’t a losing trade. I subpoenaed the broker where all the trades were taking place and asked for the contra trading tickets to see who was selling the securities. I realized that all the trades were connected to a Fortune 500 company pension fund. In the morning, the president of the pension fund would execute a trade, and if interest rates moved substantially and produced a winning trade that day, he would direct the broker to indicate that Cosmopolitan National Bank was the buyer and subsequent seller. If there was a loss for the day, the trade would stay with the pension fund. The pension fund executive had an interest in Cosmopolitan National Bank and got a portion of the recognized gain. The securities broker was making significant commissions on the trades. I was able to connect the dots and convince the pension fund executive to admit to the scheme, and he eventually testified against the broker at trial, which led to the conviction of the securities broker.

Also, during that investigation, a bank customer who had committed fraud decided to cooperate with the FBI. That customer ran a construction company and was a known organized crime associate with numerous connections to local government authorities. He had made over 1,000 recordings and bribe payments to various state, local, and government officials that led to numerous convictions. The investigation was known as Operation Silver Shovel.

Political Corruption, White-Collar Crime, and Financial Crime

One of my favorite cases involved three international union labor leaders who received bribes from local banks in exchange for directing union funds to the bank. One of the labor leaders purchased a large, expensive home in the suburbs for his girlfriend using a substantial amount of currency as a down payment to the builder. The builder admitted to receiving the currency from the labor leader in a brown paper bag.

I investigated and prosecuted forex principal and broker exchanges for money laundering and tax evasion stemming from defrauding investors in the Middle East and directing the proceeds of their scheme to companies and banks in Chicago. We seized and subsequently forfeited homes, offices, and vehicles.

I was also involved in the prosecution of executives and board members of the Chicago Sun-Times. The chairman was a Lord in the United Kingdom and a former Canadian citizen. The Sun-Times was a publicly traded stock and was selling a lot of newspapers, but the board members and executives were diverting substantial profits from the sales of the local newspapers the Sun-Times owned by insisting they receive non-compete payments when a non-compete was unnecessary or not asked for by the buyer. The executives and involved board members were alleged to have not properly disclosed their purported self-dealing in its public filings.

How long did cases last? Were you working on one case at a time, or did cases overlap?

A typical case can take several years to investigate and prosecute, and a special agent typically has two or three open investigations at any one time. An open investigation can lead to numerous individuals being indicted. For example, there were about 20 different cases that came out of Cosmopolitan National Bank and 19 that came from the Vice Lord investigation. Sometimes, I developed my own cases, but most of the time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office would ask me to work on a case or help them investigate allegations of a crime. Agents can also bring cases to the U.S. Attorney’s Office; it goes both ways.

What were the most rewarding and most challenging aspects of being a special agent?

The most rewarding part of the job was how engaging and interesting it was. It required skill and understanding to articulate your findings and opinions. It’s also rewarding to see bad people pay the price for their actions – it wasn’t just tax fraud or money laundering; these were people who preyed on or bullied others. You see how these investigations can impact a person, industry, and community. Prosecuting those who harm society can have a deterrent effect and shows those who are following the rules that no one is beyond the law.

I also had the opportunity to work with honest, diligent prosecutors and fellow law enforcement agents. I am a firm believer in the judicial system – everyone is innocent until proven guilty. We worked hard to make sure any exculpatory evidence became known so the person under investigation was never wrongly prosecuted.

The most challenging aspect was the bureaucratic process. The process is very necessary to make sure everyone is operating appropriately, so I didn’t mind the regulation, but it tended to make the process slow. You might have determined that there is probable cause that a crime has been committed and assembled and summarized the evidence in a report that could be used to prove it, but it could take a while for the prosecutor to seek court approval to execute a search or seizure warrant or bring the evidence before a grand jury to seek an indictment. You have similar issues in the private sector; it takes time for litigation to come to a final determination. The system takes time, and you have little control over that.

How did your daughter, Ashley, become a special agent?

I didn’t know that she was interested! I think she may have seen the work I was doing from my time as a special agent. You try to keep everything away from the house, but you can’t always do that, like when you get a call for a seizure or arrest warrant and have to leave home at unusual hours. A lot of my work made it to the news media, and I occasionally traveled internationally.

She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s in accounting at the University of Illinois, and she was an auditor at Deloitte for a little over a year after she graduated. One day, she called my wife and me and told us that she had an interview with the IRS. It’s a difficult application process, including a written test and then qualifying for an interview. She had passed the written part and had scheduled her interview before telling us.

Once Ashley was offered a position as a special agent, she had to go through training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. At the end of the training, there is a graduation ceremony. Legacy graduates like my daughter have the option of inheriting the badge number of their retired parent. There was a ceremony with the Chief of Criminal Investigations where graduates got their badge and gun, and I was able to give my badge number to her. That happened about five years ago, in 2018, and then she moved out to LA. My son also moved out here, which is how I ended up at HKA because my wife and I wanted to be closer to them.

What was Ashley like growing up?

She’s always been a good kid. She was a good athlete, into cheerleading, gymnastics, and soccer. She’s very smart, smarter than I am.

What advice would you give to a new special agent starting out in their career, like your daughter?

It’s not just about accounting – it’s an art and a science. If you like a steady routine and want to work 9-to-5, then this is not the right career path. You must get into the head of the person you are investigating and be respectful of a person’s rights and the Constitution. It’s not about winning – it’s about bringing the truth to a trier of facts (a judge or a jury of their peers) so a proper and informed decision can be made. I tell my daughter and son to work hard because time goes quickly when you enjoy what you do!

My daughter has told me that she loves every part of the job since becoming a special agent. She says she made the right decision, and I have no doubt she will remember every investigation, just like I do.

If you want to find out more about joining HKA, contact to arrange a confidential discussion or visit

Ryan Amaya, Recruitment Manager, Americas

This publication presents the views, thoughts or opinions of the author and not necessarily those of HKA. Whilst we take every care to ensure the accuracy of this information at the time of publication, the content is not intended to deal with all aspects of the subject referred to, should not be relied upon and does not constitute advice of any kind. This publication is protected by copyright © 2024 HKA Global Ltd.


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