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Financial Statement Fraud Casebook: Baking the Ledgers and Cooking the Books by Joseph T. Wells

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Chapter 2

Too Good to Be True?

Carolyn Conn

Terry Burns was living the good life. Most people would have said he had already achieved the American dream, and he was only 55 years old. Burns lived in a 6,000-square-foot mansion on the Alabama Gulf Coast, spent summers in exotic places (including his summer home in the Bahamas) and was married to a former beauty queen. After nearly 30 years in real estate development, he was elected president and chairman of the board (with the controlling interest) of Monarch Group, a residential development and construction company. Not long after he was chosen to head the company, Monarch was reported by several financial services as “a stock to watch.”

Burns knew he had earned his success. He graduated from Plains University in the panhandle of Oklahoma with a degree in accounting. With a near-perfect GPA and a résumé full of accomplishments (including president of the accounting club), Burns was recruited by several national accounting firms and the largest regional accounting firms in both Oklahoma and Texas. He was determined to leave what he described as his “backwater” hometown, certain he would find financial success in the “big city.” Burns accepted a lucrative offer from one of the large national accounting firms in their Dallas office. He lost no time in passing all parts of the exam to become a Certified Public Accountant, holding a license in both Texas and Oklahoma. He was an active member of several professional associations.

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