M.S. in Investigations Graduate Student Calls Program ‘One-of-a-Kind’
In her work as a staff investigator in the Office of the Inspector General of the Chicago Housing Authority, Angelina Allaback ’23 M.S., has drawn on what she has learned in her online investigations courses at the University. She’s grateful for the support of the faculty who she describes as “experts in their field.”
December 2, 2022
By Jackie Henessey, Contributing Writer
When staff investigator Angelina Allaback ’23 M.S. is about to take a new case in the Office of the Inspector General of the Chicago Housing Authority, she mulls over something her professor Patrick Malloy, M.S., DBA, emphasized in a white-collar investigations course.
“Every time you start a case, it’s very important to prepare as if that case could go to court,” says Allaback, who is pursuing her master of science in the online investigations program. “It’s about building the habits that will make sure your work – in a case that could potentially go to trial – is above board, is highly organized, and meets all the legal standards.”
Prof. Malloy, the M.S. in Investigations program director, challenged her and her classmates – most of them professionals from around the country working in the field of investigation – to push at their research, to keep impeccable documentation, and to think deeply as they read case studies.
“Industry laws change every day and regulations change,” Allaback says. “A decision made on a Thursday will impact cases that see court on a Friday, and being up to date is crucial. The faculty are experts in their field, and they are always making sure we are getting the most current information.”
‘Other states have used our template’
The insight and expertise provided by her professors is invaluable, says Allaback. She examines housing-fraud cases, building evidence to determine whether the cases will be recommended to go to criminal court or be resolved administratively. Her work involves searching through bank records and documents and conducting in-person interviews that take her all over the city of Chicago.
“In my job, the entire focus is on fraud, waste, program abuse, and misuse of public assistance funds,” she says. “The longer I’ve been in the investigations graduate program, the more I see how extremely applicable it is to the work I do, the forensic accounting, the laws that apply to fraud cases, and the types of evidence that seal those cases really neatly.”
She investigates fraud involving people who live in public housing or by owners of buildings. “We look at contractors who work on buildings,” she says. “We look at internal issues.” This past year, her office has been inundated with fraudulent loan cases involving the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loan program created to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic. “Our agency was the first to start doling out consequences and resolution to those cases and other states have used our template” she says.
She says she loves so much about her job. “It directly benefits the public to have independent oversight offices checking every penny that gets spent,” she says. “It’s satisfying to know that I spend my days contributing to people’s hard-earned money not being wasted or misused. When we catch someone lying about their income for 10 years, someone who didn’t need our assistance, when they get removed from the program, it opens space for a family that has been patiently waiting and has a real need.”
‘Lots of doors are now open’
A career in investigations wasn’t what Allaback originally envisioned for herself. She majored in English and history at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, graduating in 2014, then she decided she wanted to work in the field of criminal justice. She received an associate degree in criminology and criminal justice from Fox Valley Technical College in Wisconsin and moved to Chicago where she worked as a federal background investigator doing national security clearance work. Soon, she began looking into master’s programs.
“I wanted a program where I wouldn’t be pigeonholed, but, rather, would expand the kinds of roles I could apply for,” she says. “This is a one-of-a-kind program that lets students create a very specific path for themselves or pursue several different focus areas.”
She is excited to be graduating in May 2023. “It took me a lot of self-encouragement to even go for a master’s degree,” she says. “It’s a big thing to tackle. But it positioned me in the industry exactly how I wanted it to. I have a lot of transferrable skills and lots of doors are now open.”