Professor’s Film Examines Record-Breaking Fraud

The red carpet is ready to roll for the debut of DePaul University Associate Professor Kelly Richmond Pope’s new documentary, “All the Queen’s Horses.”

After playing in the film festival circuit throughout the world this fall and earning rave reviews and accolades, including the HBO Best Documentary award at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, the film will get its first public premiere in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center from Nov. 10-22.

In her second feature-length film, Pope, an accounting professor and expert in fraud research, documents the largest case of municipal fraud in American history.

“Numbers tell the best stories,” Pope says . “That is why you see so many crime stories in television and film. If you can pair the understanding of numbers and story with a camera then you have a very powerful way to communicate with people.”

“All the Queens Horses” tells the story of the fraud committed by Rita Crundwell, a mid-level government employee in the town of Dixon, Ill., who siphoned $53 million in public funds from the town over the course of 20 years. Pope notes that true-crime television shows, like CNBC’s “American Greed,” and the film, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” often focus primarily on fraudsters and what they do with the money they take. In Crundwell’s case, it was spending her millions on show horses.

“What made me want to make the film was that I was concerned that the necessary message was not getting communicated,” Pope says . “It bothered me that the national media coverage focused on the woman who stole money and what she did with the millions. But there's a much larger story than that. That story is: how does a fraud of this size happen?”

Pope focuses the film less on Crundwell and more on the actual fraud so that it can serve as a lesson on how opportunities to perpetrate fraud present themselves and expose how fraud is actually committed.

She uses her new film and a previous education documentary, “Crossing the Line,” which features interviews with people who committed fraud, in the classroom to teach her accounting students at DePaul. Pope believes that the films, along with her TED-ed talk called “How People Rationalize Fraud” and her TEDx talk “Why Do We Hate Whistleblowers,” to enhance students’ real-world understanding of fraud and how to discover it through forensic accounting.

“I use film in class to enhance the student learning experience,” Pope​ says . “You would be surprised at the discussion we have when I use films and television shows in an accounting class in comparison to traditional paper/pencil cases. Fraud films ignite the classroom discussion. I hope that my students will understand that their roles as future auditors are important and that these situations can and will happen to them—not only discovering fraud, but being tempted by fraud.”

In addition to teaching audiences about fraud, Pope wants the film to be a source of closure to an event that has left a scar on the small hamlet of Dixon.

“Don’t think that this only happens in a small town like Dixon, Illinois,” says Pope. “What I want people to know is that fraud is out there and can happen in organizations of all sizes and in cities large and small. That is what my film looks at—why fraud happens— so that auditors can know the signs and prevent something like this from happening again.”

What’s next for Pope? In addition to teaching accounting courses, she is currently working on the launch of a new podcast called “Nothing But the Truth.” In this podcast, she will interview people involved with fraud prevention and fraud, such as a whistleblower who revealed the Wells Fargo fake account scandal and a man who stole $40,000 from an ATM. The podcast will launch Nov. 8. 

In the meantime, “All the Queens Horses” will be shown at numerous film festivals throughout 2018. Pope also will bring the film back to Dixon for a free screening at the Historic Dixon Theater on Oct. 28 and 29.

Learn more about “All the Queen's Horses

Learn more about DePaul’s MS in Audit and Advisory Services.​​