More than an accountant, Charles Schulze is what is referred to as a forensic accountant – someone who investigates missing and misused money.
After retiring in June with 40 years of experience in accounting, Schulze has dedicated his life to his career and continues to take on forensic cases.
Schulze said he first became interested in the forensic side of accounting after he started at then Elliott Davis, now Elliott Davis Decosimo, in 1975. His first project was working on a case where an accountant stole money from their client.
“On the financial side, it’s looking at all the evidence that’s there and trying to figure out what happened and who did it by looking at the financial information,” Schulze said.
Schulze has been involved with several high profile fraud and embezzlement state, national and international cases over the last several years.
Locally, Schulze worked on The Museum case in 2013, where former financial director Angela April Miller was convicted of embezzling more than $140,000.
“A lot of times, looking at documents, looking at patterns of money going everywhere, that’s what it’s about,” Schulze said. “It’s very important that when they look at a case and get my document, that they have a clear understanding of the motive, intent and the pattern of what’s happened – they need that to go to court.”
On average, Schulze said most frauds last about 18 months and involve losses of about $200,000.
Passionate about his work, Schulze said he loved doing it because it is not the same routine every day, and he loves working on cases until he figures out exactly what went on.
“I didn’t come to work every day and do the same thing,” Schulze said. “If I see, like if it’s a forensic type thing, if I see there’s an issue or a problem, I’m not going to let loose of it until I can prove to myself it is a problem or it isn’t a problem.”
Schulze said even though he has worked on cases involving church and nonprofit businesses where employees took money, it does not taint his view of them.
“What it does is it makes me emphasize when I talk to friends that are on boards, nonprofit boards, that it’s their responsibility,” Schulze said. “You need to believe what your employees say, but use some healthy skepticism.”
Schulze is also on the board of trustees at the Medical University of South Carolina where he’s served since 2002.
Mickey Young worked with Schulze for 43 years.
“(He’s) very passionate about his work, his school and whatever he takes on as a volunteer role,” Young said.
Jim Manley, who has worked with Schulze for 21 years, said he is a hard worker who has found his passion in forensic work.
“The last five years, that’s really what he’s focused on, and he loves it and that’s definitely his passion,” Manley said.
The South Carolina Association of CPAs listed Schulze as one of the 100 Influential People in Accounting this year – a list that celebrated the 100th anniversary of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in South Carolina.
The list was made up of the most influential accountants in the state from the last 100 years.
Lisa Smith, one of Schulze’s younger sisters, said Schulze gained his passion from their father, who co-founded Elliott Davis in 1959.
“I think that is kind of the core of who we are and the core of who he is,” Smith said. “I think he’s sort of found his niche in the forensic end of it, and that allows him to really dig and make sure that the right thing is being done for people, by people.”