For 25 years, Jonathan Schofield ’91 was always on the move.
As a special agent with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Inspector General (USAID OIG), he traveled across the globe, investigating fraud and corruption in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, and the United States.
A multi-million-dollar Iraq reconstruction fraud case led to the arrest of a suspect in Estonia, who was extradited to the United States and sentenced to 33 months in prison. Kickback cases in Afghanistan prompted search warrants in Kabul and multiple arrests in the U.S. An investigation in Pakistan resulted in the disqualification of a company from a $90 million education project after Schofield elicited a confession from the company’s deputy director that he received secret bid information from a Pakistani government official.
“It was incredible,” Schofield recalls. “I’ll never have another job like it. You work with the most extraordinary people and feel like you’re making a difference.”
Schofield recently retired from the federal government after spending the last 25 years in various roles — first as a special agent with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in New York, and later as a special agent and special-agent-in-charge with USAID OIG.
USAID, the government’s primary civilian foreign assistance branch, is closely aligned with the State Department and awards grants and contracts for development, support, and reconstruction work and supplies to many non-governmental organizations and American companies. But sometimes those programs are the victims of fraud. USAID OIG investigates and audits the agencies and programs it oversees and reports findings of any impropriety to those agencies, Congress, and the public.
“The bulk of the investigative work is overseas with most of the agents posted around the world,” Schofield says. “You get assigned a case, get a couple of shots and a visa, and you go wherever the case may be. These are programs that are largely set up to help people who don’t have much, or anything at all. When people come in and prey upon those programs, we’re one of the few resources available to address it. The work we do is significant.”
During his first decade with the agency, Schofield was based in Washington, D.C., and Manila, Philippines. From there, he was dispatched to investigate dozens of procurement fraud and employee integrity cases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Philippines, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. He also conducted anti-fraud training for employees, contractors, and grantees in those countries, as well as in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.
Schofield later rose to the position of special-agent-in-charge, leading a team of 30 professionals on four continents. The experience, he says, was eye-opening and fueled his desire to have an impact on a global scale.
“The work is rewarding,” he says. “Unless you spend time in developing countries, it’s hard to appreciate what goes on there.”
Schofield recalls one trip to Egypt early in his career that shaped his perspective in a significant way. While riding in a State transport van in Cairo, Schofield looked out the window and saw a young child who was dying of malaria. “That hit me hard,” he says. “It changed my frame of reference and further fueled my passion for this work.”
USAID OIG oversees the President’s Malaria Initiative, which is aimed at controlling and eliminating one of the leading global causes of premature death and disability. The program was being subjected to massive fraud, so Schofield and his team conducted a multi-year undercover investigation of criminal rings in Africa who were stealing medicines. His team worked with local law enforcement across the continent to ferret out criminals and effect dozens of arrests.
“Another program provided communities with bed nets and test kits, but some vendors would substitute inferior products for what was ordered and paid for. Instead of providing insecticide-infused bed nets, for example, they would provide regular bed nets,” Schofield explains. “One individual in West Africa made over $10 million by providing fake nets. We investigated and indicted him.”
He also trained law enforcement officials in different countries on how to effectively work a case — covering everything from how to execute a search warrant to gathering forensic evidence.
Schofield discovered his love of international travel when he took bike trips abroad as a teenager and went on to study political science at Clark University. He spent much of his last two years in London, where he later earned his master’s degree. “At Clark, there were so many interesting people — people from different countries, people with difference perspectives. I just loved it,” he says. “To me, that was really the beauty of the Clark experience.”
While in England, Schofield worked with at-risk youth — a role that helped him discover an interest in guidance and leadership, and laid the foundation for his career in law enforcement. At Clark, professors Mark Miller and Douglas Little helped inspire his interest in government.
“All these things were truly pivotal for my development in life, and looking back, my trajectory makes sense,” he says.
After completing school, Schofield lived for a time with a friend in Argentina, then began applying for positions in law enforcement. He landed a job as a special agent for Health and Human Services in Manhattan, where he investigated numerous Medicare and Medicaid fraud schemes involving physicians, grantees, and medical equipment suppliers. Because he spoke Spanish, Schofield also spent time working cases in Puerto Rico.
“To be a successful investigator, you have to be able to connect with people,” he says. “You have to be a good researcher and writer and you have to be curious.”
The work could be risky at times. Schofield recalls one trip to Afghanistan when he had to shelter under a desk during a rocket attack on the embassy. He endured an attempted mugging in Ecuador, and wound up in hospitals in Bolivia, Ethiopia, India, and other countries after falling ill. Always, he says, it was an adventure.
Reflecting on his career, Schofield hopes Clark students will consider positions in government.
“Government sometimes gets a bad rap, but that was not my experience,” he says. “I worked with incredibly passionate, talented, energetic professionals who really cared and made tremendous impacts. There are so many opportunities for all different kinds of professionals — scientists, firefighters, educators — and an extraordinary spectrum of opportunity. You’ve just got to find the right fit.”