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Der Fledermausflügel

In another lifetime, I was newly married (one year) and had job ‘issues’.  Those who know me know I held 40 jobs from age 16 until I landed as a credit card fraud investigator (TMCCC).  I stayed in that job for almost 22 years!

My bride worked for an electronics company, then ubiquitous in the Phoenix area.  MOTOROLA.  Seems her father and one brother also worked there.  Family business (?)

(Well, anyway) I was between jobs, and The Wife told me they were hiring.  I applied, with the hope I would be working armed security (based on my job experience).

Not only did they NOT hire me for security, they hired me a a line worker doing silicon wafer inspection, in a clean room suit, and, I was assigned second shift!  Which meant I’d hardly got to see The Wife.

Hardly my first choice!

But, they had a credit union, and health insurance, and I needed work.

It was NOT the best of experiences.

The crew was largely like those one encountered in the security business.  Mixed education and experience, ethnicity and background.  One manager was constantly sexually harassing the men, openly; one of the new guys was openly addicted to pills, and treated co-workers horribly.  The harasser was left alone, because she was a long-term female employee.  The pill-popper was ethnic, and so he was allowed much more leeway than if a White guy had been doing the same.  One of the lead engineers was also a harasser, who didn’t get held accountable until years later.

And management constantly held impossible standards over your head, and threatened all with layoffs (a product of the semiconductor production business – we need to get product out, hire more people.  When contracts end, lay the folks off!)

So, I worked there a little more than a year-and-a-half.  And was miserable.

The Wife and I DID get to see each other on weekends (she became pregnant in May!), and I left der Fledermausflügel in November to begin my private investigation business.

I was laid off.

Why der Fledermausflügel, you ask?

German for bat wings, of course!

A Fender Bender?

…or scratches?

So my roomie J and I travel together ‘across town’ yesterday from the suburbs to Central Phoenix, to the hospital where she is scheduled for rotator cuff surgery on March 21.  This is her preop visit, blood work and X-rays.  And, of course, paperwork.

And after an hour or so of that nonsense, we traveled farther West to (Jack Wheeler’s) Original Hamburger Works for a late lunch.  (We add the prefix Jack Wheeler, proudly.  He was the office manager of Tom Ezell’s Investigations and Polygraph.  We did pre-employment polys for Hamburger Works (when it was legal to do so).  And, if we said we were going out for lunch to Hamburger Works, he always emphatically corrected us, adding the ORIGINAL to the name, in that great, bass voice he was known for!

Sadly, Jack passed in 1985.  Pre-employment polygraphs stopped in 1986, except for police, etc.

After a yummy lunner (a late lunch), we headed back home.

J had a prescription she wanted to drop off at her Walgreens, so I headed there before home.  I was driving (as she had alcohol, I had not), and driving her Honda Element remains slightly foreign to me. (no pun intended)  But all was well.

Until I made the turn into the Walgreens’ parking lot, circling the building to the drive-through pharmacy window (the building used to be a bank).

As I made the turn, some fool in a pickup truck backed out.  As I was driving behind him!  I sped up (as best I could in a small lot) and performed an evasive maneuver.

But, he clipped us!

I pulled forward out of the path of parking lot traffic, and he pulled back into his space.  I exited to inspect the damage.  Best I could tell was a couple of scratches on the plastic part just below the fuel opening.  No serious damage, but noticeable.

I turned to greet the other driver and exchange information.  HE had hit US on private property.

And he had backed out again and left!

(I’m reminded that over 10% of Arizona’s motorists are uninsured!)

I had not taken a cell phone picture or recorded his license plate number, because it appeared he was stopping.

And we have more pressing financial issues currently than the $500 deductible for scratches.

Sigh.

(FTC – Neither Original Hamburger Works, Honda or Walgreens gave us anything!  Tom Ezell’s no longer exists, as far as I know – Tom passed a couple years ago.)

The Polygraph

(forgetting, for a moment, one cost me a job-unfairly, I think, back-in-the-day!)

polygraph-simpson

The polygraph is an instrument which measures things like heart rate, perspiration, breathing and sometimes other body activity over which the person measured has little or no control.  A skilled operator (who should also be a skilled interrogator) uses these measurements to determine if a subject is telling the truth to certain, carefully worded questions.  It is not a lie detector, but a truth verifier.

Prior to 1988, many private companies utilized a pre-employment polygraph test, to determine if a subject was generally honest before hiring.  Some also used polygraphs post-employment, at random intervals, to see if anything had changed.  In 1988, Congress passed legislation limiting the use of pre-employment tests, with the exclusion of persons in  certain sensitive positions, security, police and a few other jobs.  Some States followed suit.

Many private companies were put out of business.

Having worked for a private investigations/polygraph firm for a number of years, it was an interesting experience.

First, some of the polygraphers (many of whom were retired law enforcement) thought themselves superior to the lowly civilian private investigators.

Second, I observed on numerous occasions, polygraphers watching job applicants arriving for a test, and making disparaging remarks, even before the interview or test began!

“This guy has liar written all over him!”

Hardly a lack of bias going in.

There was also a polygraph school adjacent to and affiliated with the investigations/polygraph company.  When I was first employed as an investigator, I was considering signing up for the school, thinking it might be an important addition to my investigative skills.  After observing and hearing the polygraphers, my interest waned.

This is not an indictment of all polygraphers, but just an observation based on some of those with whom I had negative encounters.

I suspect some of the laws have changed post 911, what with more agencies tasked with protection of the Republic from terrorists and spies.

I hope the current crop of polygraph examiners are more professional than some I encountered back-in-the-day.

We need all the help we can get.

Other Night(s) as a P.I.

(Believe me, not nearly as exciting as it sounds!)

People not in ‘the business’ often get their ideas of private investigation from movies and television.

“I’m a P.I.”

“OH! Like MAGNUM!”

Oft times, it’s more like “Oh, like a bean counter-security guard!”

Case in point.  I’m working out of a P.I. agency cum polygraph business.  The owner is a retired Phoenix Police detective.  My boss is Bob Hall (later of gun store fame).  And Bob and I have done surveillance, security, security surveys, records checks, photography, interviews, taken statements, served legal papers, located missing persons, found hidden assets – all manner of private investigation related duties.

Then there was the tank farm.

Out on the South Central part of West Phoenix lies a tank farm.  (51st Ave/Van Buren) Wherein pipelines of gasoline and related products arrive to the Valley for distribution to local gas stations.

chevron_tank_farm_water_quality_201311_10_web-1

Once a rural edge of town, it’s now more centrally located.

Fortunately for us, whose office is just by the State Police offices at 23rd Av. and Grand. (in 1986).

It seems a rural gasoline hauler has been filling up at the tank farm, and their numbers don’t match with the fuel taken.  Hmmm.

SO, we as P.I.’s (keep thinking Magnum) get to monitor all fill-ups of these fuel trucks at the farm, compare the receipts with the pump readings, and note any discrepancies!  Whenever these guy arrive to fill up.  4 PM, Midnight, 4 AM.  Whenever.  They call when they are about 45 minutes out…

And I think they had eight trucks.

Which kept three or four private investigators busy…

Woo-Hoo!

Over a period of like two months.  Any day or night.

True, for the company, there was mileage + hourly for multiple investigators.

But, for the investigators, it was insanely boring, and tiresome.  And much comp time was taken for driving from home to the tank farm, watching and monitoring some yahoo fill his tanker truck for 20 minutes, and driving home.

Three hours? Starting @ 0200.

Well, we were young and foolish.  And hungry for money.

I’m not young, anymore.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Private Investigating

I’ve not been a private investigator since 1986.  I’ve not been a credit card fraud investigator since 2009.  But I’ve been some-kind of investigator (private security, process server) most of my adult life.

It’s in my blood.

As such, I’ve tried to keep up with the latest regarding what records are available, what has been limited (due to privacy concerns) and the like.

And, of course, the overall erosion of privacy since Al Gore invented the Internet!  And the government passed The Patriot Act, NDAA, et al.

My dear friend Biff (previously lauded in song and story in these pages – well story, anyway) recently met me for coffee, and, as he oft wants to do, presented me with a gift!

I like gifts!  🙂

As he peruses used bookstores (in search of first editions and signed editions) he sometimes finds books his friends might appreciate.

And he found THIS!

pi-book

It was obviously used and in fair condition.  He was curious what I thought of it and it’s value to today’s sleuth.

It took me a few days to read it.  I had to keep reminding myself this was geared for the neophyte.  Hence the clever title…

Overall it’s a pretty good book.  The author claims to be a retired FBI agent who now has his own P.I. agency in Florida. (The Internet does confirm this.)  It’s fairly well organized and has both current and historic information regarding how to find stuff and to keep out of jail in so doing.  It even has material regarding sources on the Internet, and electronic surveillance.

My copy is the second edition.  An Amazon search revealed there is now a third.

It now holds a place of honor on my bookshelf, adjacent to Where’s What (the CIA book regarding where to find records, circa 1974).

Yeah, I’m a snoop at heart…

(FTC – neither Amazon, nor this book’s author gave me anything!  Biff did, but he’s my friend!  BACK OFF!)

Knock On Any Door

I’ve often written regarding the windshield time and shoe leather expended during my tenure as a private investigator.  This is definitely a shoe leather story.

One of the items TV cop and PI shows do not expand upon is the time expended.  Especially if the investigation in is the pre-Internet era.  Of course, even in today’s CSI-oriented procedural shows, time remains a factor.  Collect fluids for the lab – DNA results back after the commercial.  Easy-peasy.

In the real world it’s like a minimum of six weeks.  Would definitely put a damper on the 44 minute long hour show!

So, here I am, in the Fall, in N.W. Phoenix.  Not the oppressive heat of July, but not January, either.  Canvassing a neighborhood.  On foot.

Three, four fairly long neighborhood streets.  Middle-income, mixed ethnicity, probably 3/4 White. (IOW, NOT the ghetto, the barrio or the projects).  THANK YOU GOD!

Regardless, still laborious.  Lots of walking.  Keeping track of each household by address. By name if possible.  Returning to empty homes to try to catch folks who had returned.  Or get a name off the mailbox (or the mail) for a telephone call later.

All because at the end of one of the blocks, one neighbor’s dog (German shepherd, pit bull, I don’t remember) had broken through the horizontal-wood fence separating the yards and attacked neighborhood kids, seriously injuring one.

Did anyone witness the attack?  Or the aftermath?  Or someone taunting the dog?  Do you know any witnesses with whom I could speak?

As if most of the neighbors were in one or the other of the fenced back yards…

Due diligence was still necessary.

I walked and walked.  Knocked on a lot of doors.  Rang a lot of doorbells.  Received little information.  From this procedure (which took two afternoons and two evenings, by myself) or the follow-up telephone calls.

I remember one household.  Across the street from the feuding neighbors.  Had Mexican immigrants therein, all of whom had to fill the doorway when the person answering announced (to no one in particular) INVESTIGATOR! (een-ves-ti-ga-tor’).  Little English and even less information.

Most folks knew bupkis.  Some has their own opinions and theories – even if they hadn’t know of the event before I spoke with them!  Others offered information on other torts, crimes, events and neighbors.

As if I cared.

Eventually, I gathered up the big collection of negative data and coalesced it into a big report, signifying nothing.

I’m certain the lawsuit was eventually settled between the various homeowner’s insurances involved.  And their attorneys.

And my boss got a cut of one attorney’s fees.  I got my usually hourly wage, sore feet and worn-out shoes.  Pretty sure I didn’t make enough for a new pair, or even resoling.

Ah!  The thrilling life of a private investigator.  🙂

What About Bob?, Part Quatro

In our last episode…

My friend Bob (of the many friends named such) – my former P.I. boss and gun store boss – was losing weight and on a feeding tube due to the inability to eat due to esophageal cancer (!)

And he (and we) were awaiting approval from on-high (his health care insurance) to begin chemotherapy and radiation for the throat cancer.

And the insurance company was balking at beginning treatment, as he had yet to gain any weight (or to save themselves money – you decide!)

And now…

I heard from him yesterday, as I reached out to him for the Thanksgiving weekend.  He has been receiving ‘treatments’ going on three months, with the last one scheduled for this coming week.

THEN, we will see the prognosis…

He says he is very tired and is maintaining (mostly) a good attitude.

Please keep a good thought, and pray for him (if that’s what you do).

Witless For The Prosecution

Witless for the Prosecution: New York DA Forces Staff to Forgo Second Amendment Rights
Madeline Singas, Acting District Attorney for Nassau County, New York, is a hypocrite.
Worse, she is willing to gamble with the lives and safety of her
staff and their families for her own perceived political benefit.
While claiming “a commitment to justice, compassion, and integrity”
and boasting about keeping “more vulnerable people safe,” she enforces
a policy of mandatory disarmament amongst the attorneys who put their
own safety on the line to administer justice in her jurisdiction.
On Monday, Prof. Eugene Volokh broke the story that the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office bars prosecutors from having handguns, even at home.
h/t NRA-ILA
I remember, in my previous life, working as a private investigator/process server.
And the county presiding Superior Court judge (the guy over the courts,
staffs, attorneys, and clerks) made a decision that all shall be
unarmed.
And it came to pass that metal detectors were installed in the Superior Court,
and that unless one had credentials and a badge,
one was required to be defenseless on the premises. This meant leaving one’s
sidearm in one’s vehicle, subject to burglary – as the court parking lots
were not very secure!The judge further conveyed even process servers under his jurisdiction shall be unarmed!
 In the field!I’m sorry, your honor, but many process servers were attacked and even shot!  

Fortunately, as this is Arizona, he didn’t extend his ‘authority’ to our homes.

AND, an historic court decision (1873?) held that court officers had the right
to be armed anywhere in the State!

SO, many of us were.

(Thankfully, at least in the federal building, they provided lockers!)

Hopefully, New York will get a clue…

Good Thoughts, Please!

Bob (my former PI boss and favorite gun shop manager), recovering handsomely from having part of his leg amputated, is facing another challenge.

He has been having difficulty eating and drinking.  So much so he has lost a lot of weight.  Today, he is being scoped (a camera down the throat, as was done to me a while back) to determine if the problem is related to acid-reflux.  He does have an apparent esophageal stricture.

Or perhaps CANCER! 

He is a good man, is a father of two fine daughters, and has a terrific wife.  He is 61(?)

Please keep him in your thoughts, and if you pray, please do so.

This Just In – Bob informs me he does have some variety of throat cancer!  No other information at this time.

Minus Another Firesign

It was reported 0619 that we lost yet another member of The Firesign Theatre comedy troupe.

This time, it’s PHIL AUSTIN, the voice of Private Nick Danger – Third Eye

Phil Austin, dies at 74; voice of Firesign Theatre’s Nick Danger (link)

Even though I was growing up ‘in the 60’s and 70’s’, I was never a drug culture kind of guy.  But, that didn’t mean that I didn’t appreciate their humor.  (Sometimes, alcohol was involved, though!)  Being a fan of PI fiction and wanting to become one (I eventually did) added to the joy brought by The Firesign Theatre.

RIP Phil.

I guess we’re all eventually bozos on this bus, eh?

h/t Dave the mechanic, LA Times

"Round up the usual suspects."

In Loving Memory…