Today we are introducing a new blog series, “How Did He Do It?” which we hope you will enjoy. We are going to share with you some of the real life stories of author Art Lee’s days as a Private Investigator. I have enjoyed telling his stories to friends and relatives through the years, as they show how much creativity and ingenuity he used to get results for his clients. He truly is an amazing and intelligent man. We will post a new story every month, and here is the first one:
THE CASE OF THE EMBEZZLER
When I owned my own Private Investigation Agency, before I retired from that life, I was the most expensive P.I. in town. I had spent many years building up a reputation of being able to get things done and with that reputation came expensive fees that I charged. For that reason I was seldom the first P.I. an attorney would call. The embezzler was one of those cases.
A man, divorced for about two years, had embezzled several hundred thousand dollars from his employer. The man disappeared with the money. The employer, a large corporation, felt it could not allow the man to get away with that for fear others might try, and bad publicity like that would negatively affect its stock value.
The corporate attorney called on a P.I. he had used in the past to find the embezzler. When that P.I. failed he called on a second local P.I. That person also failed.
Any P.I. worth his/her salt knows how to run Social Security numbers, employment records, credit reports, and bank accounts. All these standard procedures were run by both of these P.I.s without positive results. It appeared the embezzler had vanished off the face of the earth.
In police work, be it local cops or one of the many Federal Agencies, having the law at the investigator’s back and a gun on his hip become the best tools in their work. A P.I. – like myself – has none of the authority of the law and seldom can use a gun without being arrested. So I learned quickly to use psychology. Being able to talk to people, to anyone, citizen or criminal alike, works better – for me at least – than strong arm methods. I used all the normal sources of information everyone else used, but I depended more on an ability to get people to talk freely.
There is one basic subject that 99% of all people like to talk about. That is: themselves. Once a person is at ease and has found a person willing to listen, almost anyone will open up, little by little, and tell me everything I need to know. If you do it right, it is a sure bet.
So, the corporate attorney called me as a desperate last resort. He argued about my fee, but I told him the yellow pages were full of cheap detectives, and he should not waste corporate money on them. So he paid my fee (I always got paid upfront and billed only my expenses after the case was closed).
I didn’t waste time doing what the two previous P.I.s had done. I started by talking to the embezzler’s friends, co-workers, neighbors and even his ex-wife. I found the embezzler had a girlfriend, also. I talked to her, too.
When trying to find someone – a ‘missing person’ – it is important to know one bit of psychology about the human being. A person may change their name, their hair color, grow a beard, or move anywhere in the world. But a person very rarely can change his or her habits. If a person loves bowling, as an example, he or she will go to a bowling alley no matter where they are hiding. So, I found out all I could about the embezzler, what foods he liked, what sports he liked, how he liked to dress, what kind of entertainment he liked.
His girlfriend gave me the one clue as to where to find him. She was very angry at the man for running off with all that money and not taking her. So she opened up easily. She told me the one most important thing in the embezzler’s life was his love of guns. He subscribed to a number of gun magazines. She told me the one she remembered most. I will withhold the name of that magazine; the reason will be obvious shortly.
I returned to my office and using a computer I obtained the mailing list for that magazine (which is why I will withhold the magazine’s name). And there was the embezzler, still on the list, still receiving his monthly magazine. And the mailing address was in New Zealand!
The corporation had spent its money wisely when hiring me, and the corporate attorney called on me several times over the years to handle difficult matters.
In closing, using psychology and knowing how to elicit information by talking to people is often better than having the weight of the law behind you and the weight of a gun on your hip.
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