#58: Investigation Stories – The Lessons I Learned with a bit of Luck – Part 1

Getting great results as a private investigator can be done in ways that seem like an art form.  Sometimes we act or play a part.  Sometimes our experience guides us in the right direction (and sometimes the wrong direction).  One piece of information can break a case wide open for us and can make all the difference in the world.  And sometimes some mundane information or a lot of luck can be the difference between going home after 4 hours and working 8 hour days.  If you’ve done surveillance as a private investigator then you know what I am talking about.  For those not understanding my reference, I am only referring to the fact that private investigators are typically not guaranteed a certain amount of hours each day.  Many times it’s only our skill and luck that allows us 8 hours (or more) of work each day.

I have two very important surveillance stories for you.  Both stories were hopeless

The first story is a bit more exciting in regards to catching someone scamming the system blatantly. The way I caught this turd was nothing short of a lucky miracle.  Keep on reading to learn how one small break changed everything.

The second story isn’t a surveillance story that ends with someone going to jail or an infidelity story.   It’s not over the top exciting either but will reinforce a few important points listed below about being a private investigator.

Lessons I learned over these two surveillance cases that span nearly 7 years apart:

1.)    You have to fight for every hour you work (This is everyday)

2.)    Doing your due diligence during a case can pay off

3.)    The smallest bit of information you have or find can change everything

4.)    Always be aware of your surrounds because paying attention pays off when you least expect it

So let me set the scene for the first surveillance miracle story.

The company I worked for received an assignment to find a claimant (subject) at his known medical appointment and to follow the claimant to his residence.  Apparently the client wasn’t able to get a good address for the claimant and following a claimant from their medical appointment is typical in the insurance fraud industry.  The claimant had told the insurance company that he was homeless and was living out of his car.  No addresses that we had for the claimant were current.  This medical appointment was critical to future surveillance efforts.

An investigator on my team picked the claimant at his appointment.  When the claimant left the appointment the investigator followed him.  After following the claimant for a short period of time the claimant began to drive in a suspicious manner and the investigator determined that the claimant was aware of his presence.  Just to be clear, there is no reason why the claimant should have been suspicious.  It was quickly determined that the claimant was actually looking for anyone to be following him home which to me is a clear indicator that something was not right about the surveillance case.  My impression at the time was that the claimant was either up to no good (which means working or not really hurt), the case had been worked by another company that had botched it up, or the claimant had been coached by an attorney.  There was a slim chance that the investigator working the surveillance had done something so terribly wrong that the claimant was made aware of the investigator’s presence.

I Enter The Story

The case was reassigned for another appointment that the claimant had however this time another investigator and myself would be working the surveillance.  The investigator working with me was very new to surveillance and private investigation as a whole.  The claimant arrived to his known medical appointment and departed after he had finished his appointment.  The other investigator and myself began to follow him onto the freeway.  The new investigator took the lead and I stayed back further in case the other investigator needed to switch positions with me.  I was watching for even the smallest indicators that the claimant was on to us following him.

Well at the very last moment the claimant traveled through two lanes of traffic and got off the freeway.  Because the investigator was following the claimant in his lane, he was forced to cross two lanes at the last moment as well.  This essentially ruined his chances of following the claimant and had to pull off the surveillance per my request.

I did my best to follow the claimant but it was clear to me that he had no clear destination and I eventually lost sight of him in a neighborhood while trying to caught as well.  The case was eventually closed without ever finding out where the claimant actually lived.

Fast Forward Three or Four Months

As I was traveling home from a surveillance I recognized the claimant, the one that had eluded me several month ago.  Without thought I began to follow him, hoping that he would lead me to his home.  The claimant was not going to his home, instead I followed him to a nearby bowling alley where he entered.

I immediately called my boss who then contacted the client.  The client and my boss were beside themselves with joy of what was unfolding and allowed me to begin surveillance on the man that had eluded surveillance.  This time he had no idea what was coming; me.

I entered the bowling alley and found him bowling.  He wasn’t just casually bowling but rather bowling much better with than the average bowler.  I videotaped him bowling, but it wasn’t my main focus.  All I wanted to do was to follow this man back to his home so I had somewhere to begin surveillance on a future date.  The claimant eventually finished practicing, returned to his vehicle and departed.  I followed very closely as it was all or nothing and he had no reason to believe anyone was following him.  He eventually arrived at his home and entered.  I finished the day with a few unexpected surveillance hours, a happy boss and a client that would think twice before every considering another company when needing an assignment completed.

The client assigned more surveillance on the claimant and we dug a bit deeper as well.  We found out that the claimant was involved in a bowling league which in turn gave us dates to watch him during his league match.

On one surveillance date I followed him to a different bowling alley with a teenager that was likely his son.  As I waited outside of the bowling alley I watched an unrelated kid forget to put his bowling bag in his car and drove off with his mother.  I grabbed the bag (as if it was my own) and entered the bowling alley looking like a bowler.  I videotaped the claimant teaching the teenager how to bowl and then followed him back home when they were finished.

The last time surveillance was conducted on the claimant was during a league match.  I sat with another investigator near the claimant and videotaped him for well over an hour or two as he bowled his league match.  I don’t think we even followed him home when he was done.

When it was all said and done the client was happy and my boss had even more respect for me then he already did.  Word spread in the office and the case was even commented on in an interoffice newsletter.  Needless to say it was cases like this one that not only contributed to several promotions but to the trust that my former boss has in me to this day.  And that kind of trust goes along way when you start your own business.

This is only part one.  I will post another story very soon.  This was in my opinion the better of the two stories but the one to come isn’t bad.

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  1. Nice stuff Andrew.

    I listened to the podcast today. Your memory and dedication to the profession clearly paid off here. You should post more surveillance stories – as someone who is doing more and more of this I am interested in different scenarios (good and bad).

    Thanks again for the talk last night.

  2. Like it shared on my facebook!