Category Archives: Investigation

Child Protection – What You Can Learn From a Private Investigator

Your child may be in danger without you even knowing about it. As a private investigator for four states and a former Deputy Sheriff, I’m all too aware of the statistics. If you have children under the age of 18, you should be, too.

The truth is startling and alarming:

Approximately 11 children out of every 1,000 go missing each year
A child is reported as missing or abducted every 40 seconds
Over 2,000 per day go missing, or 800,000 per year
Unfortunately, this isn’t the frightening part. The frightening part is that even parents who worry about child abductions don’t understand how they happen or how to prevent them. The frightening part is in stereotypical kidnappings (the child is abducted and either assaulted or held for ransom), 44% never make it back home.

I don’t tell you these facts for you to grab your children and never let them out of your home. I tell you because being aware is really the only way to protect them.

Most people assume their children need to learn about “stranger danger”: never talk to a stranger, don’t get in a car with a stranger. However, a striking percentage of abductions are by people they know. In fact, 82% are kidnapped by family members. Of the non-family member abductions, only 37% were committed by a stranger.

As well, most people assume at-risk children are those who hang out in parks or wooded areas. The sad part is that a high percentage is taken within a quarter mile from their homes: from a busy street or mall, or from their own front yards.

What can you do to protect your children? Do you have to turn them into “shut-ins” that never leave your house? No, but knowing the facts helps. As well, here are a few more tips to protect your children from becoming statistics:

Never leave your child alone at the bus stop. If you can’t be there, ask someone you trust to be there until you son or daughter gets on the bus.
When your children play out in the yard, either be out with them or make sure you stay in an area of the house were you can see the entire yard.
Keep pictures of your children off the Internet. This could be an invitation to child predators.
Keep current pictures of your children. They grow fast; should the worst occur, an out-dated picture can make them impossible to find.
Teach them what to look for and to be aware of their surroundings. Many stranger abductions start out with the stranger watching them.
Lastly, don’t keep the truth from them. In 2008, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) surveyed 4,549 children in the U.S. Of that number, 60% were exposed to some form of violence, whether directly or indirectly. Weapon assaults, sexual harassment and kidnapping become part of the statistics as early as age 10. By age 14, children are being introduced to sexual victimization and assault, assault by a peer, dating violence and unwanted online sexual solicitation, among others.

If you don’t prepare them for a situation and teach them awareness, most are left unable to cope and unable to talk about it. By setting a good foundation of talking carefully with your children about these possibilities, you just may save their life.

The Case Investigation System

The Case Investigation System arose out of the need to store information quickly and easily and find it just as quickly. What makes this system unique is that each form in the system performs a specific task with very little overlap which gives the user the ability to expand the case file as often as the need arises.

While the forms are delivered electronically, they are intended to be printed out and used in the field as the investigator goes about his or her daily tasks. By taking some notes in checkbox fashion we speed up the process and by having that same type of information appear in the exact same place each time we go to look for it, we speed up the process of reporting to the client both progress and outcomes. It turns out that the handwritten form is actually faster to complete than a computer based form.

Additionally, even though technology has become very reliable, this system gives you immediate access to information without having to rely on technology.

The Case Investigation System is designed to help keep track of hours spent on a task, expenses incurred, and a journal of activity for future reference. It is not a billing system but certainly makes the billing process much easier and more complete when everything is together in one place.

In an effort to help you understand the value of these forms and this method of collecting and recording information, we would like to offer the Case Investigation System User’s Manual in .PDF format for your use at no charge. It is included in the Case Investigation System as part of the package of forms. It would be our pleasure to share it with you with no obligation to purchase. It does not expire and is yours to keep and use as long as you wish. Of course, it is our hope that you will find value in the manual and want to purchase the system.

Our policy on copying the forms is a simple one. We would like to sell one copy of the system to each office rather than to each person in an office. That way you may all use the forms as you need them and bring a uniform method of recording information to the entire office. We feel that this method of selling our product will create real value for you since anyone picking up the file will be familiar with where to look for a particular piece of information or to quickly determine that the piece of information is missing. We find that there is nothing worse than spending time looking for information that you don’t yet have. Looking at the forms will tell you quickly that you don’t have the information so you won’t waste a lot of time.

Please select the Forms menu item above or below to see a list of the forms and an explanation of the purpose of each form.

Paying the Legal Fees of Employees Under Investigation

Last week several U.S. business and legal trade groups, including the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) filed a brief in support of KPMG’s position in their tax fraud case that they should not be penalized for paying the legal fees on behalf of employees who are the target of a government investigation. The issue raised is one that has perturbed defense white collar criminal defense lawyers since the Justice Department so-called “Thompson Memo” was issued. The Thompson Memo warns that corporate payment of employee legal representation is viewed as an adverse factor in determining whether a company is considered to be cooperating with the government. (Full Story in Legal Times May 8, 2006)

One of the problems with the Thompson Memo on this issue is that, if companies were to follow this guideline, it may well leave many company employees without legal representation. Since oftentimes investigations by the government may result in protracted legal representation, coupled with the intense and complicated nature of the investigations, it is likely that legal fees will be substantial and the employee, unless they are the likes of Ken Lay, will have a hard time affording competent legal counsel. It seems that the corporate and white collar lawyer concerns on this one are well founded. Of course, the government opposes the payment of legal fees, among other reasons, since it potentially jades the impartiality and loyalty of the employee as a possible witness. It would seem that on balance, if an innocent, low paid corporate employee is targeted as a “small fish” for later use as an informant against higher level executives, the government will have an unfair advantage in pressuring the employee to cooperate or face substantial legal fees. Such a Hobson’s choice may help fight corporate wrong-doing, but it may have other, far reaching and possibly more damaging affects on corporate America.

Cyber Crime Investigation

Criminal investigation has a whole new frontier to conquer with cyber technology. All aspects of the investigation process include new challenges which require a totally new breed of experts. These experts would be the modern day versions of Sherlock Holmes, the anti-malware researchers. Cyber crime investigation begins with the work that these experts do.

The Objects of the Investigation

Intensive investigations are usually called for when there is a cyber attack that does a lot of damage. Most of these would be denial-of-service attacks which target websites that provide business services such as payments, online purchases or banking.

Such an attack usually means the website has been bombarded by an extreme volume of service requests. These requests come from compromised PCs which have been infected by bots, automated software programs that can execute certain process upon orders from a control center.

Computers can be infected with malware (malevolent software) which can come in the form of spyware, adware, rogue security software, Trojan horses, root kits, keyloggers, computer viruses, worms, ransom ware, and dialers.

Types of Investigations

There are four basic types of investigation done by digital forensic experts. Like all investigations, these are subject to legal restrictions if they are to hold up in court. This may seem strange to the ordinary lay person but when investigations start, forensics experts often need to coordinate with law enforcement to do everything by the book. There are times when controlling a botnet (a network of compromised computers) necessitates getting permission from a court of law.

Intelligence Gathering

The purpose of intelligence investigation in cyber crime is to identify, track and stop criminal activity. There is some leeway in terms of soundness of evidence when this is done merely for intelligence purposes since speed is often of the essence. At the same time, it may not be incumbent upon the forensics team to present evidence to court; the main goal may be to provide the information needed to begin an actual investigation.

Criminal Forensics

The purpose of criminal forensics in cyber crime investigation is to extract data, produce reliable evidence and present this in a way that can be understood by the court and lay people. Criminal forensics is typically part of a larger law enforcement investigation. This is done in collaboration with other specialists and the resulting reports are usually submitted to court as expert evidence.

Electronic Discovery

Electronic discovery (eDiscovery) is similar to criminal forensics in that it is also conducted in order to extract data and produce reliable evidence. However, the big difference between the two is that the process is often undertaken in relation to civil law.

There are distinct legal restrictions imposed on the performance of electronic discovery, particularly in terms of the scope that the investigation may cover. These legal restrictions often come in consonance with other laws such as those that protect privacy and human rights.

Intrusion Investigation

A fourth form of investigation in cyber crimes is the intrusion investigation. This is usually brought about by a complaint or a request to verify if some attempt is being made to intrude into a network or a hacker is trying to steal some confidential data. The intrusion investigation focuses on finding out what entry point has been used by the attacker. It also tries to determine the scope of the attack and how to diminish any impact such attack may have had.

Unlike other investigations which mostly occur after the fact, intrusion investigation is conducted in real time which means the forensic experts try to determine point of entry as the attack is going on and when they do this, they need to work skillfully with network forensics.

The Scope of Investigation

Today, Internet connectivity has increased exponentially since devices other than PCs have acquired access to cloud technology with its applications and networks. Technological progress has become a double-edged sword that has widened the scope of cyber crime investigation and the public can only hope that forensics will prove equal to the challenge.

Cracking the Whip on Intellectual Property Infringement

Abercrombie & Fitch revealed today that it will be expanding its fight against counterfeiting with its Brand Protection team, which will be headed by Shane Berry, a former Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Brand Protection team will focus on improving its current strategies with regards to eliminating counterfeit A & F products.

As counterfeiting problems, particularly in the designer clothing arena, continue to increase, undermining companies’ sales, I think we will see more moves like that of Abercrombie. Companies need to take a very active role in protecting their brand. Launching counterfeiting programs and staffing them with former law enforcement officials who have experience in counterfeiting investigations is a good step towards protecting a company’s brand. Former FBI agents are great at ferreting out infringement through their training and experience and from obtaining and working with informants, among other things. In fact, Fortress Global’s IP infringements investigations are also conducted by a team of former high ranking FBI and INTERPOL agents.

Companies addressing counterfeiting issues by establishing a brand protection team and conducting intellectual property infringement investigations should also make sure that they are getting a solid bang for their buck with the evidence they gather from these investigations. Companies should take legal action against all copyright, trademark and patent infringers, no matter how minor the offense is and make sure that the lawsuit receives media attention, working with public relations teams as necessary. It will send a chilling effect out to infringers- “Abercrombie has a zero tolerance policy for infringer, don’t mess with them”. Additionally, companies should gather evidence in of infringement in the jurisdictions where counterfeit merchandise is being manufactured in and distributed to. Legal action should be taken against both the manufacturer and the distributor. If your company establishes itself as a force to be reckoned with in the intellectual property world, counterfeiters are sure to get the word and intellectual property infringement problems will thereafter decrease.

Celebrity Detective’s Crimes Bring to Light Ethical Violations

Los Angeles based private investigator Anthony Pellicano’s recent 110-count federal indictment for wiretapping and other charges brings to light certain arguments that Americans are having regarding the right to eavesdrop on third-party conversations. Of course, we all know about President Bush’s fights with Congress over the right for the Bush administration to continue wiretapping without congressional approval. Bush’s argument is that in the time of war, we need to use all available resources to catch the bad guy. Okay…Well, the government will do what it feels necessary to do, but what about private citizens developing illegal software to listen in on third-party conversations?

Pellicano, with the aid of a colleague, created illegal eavesdropping software in an effort to intercept calls and listen in on private conversations. He used he device, Telesleuth, to record phone calls on behalf of certain attorneys to celebrity clients. All attorneys affiliated with Pellicano are now denying all knowledge of Pellicano’s illegal activities.

It’s hard enough to imagine that the government has to listen in on my conversations, but private citizens? That seems to be a gross violation of my privacy rights. Pellicano’s case will determine the consequences our citizens will face if they violate the wiretap laws now in place. One would hope that law and investigation firms, who are largely in positions of public trust, would refrain from wiretap activity, even if it would help win their case, seeing as it is illegal and unethical.

This also raises a much less philosophical point, which is the importance of working with only the highest quality private investigators and private investigative firms. That is, an investigator who, in additional to knowledge of and familiarity with the laws that govern private investigators’ work, have and uphold high ethical standards. In addition to making sure that the investigator holds a license and proper insurances, contact licensing authorities and inquire if the investigator’s license is in good standing. Inquire of the investigative firm about their credentials. Ask for the references of past client.

Are you guilty of a crime? A brain scan may help determine the truth

University of South Carolina and University of Pennsylvania have both reported increased accuracy in brain scanning and entrepreneurs Joel Huizenga and Steven Laken hope to capitalize on their good fortune by offering lie-detecting services to government agencies and others who are interested in proving their innocence. Laken hopes to offer the fMRI lie-detecting services with crimes of a civil nature, like libel, slander, and fraud, where the issue is one person’s word against another; Laken also sees its uses in employee screening by government agencies. The labs at the universities both use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to study the brain and early research indicates that when the fMRI detects tiny changes in blood flow in certain areas in the brain, those areas work harder when a person is lying.

Of course, the research is in the early stages and there needs to be more experimenting using the technique in other labs as well as with seasoned criminals in order to determine the effectiveness of the fMRI’s ability to detect lies. Malcolm Ritter, a writer for the Associated Press, volunteered for the brain scan at the University of South Carolina. The lab technicians had him, prior to the brain scan, take a ring or a watch from one of the drawers in the room and place it with his belongings. He was then asked a series of routine questions in order to determine his baseline for the fMRI and then was asked which item he stole from the drawer. Ritter lied on the brain scan, as did the 31 volunteers in Dr. Mark George of University of South Carolina’s study. A computer compares the truthful responses to the questions regarding the crime itself. The computer, using the fMRI data, was able to detect the lies in 28 out of the 31 volunteers but those volunteers were not criminals and it will be interesting to see what impact that has on the actual findings. One of the reasons this study may not represent true findings is the lack of actual punishment. Dr. George’s next study will focus more on the real-life consequences associated with lying, which will be funded by the Department of Defense Polygraph Institute.

Although the doctor in charge of the study, Mark George, indicates that the brain scan should not be an issue of invasion of privacy because of the necessity for the complete cooperation of the volunteer, there are issues that must be addressed. What about those individuals coerced into taking the test? Or what if, in the course of the test, another crime that you committed was to come to light? Can charges be brought against you? It seems there is still research that must be conducted before it can be utilized in the court system. Hopefully, we will learn more about the accuracy and reliability of the fMRI with detecting lies before we use it in trials where individuals can be sentenced to prison or to death.

Workplace Theft – Office Thieves

Workplace Theft

A bizarre aspect of work culture is workplace theft. This is a growing concern among the top bracket management of any organization as much as the owners of business establishments who encounter a steady growth of losses because of this reason each year. These are small incidents of theft that occur on a regular basis even though they are rarely accounted for owing to the smallness of the theft nature. it is assumed that these thefts are mainly done out of greed or even despise for the company things.

Workplace Theft Investigation

There are some restrictions that employers have when it comes to workplace theft investigations. However within the purview of their rights they can organize an investigation in order to take some necessary preventive measures against workplace theft.

The first step would be to gauge the losses and keep that as an official secret. This would also help in the retaining of the confidence of those employees who are honest and will not be under any threat of unnecessary harassments.

It is important for the company officials to decide whether or not to employ an investigator from the company itself or hire a third party investigator. There are some advantages with the latter on grounds of unbiased and neutral detection of crime.

Employees with access to the act of theft should be segregate from the rest and shortlisted.
The matter of workplace theft investigation is a sensitive issue and thus needs to be handled with care. Questioning format and investigation will have to be conducted without intimidating the employees so as to be able to uncover maximum information out of them. Written statements are an added advantage.

An immediate action is necessary once the crime is detected. This may be even done with the termination of services of the guilty employee.

It has on many occasions been found that even after an investigation and a detection of the guilty employers have had difficulties of terminating their services. This may however lead to further acts of undaunted thefts from the same person or his emboldened colleagues.

Workplace Theft Laws

The presence of workplace theft laws is different in their availability in different countries across the world. However there are provisions for companies to take necessary action against any employee that they can prove is guilty. Such employees may be terminated from services according to provisions of labor laws. Their action may be also reported with the police department so that necessary legal action may be taken against them.

Prevention Workplace Theft

There are certain ways that workplace theft prevention may be possible. Identification of reasons for the recurrence of thefts is necessary to be able to understand the real reason behind the thefts and remove them.

A key to every successful corporation and its running are the presence of happy employees. It is important that the needs of the employees are understood and necessary steps are taken to fulfill them. This may be in terms of their wages or even the way they are dealt with at work.

Work environment is another important aspect. A positive work environment with a transparency of deals and workings will not antagonize or fuel negative feeling among workers. If there is trust there will be healthy ways of work culture also.

There should be every effort made to hire honest people. Proper background checking will help this process.

Workers Compensation Claims: Ways of Negotiation

Worker’s Compensation or as it popularly known in the US as the workers’ comp, is in a form of insurance which is which provides compensation to the employees in the form of medical care and certain other kinds of rights in case they are injured during the course of work with the employer. And it also stated that if any particular employer is found negligent in his duties in these aspects or he in any way does not confirm to the rules and regulations that binds both the employer and the employee, the employee is completely within his rights to sue his employer and demand his rightful claims.

Reasons for Compensation: In the United States of America, the Employers Liability Acts was passed in 1855 in Georgia and Alabama. 26 other states followed soon after. Workers compensation is followed by a state-by-state basis and there is a body in every state that oversees the proceedings. In case the worker is injured in such a way that it may result in temporary or permanent disability then the rules demand that he has to be paid full monetary compensation to cover all his expenses and what is required to support him for the rest of his life. The employer may also be charges with criminal offences if it is discovered that it was due to his lack of discretion or the use of outdated machinery resulted in the injury of his employee.

Laws and Contracts: In Nevada and West Virginia, the workers’ compensation has been successfully privatized over the recent years, which have resulted in much smoother dealings with the workers. Private insurance companies have stepped in and the companies have also let them deal with the workers that with the result a direct tiff with the employer can be avoided in most cases. This does not mean that if any particular employer himself chooses to negotiate with the workers he is bound to pay for each every discomfiture of the employees. The regulations or contract with the workers should state at the very outset that under which conditions is the employer bound to compensate to the employees. The employer is not bound to pay for general pain and suffering or other punitive damages.

Vehicle Accidents: How to Investigate

A road or a vehicle accident occurs due to rash driving or due to the carelessness of the people on the road. To investigate such an incident can be quite a tricky task sometimes, given that each party blames the other for the accident and the eye witnesses hardly come forward in fear of getting involved with the officials. On the other hand, it includes all kinds of vehicles, road vehicles like cars, trucks and buses as well as train and airplane accidents.

To start with road accidents, if there are any casualties, the police will at first investigate if there are any possibilities of foul play. They will check the speed of the vehicle and often the distance traveled by the car, in case the victim is an outsider. There have also been cases where the driver of the perpetrating vehicle was addicted to drugs and felt drowsy while driving, resulting in the accident. In case there are casualties he will be charged with homicide aside from the regular charges of drug abuse and rash driving.

In some cases private investigators are brought in, especially by the insurance companies who have to release money when an accident claim is applied for. This is of course a necessary precaution since often there are scammers and frauds who deliberately stage an accident to claim insurance money, and if there are no witnesses, there is no particular way of knowing. A private investigator can find out the missing links. On the other hand, large amounts of money are involved in case there is a casualty and the nominees turn up for the life insurance money. It has often been seen that certain accidents have actually been carefully planned homicides to usurp the life insurance money. It is the work of the investigator to look into such matters.

At times, reconstruction of the accident is often performed when the investigators and police fail to deduct a conclusion from the given data like the damage done to the vehicle and other evidences collected from the accident site. This is usually determined with the help of physics, like whether the amount of damage done to the vehicle is justifiable if it was traveling at a particular speed. If not, then there must have foul play involved. Whether the angle at which the vehicle had been hit was damaging enough to kill the driver, or whether he was a victim placed in a car damaged in a manner to look like an accident. These things require acute deduction, and only solving such questions can complete a vehicle investigation case.