WEST COAST DETECTIVES: CASE STUDY: ISTHERE A ROYAL BABY OR NOT:

WEST COAST DETECTIVES: CASE STUDY: ISTHERE A ROYAL BABY OR NOT:

To be or not to be – Is there a royal baby?

The actual case was conducted over several months in the United States and Europe. For the sake of time and space, this case study is a condensed timeline of some of the more important and interesting investigative activities and techniques that were taken to meet the client’s goal.

The names have been changed to protect their identities.

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My intercom rang in my office and my assistant informed me that a long-time friend and client was on the phone and wanted to speak with me.  Joseph Schmidt was an international businessman whose family has ties to the Middle East where they built a large and successful business. Their business brought them clientele and friendships with high-level officials, wealthy businessmen, and world leaders. During the call, Joe informed me of a very sensitive and important matter concerning one of his clients. He asked for my help and when I could meet him in Northern California.

I was on a plane the following day.

July – Day One

I was met at the airport by one of Joseph’s drivers who took me to this restored castle, which was Joe’s home. It had been a while since I had been there, and it was even more amazing than before.  One of the rooms was made to replicate his favorite Pub in England. The only things missing were the fog and rain.

As we sat down in his Pub, Joseph began to tell me the reason why he needed my help.

One of these country leaders had called Joseph to his palace to entrust him with a very sensitive issue. He told him the story that he had a relationship with a young woman that did not live in his country, and she claims that he is the father of a son born to her, but she refuses to let him see the child. The woman lives In London and other than her name and a cell phone he didn’t have a lot of information.

Over the next few hours, we talked about an action plan and the risk involved. I told Joseph I would first have our agents in London, some still active Stockland Yard, and SAS members, make some discreet inquiries. We would use her cell phone to get more identifying intelligence and background information on the woman. We needed to find her residence first. With the emerging Internet and the information that it offered; we would cut weeks of time off of the agent’s shoe leather work. The time it used to take to gather research information.

As we were winding up our meeting, two plates of Fish and Chips arrived along with two pints of beer. After lunch, I was driven back to the airport with a retainer check in hand and anticipation and excitement for the possibilities of this case.

Day Two

When cases cross international borders, there is no telling when your phone will ring. You tend to sleep a little lighter, and the workdays start earlier than usual, as was the case this morning.

As the sun was beginning to light the Los Angeles skyline, I and my operations leaders were sitting in the conference room reviewing the case files I put together. As I expected, everyone volunteered to go when the team learned that there was work to do on the ground in London. We laughed about it, and I humorously thanked them for their dedication as I informed them that position was already assigned.

As we worked through the case file and made notes, I assigned our Investigative Case Manager to oversee and coordinate the worldwide operations with our foreign assets while I was in London.

Everyone had their assignments and as they walked out of the conference room, I was confident that I had the best team around me, and that we would succeed. Now, I needed to contact my friend and colleague in London, Bill.

Bill was our Station Chief in London, and he is active in Scotland Yard. After catching up I briefed him on the case and provided him with the subject’s name and cell phone number to help ID her.

Once we located her address, we would set up 24-hour surveillance on her and want to get lots of photos of her and her daily activities. We want to know what she does during the day. Does she work? Whom does she meet? What are and where are her favorite places to eat, party, whatever she does – I wanted to know. I had a saying for special cases like this, I wanted to know what makes the subject tick.

I reiterated to Bill, that one of the most important elements that we were on the lookout for was a 5–8-year-old boy associated with the subject. I told Bill as soon as we know where she is I will be flying over to get firsthand information and help with the direction on the work.

Day Six

In the pre-dawn hours, my phone rang. I cleared the cobwebs from my sleepiness as Bill’s British accent greeted me with a hello. I knew that he wouldn’t be calling me this early if he hadn’t found something good.

“Good news”, Bill said, “Phil, this is a very interesting lady. We have her full name, date of birth, passport, and where she lives.” “That’s great news…” before I could finish my thought, Bill interrupted, Here’s the really interesting part. She is in England on a Visa. She is Iranian and lives in a two-million-pound home in a very upscale neighborhood. At this point, we cannot find any source of income for her, and the home is owned by an offshore trust. There are no tax records that we can find but we are still working on that.”  “That is very interesting, Bill.”  Bill had set up the surveillance and would keep me posted until I arrived in London. I told him I would be on a flight in a couple of days.

As I laid back in my bed, my thoughts were racing around in my head and there was no way that I was falling back asleep.  These were the moments that I loved as a Private Investigator, discovering the information that was once unknown and now putting the pieces of the puzzle together.

Day Eight When I arrived in London, I was met at the airport by one of our SAS team members. After checking in at the hotel, Bill and David, the surveillance team leaders, and I had a strategy meeting in my room.

So far, there had not been any sighting of the subject with a child. Our research had shown that the subject, Amira, travels a lot, and often it appears to be last-minute traveling. This raised several questions as well as some complications for the surveillance team. The team had to have their passports, a Go-Bag, and cash them in case the subject decided to do some traveling.

We also discussed how we could find out more information about her, and we decided that a middle-of-the-night trash run might help us. There are risks to this, but fortunately, at this time, there were not any security cameras that covered the street area where the cans were placed. When it comes to trash runs, I remember an old investigative proverb, “beware of what leads you find in the trash.”

Day Nine & Ten

I arrived in London in the late afternoon and knowing that the team had everything underway and operating, I checked into my hotel room and got caught up on my sleep. I have found that when you are in a foreign land, take the time to look around. Find some time, if possible, to see local sites, meet new people, and in this case carve out a night to go see Phantom of the Opera with Michael Crawford.

As we sorted through the trash that we were collecting from the subject’s residence, we were finding some very interesting and informative items. There were letters, but email was not around at this time. We found faxes, financial information, and notes on flight reservations. We also noticed something interesting in the flight information, she was making notes on new flight destinations, changing the reservations she had made a few days before. This caused us to question her actions. What was she up to? Had we tipped her off in some way that she was being watched?

With all the unknowns and the subject living in London on a Visa, Bill alerted intelligence and immigration to do a target package on her. We also discovered that she had a contract maid service, and it was owned by a former cop. Bill said he would reach out to him and see if we could put one of our people on the crew.

We received word from the owner of the maid service that he was willing to have one of our female agents work as a maid at the subject’s residence. This was great news. There is nothing better in an investigation than to have eyes and ears on the inside.

Over the next five weeks, we documented her activities, developing her routine with 24-hour surveillance and the ongoing trash runs. We learned through surveillance that she would often leave the house around midnight. The Subject, Amira, liked to go to the after-hours clubs in London, which were very popular with the people who liked the party scene and didn’t have to get up early. They were open until 4 AM or later.

As we kept up the 24-hour surveillance and our intelligence unit kept digging on every lead, everything took a twist as Bill called me to say we have some interesting information on our lady. British intelligence has her on a watch list, and she is an Iranian intelligence agent, and they have been tracking her contacts and movements. Bill had alerted them that we were working on her also. We agreed to keep them informed, particularly if she left the country unexpectedly. They assumed she had other identities with documents she could use.

I called our teams and Intelligence Director to meet me at Bills Scotland Yard office so we could review and strategize. One topic of discussion was her proclivity to hitting the after-hours club scene and asking how we could exploit this activity. Bill suggested that since I was an American Tourist, I would be the best candidate to try and have a chance to meet her. She has a favorite club that she goes to a lot, and I asked David to do advance work and check the place out in case that would be her next destination on her next late night out.

Day Forty-Five

David and I met to go over his assessment report for the club. The club was about fifteen minutes from my hotel and thirty minutes from Amira’s home. The club was very upscale, with many government officials and wealthy businessmen seen at the club. Perhaps this was Amira’s real interest in the club. The dress code was a suit and tie; fortunately, I always travel with one special suit for such occasions. David also informed me that the doorman is an ex-copper, and he will be an extra pair of eyes for us. David suggested I visit the club tonight to get the layout of the inside.

This means I have homework to do before I attempt to contact her. I have to be very careful with what I say, be believable. I was working under my true name, so didn’t have to worry about her checking me out and getting alerted to our efforts. Fortunately, the internet was in its infancy, so she would not be able to conduct a social media search on my name. Time to be calm and remember I am dealing with someone who is probably as good as I am or better at discreet interrogation.

Meanwhile, the surveillance continued at the house, with everyone coming and going being photographed and sent to MI5 for possible identification.

Day Forty-Six

My late-night, early-morning visit to the club provided me with some useful information. One, they served a Montrachet White Burgundy by the glass. This is considered by many to be the best white wine in the world. Secondly, the club had a great jazz band. It was a great way to spend a night, intel gathering with a glass of Montrachet and a few jazz greats.

The surveillance continued, and as hoped, on Thursday night just after midnight, she left the house and entered the back seat of a car alone. The car had a driver, probably her regular driver. Hopefully, that meant she was going to the club by herself and not stopping along the way to pick up a male companion. After being notified, I left my hotel with two of our former SAS agents and headed for the club. I wanted to get to the club ahead of her.  As a precaution, we had a team following her just in case she wasn’t going to her favorite club.

Day Forty-47

We arrived at the club, just off Central Street, and parked across and just back from the alley entrance to the unmarked club. With the former “Copper” at the door, this reminded me of some of the upscale clubs in Los Angeles where the security teams were headed by former West Coast Detectives agents. We had no waiting in line at those clubs, thankfully.

Amira’s car pulled up about 5 minutes after we got there, and the surveillance team watched her get out and enter the club. Her car then drove up the block, stopped, and parked. The driver was staying close by, waiting. We also had to assume the possibility that she would have a protection detail inside the club waiting for her.

I waited about 10 minutes before going into the club, and once again, I was met with the beautiful sounds of soft jazz music. I went to the bar, ordered my drink, and scanned the room. There she was, sitting at a table by herself with a panoramic view of the club. She had the perfect spot to watch everyone. She was definitely a woman a man would not miss, and she looked like she had stepped out of a fashion magazine. She looked relaxed, calm, and in complete control. She looked and acted like this was her club.

As a good bartender would, he noticed that I had looked at Amira. As he brought me my glass of Montrachet, he leaned across the bar and said, “She’s quite a looker, and she is single”, with a wink,

As the night went on, the club was filling up. A couple had come and joined Amira at her table, but there was still an open chair. Maybe for me? The band began playing a fast song when Amira and the other woman got up to dance, she was a very good dancer. As the set continued, still one empty chair at her table. Thinking to myself, I said, “why not, let’s see if she would like to dance a slow one?”

I approached her table and told her that she is a very good dancer, and I was wondering if I could get a lesson or two since my feet don’t always do what they are supposed to do. She looked up at me with a little smile and a sparkle in her hazel eyes, “a free dance lesson, that is a new one for me.” She asked if I was an American, I introduced myself and I gave her my cover story. Then, as if I set it up with the band, the perfect slow song started. She stood and took my hand and led me to the dance floor.

This woman looked good, smelled good, and floated across the dance floor. She asked me how I had found the club, and I gave her the cover story about a friend who had been to London, and as we danced, we both questioned each other.

As I took her back to her table, she introduced me to the other couple and asked me if I would like to join them. Before I could answer, she waved to the bartender to bring my drink over.

The other couple was Iranians, and they looked very alert and aware of their surroundings but very friendly and open. We spent the next three hours dancing and talking, and when she was ready to leave, she asked me how long I would be in London. I said, “about a week or so”, she said, “that’s too bad. I will be out of the country next week, maybe we could meet again?” As I gave her my hotel number, I replied, “I would like that, ” in case she got back before I left.”

There wasn’t any indication that she was anything other than a single lady out with friends who didn’t have to get up early. As this was not a time for probing questions that might raise her suspicions, however, it did seem that our intel on her trip to Hawaii might be right. I would alert the team to be prepared to fly.

I waited at the table after they left, thinking that this was one of the better nights of surveillance I have had. Montrachet by the glass to drink, a beautiful woman to dance with, and great music. Just like the movies, but I knew that I had to watch my back.

Day Forty-Eight

Events started moving fast with the agent on the inside. We learned that Amira was flying to Honolulu to visit a sister the following Monday via British Airways and was scheduled to return eight days later.  We also learned from our agent on the cleaning crew that she learned that Amira knew she was being watched, and she was feeding false information in the trash to just keep people guessing. So, we couldn’t depend on what we were getting in the trash. The agent also learned Amira had an eighteen-year-old daughter going to school in France.

Up to this point of our investigation, there has been no evidence found of a male child or even the mention of one. Perhaps our luck might change with the Honolulu trip. She may have left the son with her sister to hide him from detection.

I asked Bill to get a message to the agent on the inside to gather all the data she could on the daughter going to school in France so we could have a target package work-up on her. As we were working to find the answer to our questions, it was clear that without the agent on the inside, the trail probably would have gone cold.

The team following Amira to Honolulu booked seats on the same flight, and they were able to get seats two rows behind hers in first class. At the same time, we had our Honolulu agents working on a target package on the sister to find out everything about her, where she lives, and how difficult surveillance would be on her residence.

Day Forty-Nine & Fifty

After the advance work was complete on the residence and surveillance locations were approved, I directed 24-hour surveillance to begin. Once our target package on her was complete, we would know if she had any children and if any were boys.

Day Fifty-One & Fifty-Two

The agent on the inside of the residence discovered, while cleaning and moving things around, the full name of the daughter and date of birth from her school file. There were also some letters from the daughter to Amira with her return address. The agent was able to take pictures of the letter and a photo of the daughter using a concealed camera in a pen she was carrying with her.

Day Fifty-Three

Now that we have identifying information on the daughter, we faxed the photo and personal data to our agent at the French Nation Police so that he could start a target packet background. Once that was done, we would start surveillance so that we could identify a pattern of her activities, both school and socially. We would also assign one of our female agents in France to do a pretext interview with her. Once we were ready to approach the daughter, I would fly to Paris to meet our agent, and review the information gathered and our strategy. This was going to be an important assignment for us. Besides trying to gather intelligence on her mother, we want to create and develop a reason or opportunity to visit her more than once.

The flight to Honolulu was on schedule, and Amira made the flight. There had been instances in the past where she went to the airport, checked in, only to then slip out of a side entrance. This time, however, she did board the flight with our agents close behind her. Meanwhile, the agents in Honolulu would follow the sister, who was coming to the airport to pick her up.

In the middle of the night, one of our agents placed a tracking device on the sister’s car. This would allow our agents to maintain a greater surveillance distance. While one agent followed the vehicle, we also had one agent in front of them. The agents we were working with were both retired HPD and had let the airport police know they were working at the airport. Also, due to the foreign agent issue with Amira, Bill had briefed HPD Intelligence that we were there, and they would assist us if we needed them. As it turned out, they did go to the sister’s home and stayed in for the night.

Day Fifty-Four – Sixty-One

I increased the daytime surveillance to three agents, and we had the opportunity to place a clear stripe on the top of the sister’s car that was not visible to the eye but could be seen from the air, by helicopter or plane using an infrared camera. This was a backup to the tracker and the three agents, we had access to HPD chopper, which would be in the air when we were on the move in the event traffic was bad. We could not afford to lose her since this might hold the secret about the possible missing “royal child.”

Over the next week of constant surveillance and from our background work, we did not find any boy at or near the age that we were looking for. It appeared she was simply visiting her sister, and since we did not set up any listening devices, we came to the conclusion that this was not where she might hide her son. There was nothing unusual or suspicious about their time together. They went out to dinner, to the beach, and drove to some of the touristy places. There was no indication of any deception. Then again, maybe she took us on a wild goose chase to spend some of the Client’s vast fortune.

Day Sixty-Two

Amira, and our agents, flew back to London, and she arrived back at her residence. We will see if she settles into her normal routine, and I will have to decide about seeing her again.

Day Sixty-Three & Sixty-Four

Now that Amira was back on the ground in London, I did not have to be in constant contact with agents on the ground in Honolulu, which took some of the pressure off of me. Now I could focus my attention back on our activities in London and Paris.

With the target package completed on the daughter and the advance work done on the school and Apartment, I decided to go to Paris to direct and be able to better access if we needed to have ongoing contact with the daughter.

I must admit that part of the reason for going to Paris was my love for Paris and being able to walk the streets and have my very fresh coffee and real French chocolate croissants at the sidewalk cafés, also, I enjoy people-watching. Trying to figure out the who, what, and where’s of people as they walk by.

In order to get close, or develop a relationship with the daughter, we needed a female agent with certain qualifications and abilities.  Fortunately, we had such an agent. Our agent was young and attractive and could pass as a college student. The plan was for her to show up at a café near her apartment over several days that the daughter frequented. The agent would sit close by, and she would offer a greeting to get the daughter familiar with the agent. Our agent had a college business book, and the cover would be that she was working on a degree in international business, as was the daughter.

Day Sixty-Five

On our first day of surveillance, the daughter stopped for coffee and a croissant to go. On the second day, she came back after school and took a table and ordered a meal. She also pulled out her books to study.

On the third day, the agent was setting two tables away and made a comment to the daughter about all the studying for classes, which sparked a conversation. Before they left the café, they had exchanged phone numbers, and after a week of meeting at the coffee shop they arranged a night out. By this time, the agent had learned a lot about her family, and there was never a reference made to a brother. In fact, she made the statement that she was an only child. Our agent was going to meet her at her apartment before their night out so he would check for any family pictures or other evidence of a brother.

Day Seventy-Five

The agent and the daughter were spending time together and the agent had developed a story that she has three brothers, which in fact she did. On this night, while out at a club, between dancing, some drinks, and fending off the guys, the agent asked her if she missed not having a brother. She responded nonchalantly with a “no, not really.” What the agent had discovered during this time was that the daughter had spent most of the time, since she was twelve, in boarding school, and she would go home during school breaks. She said her mother was working with the family business in Iran.

Day Seventy-Six

After a complete debriefing with the agent, it was clear that there was no evidence that the sister was aware of a brother. She came across as being truthful and, in general, as a typical eighteen-year-old college student. But before I headed back to London, just one more night in Paris to reward the agent for a job well done. I made reservations for dinner at La Tour d’ Argent, you can feel the history as it goes back to the 1500s, and King Henri III was a frequent guest. This 4-hour dinner could have lasted longer.

Day Seventy-Seven – Seventy-Nine

After I arrived back in London, I received a briefing on the Hawaii results, and Amira was back to her old routine, planting false information in the trash, shopping, and playing tennis on occasion.

On a side note, we also received some intel from the states that was not related to our investigation, but the word was Amira and her brother, who spent a lot of time in the states and was around the political scene, had made an approach to a high-level staffer of the Bush 2000 campaign. Their offer was that they had supposed proof that Bush and some people around him had been involved in a scheme in Latin America, similar to the Iran Contra weapons program. They alleged that Bush and a group were going to supply weapons by going around congress to groups fighting the leftist. They were willing to keep this information a secret if Bush dropped sanctions against Iran.

They were told no deal, and they faded away with nothing ever being released. This gave support to Amira’s connection to the regime in Iran, which didn’t affect the evaluation of her having a royal son.

It was time to call all of the team together and review our findings, our activities, and the resources we used. As I am with every case, but more so on a case of this magnitude, I am very concerned when I tell a client there is nothing there, that we are as sure as we can humanly be that it is a fact.

We had run extensive checks in England, France, and Hawaii for birth records for the five-year period after the last time she had seen the Middle Eastern leader. We found no records of a birth record, and we checked using a combination of names she might have used.

Now with all the surveillance time spent, the inside agent, the information from the daughter, and learning how good she is at False Flag-type information, we have come to the conclusion that she is scamming the leader for some unknown purpose. She does not have a royal son!

I thanked the team, and then I headed back to Los Angeles. I briefed the client, but I still had a lot of work to do on the final report.

WEST COAST DETECTIVES: CASE STUDY: ISTHERE A ROYAL BABY OR NOT:

THE ELEGRANT FRENCH LADY AND HER MISSING CHILDREN


  1. PHIL CASE STUDY WCDI

                The case of the missing children.

One morning as I was in my office when Terri, the receptionist, came over the intercom informing me that there was a woman who walked in and would like to speak with a detective.  She asked me if I wanted to talk with her or if she should let one of the managers handle her?  I have always had a policy that I will speak with new clients if I am available.

There was a light knock on my office door as Terri walked in with a very elegantly dressed woman.  I was struck by her appearance and her strong French accent.  For this story, we will call her Monique.

Monique was a little nervous as she shared with me that she had been driving by our office for weeks and thinking about stopping by, and finally, today, she made the decision even though she was unsure if we could help her. I asked her to tell me her story, and I would let her know how we could help.  She started by saying she was from France and had been in the states for over 25 years, although her accent sounded like she had arrived days ago.

She took a deep breath and shared that in her early twenties, she married an older man who was a high-ranking general in the French army, and they had two children together, a boy and a girl.  When the children were about four and five, she had some indiscretions. She didn’t elaborate on the details, but they were severe enough that she was given an ultimatum – leave the country without the children or face serious consequences in France.

Shortly after being given the ultimatum, she arrived in the United States, and up to this day, she has not been back to France or seen her children.   It was easy to see that this had broken her heart, that she was in agony and pain of having to be separated from her children.  She had learned that her ex-husband, the General, had died, and she wanted to see her children.

This brought her into my office; she had no idea how to find them and needed help.  With tears in her eyes, she softly asked if there was any way I could help her.  As I looked at her and reached across and took her hand, I said yes, there is, and we will find your children for you. She looked at me with amazement and said how can you be so sure, I smiled and said we are detectives, and I have assets in Paris. Please give me all the details on the General and your children.

She was prepared as she handed me some papers and photos of the General with his full name, date of birth, and address where they had lived when she left the country. She also had pictures of the children when she left with their full names and dates of birth with their French ID numbers.

I believe we all have that soft spot in our hearts to help people, and I do. And this is the type of case that hits that soft spot in me, and I love to work on pro-bono—reuniting a mother and her children after more than two decades apart.

I do not believe that it was a coincidence the timing that Monique walked into my office.  Over the past few years, I built our intelligence network across Europe and developed relationships at the French National Police HDQ.  Using this resource, I would reach out to them with the data to conduct the primary research for me.  I informed Monique it might be a few weeks before we started to get information back, but I would keep her informed as we progressed.

The following day I prepared the case instructions with all the data on the subject along with the photos and faxed them; (this was pre-Internet and email) to my friend Jean at the police headquarters.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Jean in three days to inform me that they found them, the now-adult children of the client.  As it turns out, the General was a well-known man, as were the children.  Both kids, who were now in their late twenties and early thirties, worked for the French Government.

Jean told me we have all their information phones, address, and work location, and he asked me what the next step was.  I told him to standby while I talked to the client about what she wanted to do.

I will never forget that conversation, even though it was several years ago, as I told her we had found them.  She started weeping with joy.  She could not believe that we had found them and so quickly.

I shared with her that both children worked for the French Government and were single.  I asked her what she wanted us to do now.  She expressed the usual fear that they would not want to talk to her after all this time.  I told her that from my experience in cases like this, children are usually very receptive to reuniting.

I explained that if she wanted, we could talk to them and arrange a time for a call, and we could do it at my office with our communication system. She agreed.

I reached out to Jean and updated him, and he made contact with the kids and explained the situation.  A few days later, I received the call from Jean, and he said both of the children were eager to talk to their mother and had set a morning time in Los Angeles for the call.

I called our client and the tears started again, and a lot of French praising.  She couldn’t wait for the call.

That Saturday morning when the call came in was a one-hour call I will never forget. Twenty-five years disappeared in a flash.  It turned out the children had known as they got older that she had not abandoned them.  That hour was spent in joyful tears as they talked over each other to find out what they had missed for the past twenty-five years. At the end of the conversation, it was agreed the children would come to L.A. to see her in a few weeks and then arrange for her to go to France.

After hanging up the phone, Monique walked over to me and hugged me so tight that her tears ran down my shoulder.  She expresses her heartfelt thanks in broken English and French.

The icing on the cake was when the children came to visit her; she brought them by to meet me.  It was a perfect ending to this case.

This is why I love being an investigator.

Monique and I stayed in contact over the years, and whenever she needed some help, she would give me a call.

Another satisfied client.

Until Next time: Stay Safe

 

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHIL LITTLE AFTER LAW ENFORCEMENT

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF PHIL LITTLE AFTER LAW ENFORCEMENT

 

 A change of unform from the Sheriff’s Department 

West Coast Detectives International is now one hundred years old.  Founded in 1922, and within those one hundred years, a lot has happened to WCDI and the world.  King Solomon said, “So there is nothing new under the sun.  Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new”?  It has already existed for ages which were before us.” And while change does happen all around us, some things never change, such as a client needing investigative help 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or today.  The needs are the same.  Helping people has been the number one focus for WCDI these past one hundred years and will always be our number one focus.

I cannot remember how many times I have been asked about the types of cases that I have worked on.  How exciting it must be to be a P.I.  Well, I can say that after 200,000 or so cases in our history, we have had some interesting, exciting, crazy, and heart-breaking cases.

After a recent conversation, it was mentioned that I should share case stories, some of our history, from some of our more interesting case files.  Why not, I thought, it would be fun to go through our archives and share cases and some of the “old-school” investigative techniques used before the Internet.

Here we go.

Case 1: Murder for Millions

Los Angeles, California

A call came in from Dallas, Texas.  The President of an insurance company informed me that a man, a policyholder with a multimillion-dollar payout, was found dead in our area, Ventura County.  He asked if I could meet with him at their headquarters in Dallas and retain our services.

Within 48-hours, I was in a meeting gathering all the facts and victim information.  A few hours later, I was on a flight back to L.A. with a briefcase full of documents and a retainer check.

I contacted the local Sheriffs office and spoke with the two detectives assigned to the case.  I informed them on what background information I currently had on the victim and that I was headed to Washington State to gather more information and build a profile.  We shared our contact information and agreed to keep each other updated.  I also found out that the victim was shot in the head with what looked to be a 22 slug.  The autopsy confirmed that the bullet was not there. Victim Information (Name changed for privacy issues):

The victim, John Jones, was a successful businessman from the Northwest who traveled to Los Angeles regularly.  We soon discovered that the life Mr. Jones lived in Washington State was polar opposite of the life he led in L.A.

 

  • Washington: Mr. Jones was married, a family man who was active in his church.
  • A.: Mr. Jones had a flashy younger girlfriend and loved the nightlife.

Upon our learning the girlfriend’s name, I sent some of our investigators out to the streets of L.A., asking around and checking out the clubs they frequented.  At first, we could not find anyone who knew them or offered any new leads or tips.

You’ve heard the saying, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” for us, it was dead ends before the big tip or hot lead.  By chance, we found a former friend of the girlfriend who was more than willing to provide us with her name and address.  She was a eureka moment in the investigation for us.

We notified the sheriff’s detectives and set up twenty-four-hour surveillance on the subject’s residence.  Our objective was now to confirm the I.D. of the subject and see where she went and who she was associating with.

While my investigators watched the girlfriend, I met with the detectives in their office.  They had discovered similar M.O.’s in other unsolved murder cases.  Male victims with large life insurance payouts after the policy had been recently taken out.  The detectives believe that it was part of an organized crime operation.  The FBI, LAPD, LASO, and the Texas Rangers all had similar open cases that they were investigating.  The detectives also informed me that their department did not have the budget to handle a multi-state investigative operation.  I asked them if I could use their phone, and I made a call to my client.

After updating the client, they agreed to underwrite the task force’s cost.  The cost of the investigation versus the policy payout would save them millions.  It was a risk worth them taking.

Within a week, I and agents and officers from the various jurisdictions were sitting in a hotel room in Ventura County reviewing timelines, sharing information, and strategizing as tasks were assigned to each agency.  I continued working with the same detectives from Ventura County.

Police officers, especially homicide detectives, regularly see the brutality of humankind.  They often develop a thick skin or what some outsiders would call callousness or a dark sense of humor.  The two detectives I was working with had developed a close friendship and often joked with each other.  I was surprised that it was often light-hearted humor and not the other type.  I recall when we all flew to Dallas as part of the investigation, and after arriving at the airport, one of the detectives jumped into a wheelchair as the other pushed him wildly through the airport.  It was a wild Code 3 wheelchair response.  You couldn’t help but laugh at the two kids; I mean homicide detectives as they ripped through the airport.

After the task force began its investigation, on one occasion I flew into San Antonio, and upon my arrival at the airport, I was discreetly met by some Texas Rangers.  They asked me if I had noticed the beautiful blonde woman that was on my flight.   Of course, I thought to myself; everyone noticed her.  I casually responded that I was aware of her.  They informed me that she was working with the “bad guys,” and she was sent to follow me.  My thoughts quickly went to my family back in California and their safety.  I quickly realized that although I was living and working in the heart of the T.V. and moviemaking industry, this was no T.V. show or movie.  This was real life, and I needed to be very careful.

In case you haven’t realized yet, this investigation took place in the 1970s, before the Internet and being able to conduct a background from your office computer.  Obtain a person’s I.D. information, current and historical addresses, telephones, court records, financial history, etc.  While there are restrictions on what can be accessed today, in the 70s, every investigation was worked by hand or more accurately, by foot.  The P.I. world has evolved with the technological developments, but a case of this type still requires fieldwork and boots on the ground.

Our investigators hit the streets, following up on leads as our investigation continued.  With the information that we were gathering along with the task force, we connected the dots to the organized crime ring to a string of murders.  We identified bodies and victims from Mexico to Panama and across the U.S.

A break in the case came when we identified a prime suspect and the gun we believed was used in our murder and many others.  But we still had one essential missing part, a body with the bullet still in it that we could match.

Maybe the big break was here.  We received a call about a body in Mexico that had been sent back to the states for burial.  Everything about this death matched our investigation, so one of our law enforcement partners quickly obtained a court order to exhume the body.  We grew excited with anticipation that we finally would be able to have the evidence to make an arrest and stop these murderers.

When the casket arrived at the coroner’s office, there were representatives from every jurisdiction of the task force, including myself, inside a private room.  We all positioned ourselves around the casket as the attendants began opening it.  It felt like an eternity.  As the lid was raised open, we all gasped as we could not believe our eyes.  The body was there, but one part was missing, the part with the bullet, the head.  Someone in Mexico had beaten us to the evidence.  As disappointed as we were, we were not defeated.  We got back to work and on the streets while law enforcement did their part.

As our investigation unfolded, we learned that Mr. Jones had severe money needs.  As the story went, his girlfriend set him up with some money people, and they had a business opportunity for him.  Part of this opportunity required that a key man’s life insurance policy be opened on him, and he would need to provide some “good faith” up-front money.  Mr. Jones would fly into L.A. to meet the money person, give the money, and sign the papers.

Mr. Jones did receive a call from the money person, and a meeting was arranged.  The victim would fly into Los Angeles International Airport for the meeting.  The victim did have one question for the money person, “how will I recognize you?”  Mr. Jones was informed that this wasn’t a problem and knew what he looked like.  Unfortunately, this did not raise a warning in Mr. Jones’ mind.

After over three years of investigative casework being open through all the investigative work, we were able to identify the ringleader of the organization.  We uncovered the money person who met Mr. Jones and the other victims.  We learned that every victim was told the same story about the money-making opportunity and that a life insurance policy was needed to protect them.  The ghoulish part was that each victim was paying for their murder.  The up-front money was handed directly to the hitman, so there was no connection between the crime ring and the hitman.

Our investigation also found the travel schedule and flight information for the hitman.  We confirmed he was on flights into LAX and other cities where the murders occurred.

When Mr. Jones met the money person/hitman, they left in a vehicle together, and the money was given to the hitman.  Somewhere along the drive from LAX to Ventura County, Mr. Jones was shot in the back of his head with a .22 slug.  And his body was dumped off the side of a hill.  The hitman then returned to LAX, bordered a plane, and left the state.  He was in Los Angeles for less than 12 hours.

As I previously mentioned, we identified the ringleader, and when he was interviewed on his deathbed, he confessed to his involvement in the murders.

Case closed!

Hollywood has traditionally depicted an adversarial relationship between private investigators and the police.  Where law enforcement refuses to work with P.I.’s, while this can happen, at WCDI, we have always had a good relationship with law enforcement.  We understand that we can assist and provide services to benefit their work.  And in the end, the community benefits as well.

Until next time be safe.

Phil

RETIRED RUSSIAN COLONEL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST THE WAR

RETIRED RUSSIAN COLONEL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST THE WAR

 

                                                                                 Mikhail Khodarenok Retired Russian Colonel

The following candor by a retired Russian Colonel points out the need for all of us as leaders to not get so isolated that we think the information we want to be right is really right.

We need to remind and educate our clients on the need for broad intelligence input so we can make informed decisions that will not get our businesses in the position that Putin has put Russia in.

Normally Russia’s mainstream media outlets only give views of the Ukraine war that Putin wants out.  What we see outside of Russia, in the world media, paints a completely didn’t report on the Ukraine war that is unlike anything seen from inside the country. They don’t call it a war but a Special military Operation.  

This was a rare program to get broadcast on the Russian Program 60 Minutes, a one-hour show, which is one of the primary tools Putin uses twice a day to shape the news in his view.

 Normally this is a studio discussion that promotes the Kremlin line on absolutely everything, including on President Putin’s so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Putin and the Kremlin still maintains that the Russian offensive is going according to plan.

But on Monday night, studio guest Mikhail Khodarenok, a military analyst and retired colonel, painted a very different picture.

 I Quote. “He warned that “the situation [for Russia] will clearly get worse” as Ukraine receives additional military assistance from the West and that “the Ukrainian army can arm a million people”.

 Referring to Ukrainian soldiers, he noted: “The desire to defend their motherland very much exists. Ultimate victory on the battlefield is determined by the high morale of troops who are spilling blood for the ideas they are ready to fight for.

 “The biggest problem with [Russia’s] military and political situation,” he continued, “is that we are in total political isolation and the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it. We need to resolve this situation.

 Colonel Khodarenok

“The situation cannot be considered normal when against us, there is a coalition of 42 countries and when our resources, military-political and military-technical, are limited.”

 There were other guests in the studio who set in silence. Even the host, Olga Skabeyeva, normally a fierce support of Putin appeared oddly subdued.

In many ways, it’s a case of “I told you so” from Mr. Khodarenok. Writing in Russia’s Independent Military Review back in February, before Moscow attacked Ukraine, the defense analyst had criticized “enthusiastic hawks and hasty cuckoos” for claiming that Russia would easily win a war against Ukraine.

 One thing is certain is that any country who thought they could work with Russia, as they were somewhat civilized, has changed their mind. One current example is Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

Now it is coming out, from captured Russian soldiers, that Russian commanders are shooing their own wounded soldiers who are unable to walk instead of getting them medical care.  As a Veteran that is hard for me to wrap my mind around such evil.

Many former Soviets Bloc country leaders are warning that if Putin is not stopped in Ukraine he will keep advancing and some see him attacking more then one country at a time. From what I understand from history and Putin’s desire to rebuild the old Soviet Union I do not think that is an idle speculation.

We need to keep our eye on the target and maintain diligence in our intelligence gathering to ensue we have up to date information for our client to make the right decisions.

Until next time be safe

Phil

 

UKRAINE AND RUSSIA UPDATE

UKRAINE AND RUSSIA UPDATE

LAND MINES SPREAD ACROSS 300,000 SQ KM IN UKRAINE 

Update Ukraine and the World:

The approach at West Coast Detectives International has been to do everything possible to ensure when we give facts to the client, they are correct. That means we use every resource that we can find no matter how much time or extra cost it might be to be sure of our facts, as much as humanely possible. I have had clients constantly come to us to clean up and finish work that other firms had started but failed to answer all the questions.

As I saw some post yesterday and today that the war in Ukraine is over, I wondered where their facts were coming from. War just doesn’t end when the invaders are retreating due to losses and failed equipment to regroup and resupply elsewhere.

Those that might think the war is over do not  understand the leader of Russia’s goals, the times we live in and what has been prophesied thousands of years ago. Yes, when I am preparing facts for a client’s consideration in reference to as an example, would it be safe to look to Ukraine or Russia as a business venture, I look also at bible prophecy.

Even if you do not believe in God the fact is that what has been prophesied from thousands of years ago some of it has already happen. In the last few years events of prophecy are happening faster and faster. So, I use this resource along with many others to have a final report of factual data for our clients.

The war in Russia is not over but just beginning. Understanding how Russia fits into end time prophecy is critical for an accurate report for a client to make important decision. Some of what Russia has wanted out of the Middle East they have accomplished already. They desired a warm water port and when a past American administration blinked, they had moved into Syria and had their coveted warm water port as well as some bonus airfields. Putin see’s Russia as a major player and power broker in the Middle East, and he will do anything to accomplish that goal. (Fits with Prophecy)

For that to happen there must be a rebuilding of the old Soviet Empire for Russia to have a base to be able to accomplish that goal. The play for Ukraine was a next step for Putin to evaluate the waters and see how the world would respond. He did not expect the world response and it was a surprise to Putin and to many others. It  was interesting to see how many of the NATO countries and some in Europe took the lead in pushing back to stop Putin, not just with sanctions but military support.

One must wonder if Putin were so disconnected to the quality of his military and equipment or did he think it would be so easy that even a military in disarray would be able to easily take a walk to Kiev. What ever the reason the war is not over and  when we don’t understand the mind set of our enemies it becomes our downfall.

Putin will regroup and even if he is replaced someone will rise up in his place to work towards the building of the great “mother land.”

Putin is continuing the war as he retreats to East Ukraine to slaughter more innocent civilians and to be able to claim a victory for the May 9 celebration. He continues to fire missiles at targets in Ukraine and yesterday said he plans to target decision making centers in Kyiv and other cities.

Russian troops retreating from northern Ukraine have left thousands of land mines and insidious booby traps in such place as bags of potatoes, lawn chairs, children’s toys, even dead bodies. It is reported that approx. 300,000 square km could be potentially contaminated with mind fields. That is nearly half of the country of Ukraine. No, the war is not over.

It is every citizens responsibility to become informed about this period we live in and not put our heads in the sand as we become overloaded with runaway cost and our survival. We as citizens in America need to keep the fire to our politicians feet and if they will not listen in the U.S., we have elections in a few months we can remove them and put in people who will put our country first.

May God have Mercy on the United States of America.

Until next time be safe.

Phil