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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.