We conducted an internal investigation on the Police Chief of Hiram, GA at the request of the City Council. After interviewing all of the officers and numerous former officers we determined there was some definite problems within the police department. Before we could make our presentation to the City Council, the chief resigned. Follow this link for a news article on Channel 2, WSB
By: Brad Schrade
The Watchdog Blog
February 7, 2018 2:30 AM
Problems have grown so dire in the Hiram Police Department that City Council took the unusual step of hiring a private investigator to look into the Chief Todd Vande Zande’s actions.Now, with the inquiry nearing its end, the chief doesn’t want the details of the investigator’s findings aired in public. He hastendered his resignation hoping to “eliminate the council’s need to discuss in any detail the findings of that investigation,”according to a report by Channel 2 Action News.Some officers say the department in the small city 27 miles northwest of Atlanta has been in turmoil since Vande Zande took over in 2013. More than half of the cops in the small 21-officer agency have left during his tenure. The council last week discussed the private investigator’s findings in a closed-door executive session.
We recently were contacted by a wife who suspected her husband was having an affair. She was scheduled to go out of state for a week associated with her job and wanted us to watch him. On a Sunday evening he drove her to the airport and as soon as he dropped her off, he went straight to an apartment complex in Roswell, GA. We went there and located his car, but due to the large size of the apartment compex, we could not determine which apartment he was visiting. He was there for several hours and then went back to his home in Buford, GA. The next eveing we were waiting for him at the apartment complex. Whe he got off work he came directly to the complex. He pulled into a parking space in front of one of the buildings and remained seated in his car. Another car followed him and parked nearby. A young girl in her early 20's exited the car and walked over to him and began talking with him. She then went upstairs to her apartment and returned about five minutes later. She got in the husband's car and they left. We followed them to the clients house in Buford, where they spent the night. Needless to say, when I updated the client she was pissed. Not only was she upset we had confirmed the affair, but that he had the nerve to take the girlfriend to her home. We continued surveillance on the home to get the "money shot" of them exiting the house. The remained there until 6 PM then ext day. However we did get the video of them coming out of the house together. It appeared the girlfriend was pregnant. The husband was in his late 40's and the girl in her early 20's.
When the wife returned from out of town, she confronted him about the affair. He admitted the affair and the girl was pregnant, but the baby was not his. I think the percentages of that being his baby were pretty high, Dont you?
Jim Baker has recently moved to the Canton, Cherokee County, Georgia area. We now have an experienced investigator located in the northwest part of Georgia for all of your investigative needs. We are still operating out of the Gwinnett County and Gainesville area.
Surveillance is the monitoring of behavior and / or activities; i.e., closely watching over someone or something. Types of surveillance include, but are not limited to, audio surveillance, video surveillance, and mobile surveillance. The types of surveillances we are routinely requested to do are video and mobile surveillance. They usually go together. In Georgia, audio surveillance is illegal unless there is one-party consent to the conversation.
The perception of conducting mobile surveillance is that it’s easy to do. Anyone can follow someone else. On television, it’s depicted as being easy. I’m sure you’ve seen on television a vehicle at night, parked on a deserted street, and the occupant – most likely a police officer or private investigator is watching someone. The target walks out, gets into their vehicle, and drives off. Then, the police officer or private investigator turns on their headlights, pulls out, and follows the target without being detected. Yea; right. It doesn’t happen that way. The reality is surveillance isn’t easy. It takes practice; it takes experience; and there are techniques a good private investigator will use to keep from being detected and not lose the target.
If you’re a prospective client in a domestic investigation, it is much easier for us to conduct surveillance if you haven’t recently accused your spouse or significant other of being unfaithful. They will be relaxed; they most likely will not pay attention to anyone around them; and they will go about their normal activities. If you have recently accused them of being unfaithful, they will be careful and most likely be looking for someone following them.
If you’re a prospective client in a child custody investigation, it is much easier for us to conduct surveillance if you haven’t accused your spouse (or ex) or significant other of doing something to the child or children or accused them of not being a good parent or caregiver. The same as above applies to their behavior.
If you’re a prospective client in a workers’ compensation investigation, it is best to hire a private investigator long before litigation. The claimant is usually not concerned with anyone checking on their activities.
In a previous blog, we provided an update on how to choose the right private investigation company and we provided information related to retainers. In this blog we will talk about what you as the client can do to help your investigator/investigation. In future blogs we will talk about (a) surveillance – reality vs. perception, pros and cons; (b) GPS units; and (c) cell phone forensics – what you can and can’t do.
The majority of our calls are from a spouse or significant other who suspects their spouse/partner is cheating. When you suspect your spouse/partner is cheating; is it a gut feeling or have you seen one or more of the following “red flags”? Your spouse/partner changes their behavior, such as dressing differently, spending more time than usual at the gym, working late more than usual, or unexplained absences from home. Your spouse/partner recently password protected their cell phone and they refused to give you the password; they receive unexplained telephone calls and/or texts; they delete their call history and/or texts frequently. The list goes on …
What you as the client can do to help your investigator/investigation.
The first thing you need to consider is – what do you want? Do you just need peace of mind that you’re not imagining things? Do you want to catch them and then confront? Do you want a divorce? Many times when a client calls us, they have already confronted their spouse/partner. It probably went like this: you confronted them, they denied the allegation, their behavior changed briefly for the better, and then something happened to arouse your suspicions again. Unless there is true repentance, people will go back to their old behavior. We are not counselors; we are professional private investigators. Our experience has shown normally you have one opportunity to get the evidence you need. Once you get the evidence, then you can decide how you want to use it. It’s not a bad idea to get your “ducks in a row” first – just in case.
Develop a plan. Once you’ve considered what you want to do, you and your investigator need to develop a plan. Will your investigation involve a background check? Will your investigation involve surveillance and/or the use of a GPS unit? Will your investigation take one or two investigators? Will your investigation require night/weekend surveillance? How long will your investigation take? And, plan for the unexpected.
We recently had a client in the Alpharetta, GA area contact us regarding his suspicions of his house keeper was stealing checks from him and then forging his signature and cashing the checks. We provided him a covert camera to place in the kitchen area of his home and within a couple of days we caught her. You can see in the video that she removes a check from the check book and puts it in her pocket. Further investigation indicated she had been doing this for a while and had stolen over a $1,0000 from him. We confronted her with the video and of course she had no choice to admit to the theft.
The past several months have been very busy for us. We completed an internal investigation on a police chief and uncovered possible criminal activity. We referred the case to the District Attorney's Office for possible prosecution. Then we conducted the background investigations on applicants for Chief of Police Chief in Peachtree City, GA. After an extensive investigation on the applicants, the city recently hired Janet Moon as the new Chief. This summer we were requested to serve a subpoena to a former Atlanta Braves player who was avoiding service. After a week of searching, we located him up near Cartersville, GA while he was coaching a baseball team. He was served and he was not a happy camper. On the domestic side we are currently at 20 cheating spouses for the year. Two of those were doctors who thought they were pretty smart and couldn't get caught. One of the doctors I had already caught last year and he swore to his wife that the affair was over and he would not cheat again. Guess what, caught him again with the same woman. Then another doctor had been confronted by his wife in the early summer and he admitted to an affair, but again said he had ended it back in June and was behaving himself. The wife asked us to analyze his cell phone. I picked up the phone and he gave permission for us to examine it. I knew something was up because he was acting too calm. He reset his phone and there was nothing to retrieve. However the examination revealed that he had signed into a wireless network at the Hyatt Regency in Buckhead on August 5 of this year. When he was confronted with that, he again admitted he had continued the affair with his girlfriend. Another interesting case was involving a cheating husband. I was conducting surveillance on him near Northlake Mall and caught him with his girlfriend out shopping. The big surprise here was the girlfriend appeared to be about 6 months pregnant. People never suprise me anymore.
Over the past 6 months I have had several clients employ our services after first hiring another local company. I will not name the company, but I have had too many clients calling and complaining about the high cost, poor service, and the way they were treated by this company. One bad egg makes it difficult for all of the good ones. I want to cover again what you need to consider when deciding to hire the services of a private investigator. First make sure the company you call is local and licensed in Georgia. There are several companies that advertise on the web and it appears they are located in Georgia, but they are not. And they are NOT licensed in Georgia. Normally when you call them they talk and leave you with that impression, but as soon as you tell them you want to hire them, they get your details and then they call a licensed PI in Georgia and have them work the case for them at a very reduced rate. I have experienced where these companies will charge approximately $150 per hour and then pay the sub contractor in GA about $50 per hour. You will received a report with the company letter head that you first called, having no idea someone else worked the case.
The next thing you need to consider is doing your due diligence. You absolutely have to do your research on the company/investigator that you are considering hiring to work for you. There are a few places you can go to and find out a lot of information about the company. The first place is the Secretary of State web site http://sos.ga.gov/ Then go to the licensing section and look under Private Detective Agency. Search and see if they are currently licensed. Then look and see if they have had any complaints filed against them and if the State Board took any action against them. Next go to a web site http://www.ripoffreport.com/ and enter the company name and/or the owner of the company and see if anything comes up. You will be surprised at what you may find. Ask the owner or whoever you speak with for them to provide you with some references. The company should be able to provide names of attorneys they have done work for or worked with. We have developed numerous attorney contacts over the years and are very willing to give you several names to contact. We will not just give you 1 or 2 but as many as you want. Another place you should check before making a decision is the courthouse in the county where the company is located. Most of the metro counties are online and you can check in just a few minutes. Go to the State or Superior Court website and check for Civil cases under the company name and/or owners name. See how many times they have had cases filed against them and how many times they have filed cases against their former clients.
You should consider the investigator's background and experience. Just because someone you talk to over the phone or meet in person talk a "good game", that does not mean that is the person that is going to be conducting the investigation or surveillance. They may tell you that they will be supervising the investigation, but what that means they will be supervising from their office. With Southern Professional Investigations, you are talking and meeting with the investigators that will be doing the investigation.
A red flag should go up, when you hear the investigator start pressing you for money. If their emphasis is on the retainer and getting you to sign the contract, BE VERY CAUTIOUS!!!!! I am not saying that an investigator/company should not ask you for payment, I'm saying that it should not be their main focus. The focus should be on you and what you need done during the investigation. I just finished an investigation for a client that paid another company $8,000 for 12 days of surveillance on her husband and had very little to show for it. They provided her a very nice "packaged report" with pictures of her husband driving down the road. I asked the client what a picture proves of her husband driving his car down the road by himself? All it proves is that he was by himself and he can drive and the investigator was following him. Other than that it wasn't worth the $150 per hour the client was charged. In addition to the money, PLEASE READ THE CONTRACT!!! In Infidelity cases, the spouse is very upset most of the time and just wants the investigator to catch their cheating spouse. They are so upset they just sign the contract without even looking at it. Some companies have a NON REFUNDABLE retainer clause in the contract. If you sign the contract and 2 hours later you change your mind, sorry you are out the retainer. Almost all PI companies will require you to pay a retainer before the work begins. Most companies will charge from $1,000 to $2,500. That is reasonable. Just make sure if they don't use it all that you will be refunded the balance. Also make sure the contract spells out what you want and don't want done. In one case, the client told the company if her husband traveled down a certain highway in a certain direction she knew where he was going and he did not need to be followed. The investigator followed the husband anyway, and on top of that there were two investigators and the client was charged by the hour for both of them and the mileage, even after telling them not to follow him if he went into this area. I know what you are thinking, I WOULD NOT HAVE PAID IT. However the contract was worded in a way the client did not have a choice or they would have ended up in a civil suit in court. If you pay by credit card, make sure that the retainer is the only charge authorized by you to be put on the card. Make sure the contract states that any additional charges have to be approved in advance by email or text by you for another charge to your card. If not, then you are allowing the company to continue charging your card as they deem necessary. Trust me, it has happened and is still happening.
We hope this information will be beneficial to you as a potential client of ours or another company if you choose them.
We were very busy in January and February of this year. We were requested to conduct an internal investigation on a police chief regarding complaints filed by a citizen of the community against him. After a three week investigation, the results were discussed with the city council in executive session. One week later the chief submitted his resignation after he was informed there were enough votes to dismiss him. After his resignation, further witnesses came forward and provided information of a possible criminal act. These allegations were investigated and at the request of the City Attorney were turned over to the GBI for further investigation. As of today, 3/23/15, the GBI is still pursuing the case against the chief.
The month of March was no different. During the past few weeks we have worked two internal theft cases for major corporations where they suspected employee theft. The first case was in Gainesville and after two weeks of surveillance we identified five employees involved in the theft of the company's product and determined they were selling it to their friends. We video taped the theft two weeks in a row and then turned the results over to the Gainesville Police Department. As of today, five employees have been terminated and they are expected to be arrested in the coming weeks. In addition, the police were able to identify the subjects coming to the site and purchasing the product. We have been informed that arrest warrants will probably be issued for these subjects. We anticipate 10 to 12 persons being arrested as a result of our investigation.
We had no sooner completed that investigation, when another corporation contacted us and said they had suspicions some of their employees were stealing product from them and selling them to flea markets. They anticipated several thousand dollars of inventory missing. We started the investigation, and within days identified a supervisor who was taking the products off site in a U-Haul truck several times a week. He was selling the product to several vendors at flea markets in the south Atlanta area. In addition we determined the supervisor was using other employees under his supervision to work a side job he had developed over the past nine months . All of these employees were working the midnight shift and the supervisor pretty much could do whatever he wanted. We documented over the past several months he would transport two or three of the employees under his supervision to other businesses to conduct janitorial services, The catch was he was not paying these employees to do this work for him. He was letting them get paid by our client who thought they were on their premises working for them. The employees were afraid to say anything for fear of being fired by the supervisor. We are wrapping up the investigation and anticipate the supervisor will be terminated within a few days.
In addition to all of the above mentioned investigations, we caught six cheating spouses during this same perior of time.
Here are the stats for 2014 for Cheating spouse we caught.
Women - 14
Total - 31
During the month of July we had a record number of cheating spouses. We caught a total of 9 cheating spouses. Five were husbands and four were wives. What makes this so significant is during the week of July 21 we caught 7 of them. That is the most cheating spouses we have caught in one week since we have been in business for the past 18 years. This included a minister who was having an affair with a member of his congregation and she was married also. This same week we caught a wife at a local motel with her boyfriend, who turned out to be a local attorney here in metro Atlanta. He was also married. Right after that busy week, a husband left town as soon as his wife left with the kids to visit her family out of state. He went to Charleston, SC. Guess what? He met his grilfriend there and they had a good time for the weekend. Only problem is the girlfriend was a VP for a company back in Atlanta and she was married too. Can't wait to see what August brings
In july we were contacted by a national trucking company that had a hub in Macon, GA. They believed they had discovered an internal theft ring with some of their drivers, which involved diesel fuel theft. After they conducted an audit comparing the fuel purchases to the mileage, they identified over a half a million dollar shorage in fuel. They contacted us after viewing our web site. They asked us for suggestions and what we could do to help them identify the drivers involved. They said they had narrowed it down to maybe four drivers, but were not really sure how many were involved. They knew the missing fuel was occuring at a truck stop in Byron, GA just off I-75. This truck stop was where most of the drivers fueled their trucks and it was not far from the Macon hub. We went down there on a Saturday afternoon and checked the truck stop out. We were asked to video tape every truck belonging to this company while they were getting fuel. We were scheduled to start on Sunday morning at 3 am. We went out around midnight just to check things out and see how busy they were at that time. While we were there one of the company trucks came in for fuel. We started getting video of the activity and BINGO, we caught our first thief. He pulled up to the fuel pump, ran his credit card through the machine and then only put a few gallons of fuel in his truck. He then pulled his truck up a few feet and another truck (Independent Trucker) pulled in behind him and put fuel in his truck on the same credit card transaction. We conducted video surveillance for the next several days and identified a second driver and his accomplice. Needless to say the client was very pleased with the results. After obtaining all the documentation we needed, we received authorization from the president to conduct interviews with the drivers. The follwoing Saturday morning we were at the Macon hub waiting for each driver to return from a trip he had made. Within 10 minutes after each interview began, each driver confessed to the thefts. They also identified their partners in crime and the length of time they had been stealing from the company. They were fired and our report, video and taped confessions were turned over to local law enforcement.
A few months ago I was contacted by criminal defense attorney Barry Gibson. He requested my services on a rape case he was defending that was in the metro Atlanta area. I went and met with the young man and interviewed him for about two hours. I came away from the meeting believing two things. One, sexual intercourse had been attempted and the police did a very sloppy investigation. The young man was adamant that he and the girl had agreed to "hook up" and she knew exactly what was going to occur. He and the girl had been friends for years, in fact since they had been in elementary school together. They had lost contact with each other for several years and then last year she had made contact with him through Facebook. After that initial contact, they messaged each other off and on for several weeks. She was currently attending college in Alabama and he was back home working after spending a few years in the military. They agreed to go out when the girl came home for a weekend. She came home one weekend, but the young man had left his cell phone in his Uncles truck and she was unable to contact him. Now the case gets interesting. The young lady contacts the man via Facebook and he responds apologizing for not having his phone. She tells him she understands and ask if he still wants to hook up. He told her yes. She said she would get with him on the next weekend she came home. A few days before the "Big Weekend" she sends him a message via Facebook and told him she would be in town the next weekend. They agree to meet up. On that Friday evening he gets off work and goes by and picks her up. The young lady gives two different accounts of what appends next. First she said they went out to dinner and then stopped at a liquor store aftewards and then went and checked into a motel. She claims she was completely suprised with going to the motel. She says she told the young man don't expect anything and all they would do is talk and watch TV. The young man says that after picking the young lady up, they went and got a motel room first. They then went out to dinner and then stopped at a liquor store on the way back to the room. There they drank and did watch some TV. The couple engaged in kissing and fondling and some oral sex. According to the man, the girl was on top of him when all of a sudden she bites him very hard on his shoulder (he still has the bite mark to prove this). It startles him and said that it was very painful. He threw her off of him and she fell to the floor. He began yelling at her asking why she bit him. At this time she begins to scream for help. The police are called to the motel and the man is arrested. Now here is where the investigation gets "sloppy". No investigators or detectives were called to the scene. Uniform officers handled the entire investigation.The girl gave an oral statement and based on that the man was arrested and taken away to jail. The girl supposedly told the police that she had told him not to expect sex if they went to the motel. She said she tried to push him away, but he was persistent. She did say there had been no penetration. Here is where mistakes were made during the crime scene processing. Even though there was no penetration, the police should have seized the bed sheets and the girls clothing for lab analysis for trace evidence such as pubic hairs from the man and any seaman on the sheets and/or clothing. After the girl gets to the police department, the girl is handed a blank piece of paper and told to write out her statement. No detailed questions to clear up discrepancies in her statement. I think the police feel like they have an open and shut case.
The young man remains in jail for several months and then his mother is able to get him out on bond. The defense attorney then provided me with the discovery material that is required to be turned over by the DA's office. This consisted of photos and witness statements and the oral and written statements of the girl. They also provided the cell phone records that had been subpoenaed to show the contact between the young man and young lady. The Facebook accounts of both of them were also provided. I sat down and went over the cell phone records for over an hour and did not see any indication of contact via text or calls between the two. I knew this could not be true and then looked even deeper and found the authorities had transposed two of the numbers in the girls cell phone number and the records were not associated with her phone but with someone not even remotely connected to this case. Then I began to examine the Facebook documents. I first looked at the young man's post and messages. and did not find any communication between the two. She was not even listed as a friend. I contacted him and started naming off some of his friends he had listed and he said he had never heard of them. Looking deeper, authorities had subpoenaed the wrong account. It was his name, but a different person who lives in the state of Louisiana. I then examined her Facebook records. Three days before the "rape" I find a message where the girl and sent the man the following "Sorry I missed you the past weekend, hope we can try to meet up again when IM home." He responded he was sorry too, but had left his phone in his Uncle's car and that is why she couldn't get in touch with him. She then asked him if he wanted to try to get together the next weekend she is in town and he said yes. She then ask him "DO YOU WANT ME TO SPEND THE NIGHT WITH YOU?" I was floored when I saw that. That does not sound like a woman who did not anticipate having a sexual encounter and was just going to the motel to watch TV and talk. In fact, IM not sure the police had even looked at these records and were unaware of them or they would have gone back to the girl and questioned her about that message.
The young man gets to court a few days ago and the DA'S office is expecting him to enter a guilty plea. Boy were they suprised. He refused. The DA's office finally agreed to let him plea to false imprisonment under the First Offender Act and all other charges were dropped. He was sentenced to time already served and walked out of the courthouse a free man.
If the police and attorney's had taken the time to review their own records they had subpoenaed this case should never have gotten this far. In my opinion this was a very sloppy investigation due to uniform officers that had not been trained to investigate these serious cases. In addition, I see more and more investigations where just enough is done to make a case, but no more. No in depth investigation or follow up. No items were submitted to the crime lab for analysis. It was either sloppy work, untrained officers, just doing enough to get by or a combination of all three. IM just glad I was able to help this young man get his day in court and the TRUE facts came out.
This was a very good year for Southern Professional Investigations. On the domestic investigation side we caught 33 cheating spouses for the year;18 men and 15 women. On the women's side three of those were found to be in a lesbian relationship.
We conducted several internal investigations for law enforcement agencies. The most significant was at the Columbus Police Department, where a police office made allegations against the Chief of Police of making derogatory racial comments. After a exhaustive investigation which included numerous interviews and a polygraph exam, the Chief was cleared of all the allegations and the accusing officer was fired.
Apparently the word is getting around about our services we offer on Criminal Defense cases. Those request have really increased the past year and it appears it is all due to word of mouth between attorneys. With our background in working criminal investigations while with the GBI and the skills developed more and more attorneys are calling on our services. I even had one attorney tell me the past week after using us, that he will never use anyone else but us in the future.
Our investigative business has increased so much that we have had to stop doing process service. We are putting all our emphasis on the investigative side.
Mike continues to teach at the Police Training Center in Forsyth, GA. He instructs on Interviews and Interrogations and then a specialized course in Statement Analysis. This spring he will be teaching Statement Analysis to other private investigators in Georgia at the annual spring training conference for the Georgia Professional Private Investigators Association.