This is the transcript for the Over Divorce Podcast Feat. JR Investigations.
Announcer: [0:03] You’re listening to the overdivorced.com podcast with host Tom and Adrian, two guys swapping stories about getting over divorce. If you’re going through a painful divorce and are struggling with anger and anxiety then you found the right podcast. Hang with us for the next 30 minutes or so and we promise you’ll gain useful insight and effective tips and techniques for getting over your divorce and re-building a better life.
Tom: [0:27] Welcome to the over divorced podcast. I’m Tom.
Adrian: [0:29] And I’m Adrian.
Tom: [0:31] We’re excited today because we’ve got another special guest and this is going to be really fun and interesting, I think. I’m really looking forward to it. Adrian, will you introduce our guest today?
Adrian: [0:40] Yes. On the show with us today is JR from JR Investigations.
[0:46] JR is a private investigator. He’s been in business for over 30 years. He was named “Investigator of the Year” from the California Association of Licensed Investigators. He served as president of that organization.
[1:04] He specializes in family law — everything from support, abuse to child custody cases. Welcome to the show, JR. We’re glad you’re here.
JR: [1:16] Thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Adrian: [1:18] How did you decide to get involved with being a private investigator? That’s one of those cool things that most kids want to be when they grow up. It seems like an interesting profession. It seems from “Moonlighting” and TV shows that it’s something that would be really cool and interesting to do.
JR: [1:44] It’s interesting you ask, because it’s something I fell into right after I graduated college.
[1:48] This was 1982. I lived in Chicago. I had moved to California. The first job I had was an undercover investigator in a warehouse, looking for employee theft and drug abuse.
Adrian: [1:59] How did that happen? Did you answer an ad in the paper? Did you know somebody?
JR: [2:05] No. Back then, it was very hard to get a job right out of college, with a degree in Political Science.
[2:10] I saw an ad in the paper. I was the only one who was qualified for the job, because I had a college degree. I was able to read and write. I passed the polygraph test. It was crucial for them.
Adrian: [2:22] Do you have any tips on that?
Adrian: [2:24] Is there a lot of clenching involved? How do you…?
JR: [2:26] No. It’s funny, really, about passing a polygraph. They’re going to know you whether you’re going to pass or fail at the beginning, before they even ask you to take the polygraph. They do a pre-polygraph. They just know.
[2:37] They asked me questions about, “Have you ever stole anything?” which I’ve never done, “Have you done drugs?” which wasn’t part of my background. Everything I answered was the truth. I got the job. The job lasted two months. I really liked being an investigator.
[2:55] Then, I got a job for a law firm doing personal injury investigation. I actually went to law school for a couple of years. That didn’t really work out because it was hard to work and go to law school at the same time. But I worked for an agency, and this was interesting. This agency — back around 1983, ’84 maybe — specialized in cheating spouse investigations.
[3:17] He put me on a case where we followed this guy who was, supposedly, cheating on his wife. In the week that we followed the guy, he wasn’t doing anything.
[3:30] I asked my client, “Did you get paid?” He goes, “Yeah, she gave me her diamond ring as a collateral.” When the case was over, he went to the jeweler. It turns out it was a cubic zirconia.
Adrian: [3:43] What’s the going rate for that these days? 17 cents?
Tom: [3:51] You need to pay them to take the cubic zirconia from you.
JR: [3:55] I like telling that story.
Adrian: [3:58] Did you just merge into that specialty, into going after the cheating kind of spouses? I know that’s one of the many areas that you focus in on, but who is coming to you more? Is it more women that are coming to you, or men? Or how does that transpire?
JR: [4:19] It’s pretty equal. It’s really equal.
[4:23] Getting back to your question, once I opened my own business in 1990, I started doing infidelity investigation. We will take a few cases in and, then, follow the cheating spouses.
[4:39] Investigation, back in 1990, was different than the way it is today because we really didn’t have the Internet. We didn’t have the resources we have now. Video cameras were different. Covert cameras were different. We really had to go into the trenches and be creative, back in those days.
Adrian: [4:56] What does that mean? Do you have to put on a dress and go deep cover? How do you [laughs] get into the trenches?
JR: [5:04] That’s funny you say that, because sometimes you have to go into disguise and go into a building. Or if the person is getting their hair done or whatever, and you want to hear what they’re saying, obviously, you couldn’t record that conversation. You would either send a female investigator in to listen to their conversation to see where she or he was possibly going that night, and then report it back to the agency.
Adrian: [5:26] I got to imagine that’s pretty hard and emotionally tolling for both you and the clients to go through. When people are coming to you, are they just a mess? Do they all ready really know what’s up, and they’re just looking for confirmation? I would think by the time you get to the point where you’re looking at hiring a Private Investigator, you know what’s going on.
[5:53] You just want that confirmation. Do you find that to be the case?
JR: [5:58] That’s why they call it “for peace of mind.” Because they pretty much know what’s going on. It’s about 90 percent. 90 percent of the people who hire me, who think their spouse is cheating, they are. That’s probably a pretty accurate number. Very rarely it’s something else going on, but 90 percent of the time it’s a cheating spouse.
Tom: [6:17] What about those 10 percent of the times. What’s going on there? When they’re not cheating. Is there any pattern to the last 10 percent that’s not cheating, what they’re doing?
JR: [6:29] A change of life. Going through menopause, the woman might be going through and not really wanting to be in a relationship anymore. Just distancing herself from her spouse. It happens. The client is convinced, “No, they’re cheating on me,” and they’re really not.
[6:51] You can do two weeks of surveillance, get all this information, and there’s no affair going on. They just don’t want to be with that person.
[6:59] Really it doesn’t happen that often. There is usually an affair or something bizarre going on.
Tom: [7:03] That’s interesting about the time frame. It’s a two-week window is a good enough snapshot of someone’s life if they’re having a relationship. In that two-week window, you’ll nab them or you’ll know if something fishy is going on.
JR: [7:17] Right, and once in a blue moon, we get busted. We get burned when we’re following someone. That doesn’t happen that often.
[7:24] In an infidelity case, if we think someone’s basically hot on us, we will just back off and pick it up another day. For the most part, we really don’t get burned these days. We have really good investigators working these cases.
Tom: [7:37] What happens during that time? What happens with confrontation? Does that happen where people are like, “Get the fuck out of here,” or “What’s going on?”
JR: [7:46] We try to avoid that at all cost. We just make up something. If they confront us. We usually don’t let them confront us. We’re usually gone by that time.
Tom: [7:58] What do you do? Do you snap pictures and you’re out kind of deal? Like, “I got what I needed and I’m out”?
JR: [8:03] If we think we’re busted. Like I said, we’re far enough that we can get two blocks behind the person, and snap quality video these days, without them even knowing.
Adrian: [8:16] Wow, so you’re deep into sniper mode where, nobody knows you’re around, it sounds like.
JR: [8:22] It depends on the type of case. I can give you a zillion examples. I had one a couple of years ago. The husband is in Los Angeles on business. They live out of town. She hires me to follow him from his hotel. He goes to a Karaoke Bar, and meets a woman there. It’s easy for me.
[8:45] I walk into the Karaoke Bar, and I start videoing taping the Karaoke performers. Well, I’m not really videotaping the performers, I’m video tapping the subject, and the woman he’s with. He’s all over her. He’s not wearing his wedding ring. I get 15 minutes of video on them, send it to the client, case done.
Adrian: [9:03] How much of your findings end up in court? How big is the impact? Is that advantageous to somebody who is looking for a divorce these days?
JR: [9:19] No, actually in California, we have no faults. The video is immaterial whatsoever. The only time a video is important, is if it’s a custody case, and they’re doing something that may harm the child.
[9:31] If they’re dealing drugs, if they’re drinking and driving. Those are factors that affect custody. Since cheating on your spouse here in this state…I don’t know about other states because I only pay attention to California. Cheating spouses is not a factor in custody or anything like that.
Tom: [9:49] It’s interesting. We had a Family Law Attorney on our show, he was saying the same thing. It’s true in Georgia, too. The surprising thing for most people is that, for the most part, cheating doesn’t really matter to the courts.
[10:05] The courts are all set up for the welfare of the children. The only immaterial stuff is things that might affect the health and safety of the child.
JR: [10:15] Now, on a rare case, they need to get divorced for religious reasons. They need to find out if there is infidelity because, otherwise, they can’t get their annulment, for certain religions. In that case, then that video is crucial. But, obviously, it doesn’t go to court.
Adrian: [10:32] You have got to take it to a higher court.
JR: [10:33] There you go.
Adrian: [10:34] Take it to the big man.
[10:36] You also deal with child abduction cases, correct?
JR: [10:42] I used to do a lot of those, but not anymore. It’s expensive. It’s time consuming. There are certain people that really specialize in that. I’ve done probably five in my career. It’s very time consuming and very difficult.
Tom: [10:57] That’s got to be another tough one emotionally, too. How do you deal with something crazy like that happening, where the parent takes your child out of the States to a foreign country, or just even to a different state? It’s got to be devastating.
JR: [11:17] Right, but there’s always two sides to every story. But the one side that is not legal is taking your kid out of the country when you don’t have custody.
Tom: [11:28] Right, but…
JR: [11:31] Even if you think your spouse is not a good spouse, you have no right to take that child out of the country regardless, because you’re going to be in trouble.
Tom: [11:40] It was interesting. I took my daughter out of the country. I took her to Canada to ski. I had to get all that paperwork together to make sure that it was cool. The same is true when she traveled in Europe with her grandparents.
[11:56] There is still a ton of paperwork. You need to have signed affidavits saying that it’s OK to do it. They take it very seriously.
JR: [12:05] It’s even more difficult if you’re not from this country, if you’re from, let’s say, Iran, for example. We’ve had cases where one of the spouses wanted to take the kid to Iran. It’s like, “Well, if you’re gonna do that, you’re not coming back.” The judge says, “No, you’re not gonna do that. We’re not gonna let that happen.”
Tom: [12:25] You just can’t go to some countries with your child if you don’t have custody. Is that what you’re saying?
JR: [12:33] That’s correct. You need to do have custody. It depends how much custody you have, but it’s pretty frowned upon.
[12:41] If you’re going to Canada or at Mexico, here it’s not that big of a deal. But if you’re from Europe or the Middle East, no, because it’s very hard to get the kid back to the United States, due to court system. If you’re in the Middle East, forget it. It’s not going to happen.
Tom: [12:56] It’s interesting. There is, obviously, the famous story of the father who lost his son to his wife who went to Brazil, where she was from. They had such a difficult time getting that back together again. Super, super difficult.
[13:11] I can see why you’d find other less stressful alternatives to service providing, because I could see how that would be really, really rough.
JR: [13:21] Exactly. A lot of felons who are fleeing bail, they go to Brazil, too.
Tom: [13:29] Really?
JR: [13:30] There was one here about five years ago. He was in Brazil for a number of years. He got married there. For some reason, somebody recognized him and called it into the authorities. He got picked up, and he got sent back to Los Angeles on a murder case.
Adrian: [13:46] Brazil seems to be a hotspot. [laughs]
JR: [13:50] I’m a little worried about the next Olympics, too.
Adrian: [13:52] It might be little rough down there.
JR: [13:54] It’s not…
Adrian: [13:55] What are some criteria to look for when somebody is considering hiring a private investigator? That’s one of those things that maybe you might do once in a lifetime. What are some of the telltale signs or things that people should look for if you happen to need to find a private eye?
JR: [14:23] When a potential client calls me, the first thing I ask him is, “What is your goal? What do you wanna find out?” That’s the first thing I ask without even deciding whether to take a case or not, or going even further.
[14:38] What is their goal? Do their want their support reduced? It’s one question. Obviously, infidelity — they want find out about that. Do they want to find if their ex or current spouse is abusing a child, if they’re doing anything illegal along those lines?
Adrian: [15:00] Then, how do you decide on which cases that you take or don’t take? Can you give some examples, some stuff that you’ve turned down that was kind of crazy?
JR: [15:10] This was interesting. This is maybe 10 years ago. This guy hired me. His wife and kid were missing. He wanted me to find them. He goes, “They just took off. They’re missing. Can you help me find them?”
[15:29] I had the case for a day or two. I’m doing some research. I’m finding out that this wasn’t on the up and up, that they were hiding from him because he was abusing them physically. I knew where they were. They were in protective custody. I knew exactly where they were. I probably should have asked this beforehand or why I didn’t.
[15:53] I told the guy, “You know, I believe your wife and child are in protective custody. Did you hit your wife?” He goes, “Yes, I did. But it wasn’t hard.” I go, “Stop right there. Stop right there. The court doesn’t care about that. You hit your wife.” I gave him his money back.
Adrian: [16:12] They’re hiding from you, man. They’re trying to get the hell out of Dodge. [laughs]
JR: [16:18] I don’t know. Once in a while, you let your guard down like any human being. I didn’t ask a simple question.
[16:24] Is there a problem? Was there a fight? Is there a restraining order? If there’s a restraining order against male or female, it doesn’t matter. I’ve had guys come to me and say they have restraining orders against their wife because their wife would hit him. But he couldn’t hit back, obviously, because he didn’t want to go to jail.
[16:44] I always tell my male clients, “Don’t ever hit your wife, or girlfriend, or whatever because even if they hit you first, and you hit them back, you’re going to go to jail. It’s not gonna be good.”
[16:53] I won’t take a case where there’s a restraining order against my potential client, obviously. Especially if I follow them, I could be an extension of my client — even with the restraining order.
Adrian: [17:05] That’s got to be problematic.
JR: [17:07] Unless I’m hired by an attorney. If the attorney hires me and says, “We need you to follow this person to see what they’re doing,” even though there is a restraining order against the client, that’s fine. I’m hired by the attorney. No problem with that.
Tom: [17:21] Do you get a lot of… [laughs] I guess you probably don’t, or you can weed them out.
[17:26] I imagine that a lot of these guys or women, for that matter, that are trying to track down their girlfriends, or their boyfriends, or whatever that are taking off and leaving with their kids, they’re the cause. They’re the reason for the problem.
[17:44] How do you sniff them out? There’s no restraining order but, in your case, you found out they were in protective custody. How do you tell that this is just a bad dude?
JR: [17:56] You can usually tell right off the bat. It’s just instinct.
Adrian: [18:01] The swastika on the neck gives it away usually?
JR: [18:03] Like I said, I usually don’t see them. Most of my clients, it’s all done over the phone. I have clients from all over the country. As far as the infidelity in the family law cases, it’s here in Southern California.
Adrian: [18:19] You’ve got clients all over the country. You don’t meet with them personally. It’s just over the phone, or Skype, or something like that? Do they phone it in?
JR: [18:27] Skype is usually Europe, or something like that. I have cases where somebody gets a mail-order bride and they want me to do a background on the mail-order bride. I was like, “Well, it’s not going to happen. If someone is from the Ukraine, you’re not going to get any information.”
[18:47] I tell these guys, “You’re in trouble. You’re 60 years old. You’re 350 pounds. You just met a woman who is 29, 105 dripping wet and drop dead glorious. Why would she be interested in you? I’m not trying to be mean. I’m trying to be realistic. If you marry this person, she’s going to take you for everything you have.” I got to tell you, 100 percent of the time, that’s the case — 100 percent. I do get a lot of cases like this.
Tom: [19:16] No Ukrainian brides. We got to strike that off the list, David.
Adrian: [19:19] That’s a bummer.
JR: [19:22] Gorgeous woman, they want to get out of a situation. They don’t care who they meet. They marry them for a year or two — no kids. Then you can’t really get divorced because the US government won’t let you unless you prove you’ve been abused, physically.
Adrian: [19:44] Wait a second. What do you mean you can’t get divorced?
JR: [19:48] You can get divorced, but you’re going to get deported. You can’t just come here and get married and become a citizen. You got to stay married for five or some odd years.
Adrian: [19:58] I didn’t realize that. You have to establish a long track record. I thought maybe it was a year or something like that. You’re saying about five years.
JR: [20:08] Immigration lawyers know all that. I don’t know the exact amount. I see these cases where they get witnesses to say that the guy beat them up and they get bruises. Those aren’t real bruises either.
Adrian: [20:23] That’s dedication. That’s somebody who really wants to come here.
JR: [20:26] It’s better than swimming, I guess.
Tom: [20:30] How many of those cases have you seen now where it’s just been like this? You say, almost universally, these mail-order brides are…
JR: [20:42] It’s a big business.
Adrian: [20:44] Quick ship, two days, Amazon Prime — check it out. You can’t go wrong.
JR: [20:49] It’s funny. You hear more about it on the news channels. I see it constantly. I tell people, “Don’t do it.”
Tom: [20:59] Now wait a second. How much are we talking about here? What’s the going rate for a Ukrainian bride these days?
JR: [21:06] Don’t quote me on this. If I could find it on here, I think I saw 20 grand or more.
Tom: [21:11] $20,000, wow.
Adrian: [21:13] The guys drop $20,000 with a broker to get introduced to someone who magically falls in love with them. They have to come back — again, these are all estimates — spend roughly five years, then create some sort of drama to convince the courts that they’ve been abused.
JR: [21:33] No, you can create the drama immediately. You can create it within one year. This case I had, it wasn’t even a year they were married.
Tom: [21:43] You were representing the guy. He was getting you to prove that he was innocent essentially?
JR: [21:50] We were trying to prove that she was committing fraud. It’s so hard to do because in family law cases, everybody lies. That’s one of the biggest problems. Probably in any case, I think people lie. Family law is so bad that you can confront them with evidence right in front of them and they’ll still lie.
[22:13] We took video of a subject working, got the location, confirmed that she works there. In deposition, they asked her about the place. She said she’d never heard of it. They don’t get it.
Tom: [22:30] Is this true? We were sort of picking on the Ukraine for obvious timing reasons. Is this kind of true across the board, across the eastern European block, all those countries, especially same thing, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, all…
Adrian: [22:49] Tom wants to know where the best place to get a good mail-order bride — a good solid woman…
Tom: [22:53] Are we talking Thailand? What’s the deal? I’m just trying to figure this out.
JR: [22:57] Probably.
[22:58] No, Asia is bad too. I’ve had two cases in the last month involving Asia. This one client, I met his wife in Thailand. That’s bad, too. He brought her over here. They had a kid together. Actually no, they were never married. I take it back. They weren’t even married. They had a kid together. She came to the US and she just milked it for whatever it was worth.
[23:25] We found out she was working. She said she didn’t. She wouldn’t even tell the court where she was working. Of course, we found out where she was working. It’s not that difficult.
Adrian: [23:40] What’s the issue with working, just no green card, no papers?
JR: [23:45] For support. She was getting the maximum amount for child support. They couldn’t get child support because they weren’t married. She was getting the maximum amount because he had a full-time job. She wasn’t working. He was paying through the roof.
[24:01] Wait a minute. He had majority custody. She was getting…I don’t know the dollar amount. We proved that she was working. I’m not going to tell you what she did because it wasn’t really legal. She was a massage therapist. How’s that?
Adrian: [24:19] She’s good with her hands. Got to leave it at that.
JR: [24:21] She actually sent two undercover investigators in to get massages. In her case, in fairness to her, it was legitimate. It was legitimate and…
Adrian: [24:33] No happy ending?
JR: [24:34] Nothing like that.
Adrian: [24:35] That’s a bummer.
JR: [24:36] In another case, it was quite different. There was a prostitution ring. This woman was getting paid cash — thousands of dollars a week. She said she was like a nanny for an elder person.
Adrian: [24:56] Who was on the crack team of investigators that had to go in deep cover?
JR: [25:02] I have a bunch of single guys that went in. Here’s the thing, though.
Adrian: [25:06] How’d they get on that list?
JR: [25:08] They’re good investigators. If they were married, I don’t think their wife would really be happy about it
Tom: [25:15] Honey, it’s just for work. Come on. What’s the problem here?
JR: [25:18] He actually didn’t do anything illegal. I don’t want to go into too many details. This guy, he said he didn’t want to have sex. She did a solo act for him. This was the woman who claimed she didn’t work or didn’t work much. We found out she was making thousands a week.
[25:40] This case went to court recently. She would not go in front of the judge. She would not admit that she did this for a living. The judge then ordered that this was child support. The child support reduced by $500 a month, which was 30 percent — which I pretty good.
Tom: [26:00] Does the judge not take into account the kind of work that she was doing. He was just looking at it strictly from a dollar basis?
JR: [26:07] Right. They don’t care. It has nothing to do with what she does for a living. She could be a crack dealer for that matter. They just want to know, do you have the means to support yourself? If you don’t, then you get support.
Adrian: [26:21] None of that goes to the factoring into custody — like, “OK, we’ve got a crack…”…
JR: [26:26] He had [inaudible 26:27] custody. He had 30 percent custody. It wasn’t quite 50/50. It really doesn’t matter. According to my wife, the family law attorney, it really doesn’t matter unless she’s making drug deals in front of the kids, drinking while driving with kid in the car. The courts don’t care.
Adrian: [26:53] That’s really a theme that we’ve heard in a couple of ways, this idea that, again, it’s like the moral piece of it is really not super germane into what the courts decide. It really is a financial, transactional decision where the kids’ safety is paramount. As long as the kids are not unsafe, it doesn’t really seem to matter what the moral compass of the opposing party is.
JR: [27:27] Especially in California — how liberal California is. Now if it was a state like Arizona — I got to serve that state out — it would probably make a difference.
Tom: [27:38] It’s interesting that Georgia, being very conservative, that’s where we heard it, from the Georgia family law attorney, was that it doesn’t really matter. If you’re not putting the kids in any physical or mental jeopardy, you’re moral compass is not a factor. The courts are just not going there.
[27:58] It just seems very pragmatic from the context of workload on the court’s side. You just can’t kick it into all that moral stuff because, ultimately, it’s about the well being of the children. Then, the rest of it is just immaterial to a large extent. It just doesn’t seem to be intuitively obvious.
JR: [28:22] In California, it takes a long time to get a family law trial going. The courts are overcrowded, so many cases. They just want to get it over with as quickly as possible. Mediation is the way to go. Everyone say, “Mediate it. Get it over with and move on.”
Adrian: [28:43] They push it though.
JR: [inaudible 28:44] [28:44] it’s difficult.
Adrian: [28:48] There’s definitely a misconception about the reality of going through the court system and getting some kind of satisfaction versus just trying to push this through and get it done and over with, and move on, as being a much kind of healthier, better option.
JR: [29:05] Right now, this state just took on the same-sex marriage. My wife has had a few same-sex divorce cases.
Tom: [29:15] Those have got to be ugly.
JR: [29:18] This was never brought up in the argument. I’m OK with all this. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not my business. Here’s the problem. This was never explained to same-sex couples that if you decide to get divorced, the rules are the same and the laws are the same with a same-sex couple. Once you’re married, in California, it’s community property. They didn’t realize that in these cases that my wife took.
[29:47] She convinced one couple to stay married, work it out, because they’ll save money. By golly, they stayed married. You need to get a solid prenupt. Then do the best you can to either stay married, or if you decide to break up, do it amicably, because it’s going to cost you. Regardless of whether you’re same-sex or not, it’s the same.
Adrian: [30:15] I think that’s the thing. I’m with you. I’m happy to have same-sex couples get married. The few gay friends that I have who’ve discussed it, I always ask, why? Why do you want to do that? They’ve all had really go reasons. That whole idea about, “What happens if you breakup,” nobody ever thinks about that.
[30:39] It’s’ just kind of like the prenupt thing between heterosexuals couples. People don’t ever think about that either, right?
JR: [30:47] The laws are exactly the same. Don’t get married just to get married. Get married because you want to spend the rest of your life together and be equal. You have to instill it into people regardless of whether they’re the same sex or not.
Tom: [31:04] Talk about some of the technology that you use. You were saying that you could shoot video footage from a couple football fields away. Do you do a lot of bug-placing on cars?
JR: [31:15] In this state you can’t do that unless you solely own the car. A client asked me, “Can you put a tracking device on my wife’s car?” My first question is, “Whose name is the car in?” because in California if the car is in your name only, you can put a tracking device on it. If it’s in your name and your spouse’s name, you’d have to get the approval of both.
[31:39] You can’t put a tracking device on a car that somebody else owns unless they approve it.
Tom: [31:45] Are most states like that or are most states not like that?
JR: [31:47] I don’t know. I can’t answer that, but I know in my state that law passed probably 12 years ago.
Tom: [31:57] That’s interesting.
JR: [31:58] The technology came out. I don’t know when it came out, but I think it’s been this century. You cannot put a tracking device on a vehicle unless you own it.
Adrian: [32:06] There have got to be some sneaky ways though to hijack someone’s cell phone and put some kind of app on there that tracks their movement. Is there stuff out there like that?
JR: [32:16] There you go. There’s no law against that one. It’s an app. You get it on their cell phone. To get it on there, you’d have to go to the app store or you actually have to email it or send it to someone’s Android phone or their iPhone and then download it. They won’t know it’s on there. It tracks everything they do. It’s GPS is what it is.
Adrian: [32:52] GPS and with a phone function so you can track their calls and that kind of stuff? Does it get into that? That stuff must be out there. If there’s not, someone’s probably working on it.
JR: [33:03] There’s keystroke software, where if they dial a number you’ll be able to get that information if they send a text. It’s so hard to do. I don’t get involved with that. It’s still an invasion of privacy, but I don’t get involved in anything like that. We’re just pretty basic. You want somebody followed, we can even do a pretext.
Adrian: [33:27] What’s that?
JR: [33:28] If you know someone’s going to a bar, you sit next to them. You talk to them. Be their friend. You talk to them under pretext basically. I had one once where I knew a lady who was going to a bar. It was happy hour, and I sat next to her and talked to her for an hour. I got everything on her I needed to know.
Adrian: [33:52] Oh, you just opened her up like a can and [laughs] extracted information Gestapo style with your smooth silken ways? [laughs]
JR: [34:01] Exactly. I actually had a case. This is crazy. This was in Nevada. We’re not supposed to go to Nevada to do investigation. This was years ago when I first got married.
Adrian: [34:11] We only have four Korean listeners, so you don’t have to worry about anybody finding out.
JR: [34:17] In Nevada?
Adrian: [34:18] No, in Korea. [laughs] Nobody in Nevada yet.
JR: [34:23] I had a case where the guy wanted me to find out…This was on his father actually. His father was dating a woman, and they were very far apart in ages, like 25 years. He moved from Los Angeles to Nevada with the woman. He just didn’t know what was going on.
Adrian: [34:46] The son wanted…
JR: [34:47] I do get hired by family members.
Tom: [34:51] In that case, was Dad married and then he just was missing? Or was he just…
JR: [34:58] No, he was widowed.
Tom: [34:59] Oh, he’s widowed. OK, and the son’s just concerned?
JR: [35:01] He wanted to make sure that she wasn’t taking his money obviously. This was in Nevada. They don’t have reciprocity, so we can’t go into Nevada and do investigation. I worked under my friend’s license who had his license in Nevada, which was fine. My wife and I are sitting in our car doing a surveillance in front of their house.
[35:23] She was bored out of her mind, so she goes, “I’m going in the house.” “Hey, what are you talking about?” She’s a licensed PI, also. She goes, “Watch what I do.” She used a pretext that she was looking to buy a house in the neighborhood. “How are the schools? What’s the neighborhood like?” They let her in, and she talked with them for an hour.
[35:47] I’m sitting in the car still. She got everything on why he moved to Nevada, what their relationship was, the whole thing in one hour. I went to Nevada for the whole weekend to do this investigation. We solved it in one hour. It was very sad actually because both the woman and his father had AIDS.
[36:06] This is during the AIDS epidemic. It was very sad. They were basically comforting each other, living together, helping each other out. She actually had a boyfriend who worked full-time out of the area. He was supporting all of them, and it was a support group basically. I confirmed it all.
[36:23] The son was very grateful that I found that out because he would never have known. He would never have known the truth about his father. With the HIPAA laws and everything, he’s not going to get that information. What we do, was it ethical or not? I would say it was OK because it was fair. He let it go after that. He was grateful to us for doing it.
Adrian: [36:47] What’s interesting is it seems like just having a dialog [laughs] and a simple conversation with somebody, you’re going to get most of what you need if you just ask. I don’t know. How many of your cases are like that? Is that a small minority where somebody’s approached and you just start a dialog and say, “Hey, why are you here? What’s up?” That type of thing?
JR: [37:12] That situation was just right, and my wife at the time is just really good at extracting information and getting people to have their guard down. She never lets me forget that story because she did it. She pulled it off, and it was great.
Tom: [37:27] How much of this stuff really just gets down to money, do you think? When you were telling that story and you said the kids were worried about the money, when this all really boils down to it, how much of it is passion versus how much of it is dough?
JR: [37:45] It’s pretty much about the money. Most of the cases are. I can’t give you a percentage, but it’s the majority.
Tom: [37:53] How does this affect your view on humanity? You were talking a little bit about the ethical implications of going in and doing a pretext interview. How does this affect you personally in your sense of humanity generally?
JR: [laughs] [38:10] My wife always says, and I always quote her because she’s always right, right?
Adrian: [38:16] Absolutely. She’s an attorney, too.
JR: [38:18] The wife is always right. Not really, but anyway she said, “If it wasn’t for stupid people, we wouldn’t have clients.” It’s very true because a lot of these cases are frivolous. They’re stupid. They shouldn’t even happen. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have business. There wouldn’t be a family law attorney. There wouldn’t be private investigators. People do stupid things back when they hire us.
[38:45] As far as it affects me, it really doesn’t because nothing surprises me. Nothing shocks me. Very rarely. I still get the one or two a year that I go, “Oh, my. This is a new one.” Then I wind up forgetting about it because something better comes along but nothing surprising.
Tom: [39:03] How many cases can you handle at a time?
JR: [39:06] If I look over at my desk right now, I’ve got 25 cases that are active right now. On the 25, most of them are location/background, but I’m thinking I have five family law-related cases right now. For a sole practitioner, that’s a lot. I try to get them out fast. I try to get in and out of a case as fast as I can.
Adrian: [39:28] Is that a two-week commitment usually?
JR: [39:30] It won’t even last that long. Three days and I’m done.
Adrian: [39:37] Do you ever do the lonely hearts thing where somebody wants to find out about an ex-lover and hires you for that?
JR: [39:44] It’s funny you mention that. I always tell a funny story about that. This guy once called me. This is the first thing he said, “I’m a happily married man.” First thing he said.
Tom: [39:55] That’s a red flag.
JR: [39:57] My first thing is, “No, you’re not. You’re just saying that.” Then he says, “I want you to find my high school sweetheart.” Seriously. Seriously! Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll take his money. Why not? Here’s what I’ll do. I’ll locate the woman, and I’ll call her and say, “Hey, you know something? Your high school boyfriend’s looking for you.”
Tom: [40:19] Oh, God. Come on. Really? Out of the top, it’s like that?
JR: [40:24] Yeah, and get a load of this. I’ll say, “He’s creepy.”
Tom: [laughs] [40:26]
JR: [40:28] I made a deal with them. I said, “I’ll leave it up to you whether you want me to give him your information, but if you don’t I won’t.” She goes, “Well, thank you so much. I’m so glad you’re doing this because I’m a happily married man. As it turns out that wasn’t my high school boyfriend. I used to be a prostitute in a former life, and that was one of my johns.”
[40:54] It’s like, well, there’s another first. She was so grateful to me. She goes, “You’re really a good person for doing this because he could have hired somebody else, and then it would have been a nightmare for my family.” She said, “Thank you so much.” I felt great because here’s the thing. I would have turned this guy down.
[41:14] I told him, “I’m not going to give her your information unless she wants me to.” He goes, “Fine.” He could have called another investigator, and the other investigator would have said, “Fine. I’ll do this for you without asking questions.” That’s bad. That’s really bad.
Adrian: [41:27] Now that’s interesting. Is there a code of ethics that most private investigators have when they get a license? Is there any kind of thing, some kind of Hippocratic oath for PIs? Does that exist?
JR: [41:44] There is and there isn’t. You have to do your due diligence on your clients. If your client is a criminal and he’s stalking a celebrity. This happened in 1990 with an actress who was killed because the stalker got her address. It turns out he really didn’t get the address from the PI, but he hired a PI who gave him an address of the celebrity.
[42:07] He wound up murdering here, and after that it gave a black eye to private investigators. We spent years and years repairing all the damage and our reputation.
Tom: [42:18] Was that the Mindy woman?
JR: [42:21] That was Rebecca Schaeffer. The show she was on, Pam Dawber was the star of the show, but it was the young girl who was murdered.
[42:37] Regardless of whether they found the address through a private investigator wasn’t material. It was the fact that, “Hey, this private investigator did not do his due diligence on this stalker.” He got it through some other means, but the point was that the private investigator did give him an address and he shouldn’t have done.
Tom: [42:57] He aided even unintentionally and not…
JR: [43:00] I try to avoid that at all costs. I want to know as much about my client as possible before I take that case.
Tom: [43:09] What percentage of the people that call you are out of line, should we say?
JR: [43:15] Most of my clients are not really mentally stable because of what they’re going through, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people.
Adrian: [43:24] They’re just Californians. [laughs]
JR: [43:26] Well, you’ve got to remember there’s north and south. Very different.
Adrian: [43:31] Well, it’s funny. I’m guessing that most of your clients are in a stressful life-altering situation. Then you tend to not be thinking. If you’re going through a divorce or you think you are, you’re being irrational. You’re not thinking straight anyway. That’s going to exasperate things.
[43:55] Even I guess a rational person that’s coming to you and says, “Hey, I need this done,” they’re probably coming to you in a crazy state. I could see that where almost anybody who’s calling you is in some kind of distress. You’re probably their last hope in one way or another.
JR: [44:15] I’ve even had clients call me after their divorce wanting to know what their ex-spouse is up to. I don’t take that case because they’re no longer married. There’s no financial involvement. They’re basically completely done, so at that point it’s considered stalking.
[44:36] No matter what they want to pay me, I won’t take the case. There’s someone out there that will, but I don’t want to bother with it. It’s not right. It is unethical.
Tom: [44:45] That seems like some bad mojo when you’re actively involved in the Mr. Creeper/Stalker cases. That’s got to come back to you in one way or another.
Adrian: [44:59] What’s the hardest part of doing what you do?
JR: [45:05] Believe it or not, it’s satisfying the client. That is the most difficult part because I tell them at the beginning. I say, “No matter what we do, no matter what we find out, you’re not going to be happy. Whether we find out your spouse is cheating, whether we find out your spouse is hiding $10 million, you’re not going to be happy.” It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
Tom: [45:29] Do you feel pressure to discover something? Are you under pressure to discover some unknown thing because of that? To your point about, “You’re not going to be happy because instinctively you know something is wrong. I’m going to confirm that, and then you’re not going to be happy.”
JR: [45:51] I don’t know if I’m under pressure. I always want to do a good job for the client, and there are no guarantees. I feel better, more satisfied, if it turns out in favor of my client, but I don’t have control over those things.
Tom: [46:08] By “in favor,” do you mean that you discover that your client’s suspicions were in fact accurate? Is that what you mean?
JR: [46:19] For example, I can’t get into too many details on this particular instance. For example, the client thought her ex was hiding millions of dollars. It turns out he was, and we found it.
Adrian: [46:37] Where was it?
JR: [46:42] It was in his parents’ account, and that’s hard to get. That’s where the lawyers come in. We knew it was there. You transfer everything to your parents’ name and boom. That’s it. You don’t have any more businesses in your name. Transfer it to someone else. Then live off the fat of the land, and everything goes to your parents or your business partner depending on your relationship.
Adrian: [47:07] How easy is it to get that back once that’s happened? If it’s all donations, is it fairly easy to say, “OK, it’s a black-and-white case” or is it a typical…
JR: [47:22] It depends. It depends on who lies in court. You can get the business partner in court. You can get the parents in court. They’re going to lie for their kid or their business partner. They’re going to lie for them. They said, “Oh, no. That’s our money,” or “It’s our business now,” or “Oh, we sold the business,” or whatever.
[47:42] They’re not under any obligation to tell you the truth. They’re not a defendant. They’re not a party to the action.
Adrian: [47:49] Now how often do you have to go into court? Are you ever called in to testify?
JR: [47:53] Rarely. Family law here in California you do declarations. Those declarations usually stand up but rarely. The only time we would have to go into court is to rebut testimony. Most family law cases are heard in front of a judge. There are no juries for a family law [inaudible 48:13] . They’re in front of a judge.
[48:18] If I have a declaration that says, “This is what I found.” If I want to find somebody’s personal information, I go through their garbage.
Adrian: [48:28] That’s where it all is. It all ends up in the garbage.
JR: [48:30] They don’t even shred it. They’ll rip it into five pieces.
Tom: [48:33] “Nobody will be able to crack this code.” [laughs]
JR: [48:34] I had this case once where we had to pull somebody’s garbage for a week, and it’s legal to pull somebody’s garbage. It’s garbage day. It’s on the street. It’s public domain. We put it in bags. I bring it home. We just dump it all. I had my kids — this was when they were younger — put the puzzle together for me with the pieces of paper.
[48:55] We found foreign bank accounts, business transactions, letters to their attorneys. We pasted it all together, and gave it to my client. It was gold. It was amazing.
Adrian: [49:08] What do you cut your kids in? Do they get 10 percent?
Adrian: [49:13] If not, they should. [laughs]
Tom: [49:15] Let that be a lesson for you, dear listener. Get a shredder.
JR: [49:20] Exactly. Don’t just rip it up into four pieces. Shred the stuff.
Adrian: [49:25] What keeps you moving on? What are some of the highlights, the good stuff of the business that you enjoy?
JR: [49:35] I enjoy just finding that piece of the puzzle, finding that needle in the haystack. That’s always a good thing. Or if you have a case and say, “Oh, my God. This is going to be so hard to find out.” I don’t give the client a guarantee. When I do find that missing link, it’s very satisfying. Whether it’s a family law case or another type of case, it doesn’t matter.
[49:58] I just want to make them happy, which is very hard to do. Again, then you have Yelp. If you piss off a client, they could write a bad Yelp review on you. Usually in family law that doesn’t work that way because it’s confidential. If they’d write Yelp, then the other side will know that they used my services. I just try to make everybody happy.
[50:20] If they’re not satisfied, I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. If I don’t feel that the case is even worth taking, I wouldn’t put myself in that position. I’m very lucky that I can pick and choose what I want. If I feel that it’s worthy and helping a client, I’ll do that. If I feel it’s not, I don’t bother.
Adrian: [50:41] I think that finding birth parents is a line of your investigative work. How much does that play in? That sounds like it’s a pretty rewarding part of your business.
JR: [50:54] It is. That’s the most emotional aspect of my business, very emotional. I usually don’t get emotional on these cases, but I had one guy. You can watch it on the Internet because this was part of the Channel Five KTLA news story that I’m doing with helping the news anchor find his birth parents. Through his story, I help other people find their parents.
[51:16] This one guy who found me through the Channel Five story was hopeless. He had no hope in finding his birth mother who he believed lived in Germany. I utilized my resources, found out some information. We found his mother in Germany, and he’s actually there right now visiting with her.
[51:38] He was ecstatic. He was crying his eyes out. He’s been looking for 40 plus years for his birth mother. This guy’s very emotional. We just lost it. It’s a great feeling. He doesn’t want anything from her.
Adrian: [51:50] Was she pissed off that she wasn’t able to shake him?
JR: [51:55] She’s so excited. The first thing she said to him was, “Did you have a good life?” He goes, “I had a great life, thank you for giving me life.” And she gave him life.
[52:06] There are people that are bitter for their birth parents giving them up. There’s no reason to be bitter because they could have not given you life. That’s what you got to look at.
Tom: [52:19] Or not given you up and being unhappy and made you unhappy and not given you the things that you could have had or the things that you got otherwise, a loving home with people care about you.
JR: [52:30] Getting an abortion. Abortion is, you’re not even thought at that point, but they gave you life, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be happy and be bitter towards your birth-mother. Even if she was a prostitute and got pregnant by a customer, and that happens. But she could have aborted you and it happens.
Tom: [52:54] Do you have to have that conversation with people, where they’re angry and they want to talk to their birth-mother or they want to…?
JR: [53:02] If he’s angry, I won’t take their case because you know why? Because if I find their birth-parents and they go out with a gun and shoot them, I’ll never forgive myself. You never know.
Tom: [53:13] You can tell when people are angry. You could tell by their line of questioning and probably facial give aways and stuff. Do you have any tips about the art of the tell after doing this for so long, where you read people’s tales? Are there tricks to that? Or is it instinctual and you can’t really articulate it?
JR: [53:36] The majority of my clients, I don’t meet. It’s all done over the phone. I just go by what they say on the phone.
Tom: [53:45] Are there tells over the phone in terms of can you tell if they are angry or tell if they are vindictive or whatever?
JR: [53:53] For example, lady calls me, “My husband’s an asshole. He’s an asshole. He’s an asshole.” I’ve heard it all. What do you want me to do? I don’t want to hear your 30-year story about your husband being an asshole. I don’t need to hear that.
[54:16] Actually, the next day the husband calls me and says, “My wife’s a bitch.” I got to tell you it’s happened before.
Adrian: [54:22] Same couple?
JR: [54:23] Same couple.
Adrian: [54:25] You’re doing your marketing right.
JR: [54:27] It’s so funny. In this case, I happen to know both people. They knew I was a PI. It’s like ah…I didn’t say their spouse called me the day before. I said, “There’s a conflict I can’t help you.”
JR: [54:41] I don’t tell them any…I don’t say anything. They also call my wife too for her legal advice.
[54:48] I will not take those cases. I don’t want to hear their story. Their story to me is not important. What’s important to me is finding out information. Then they’ll keep telling me their story on the phone. I’ll say look, “What do you want to know? You want to know if your ex is having an affair and why do you want to know? Does it really matter?”
Tom: [55:07] Do they just want to know that they’re right? Is that what it boils down to?
JR: [55:11] Yes. If it comes down to your ex’s not…If you’re broke and your ex isn’t paying. This works with men and women. Like I said, I have equal amount of male clients, as female clients.
[55:25] The stories are no different. Who is the bread winner? Who’s paying support? They’re not paying the support that they should, well you take them back to court.
[55:36] For you to take them back to court, you need an investigator to find out if they’re making more money. That’s my goal. Are they making more money? That’s all I care about. I don’t care if they’re having an affair. That’s not why they hired me. That’s not what the court wants to know. Are they making more money? My job is to find out yes or no.
[55:54] Most of the time, it works out were they find out they’re making a little more money or whatever. Then we give that information to the attorney, and it’s their job to go to court and fight for their client.
[56:05] My job is done. I move on to the next case.
Tom: [56:09] Is that a lot of your business? Post-divorce, spouse who’s providing support, is not paying enough, and you go out and figure out what they’re really making?
JR: [56:24] Exactly, because if they work under the table their employers not going to tell you how much they’re making. They’ll probably even deny they work for them. I get a lot of that.
Tom: [56:36] I would imagine and that’s probably a pretty comfortable space to work in, just authenticating income for support. Particularly if it relates to children because that’s a pretty straight forward call.
JR: [56:50] Computing income is very easy. It’s done by a program called [inaudible 56:65] here in California. I don’t know what they call it in your state. It’s a very simple process of programming income but if you don’t have the right amounts then you’re not going to be accurate.
Adrian: [57:05] Hugely enlightening and very entertaining spending time with you JR. I can’t believe that we’ve already blown through pretty much an hour here.
[57:14] We’ll segment the show into two parts because it’s so interesting and when you hear all that is on there. Thank you so much for participating with us today and sharing so much information and so many great stories. It’s really super entertaining.
Tom: [57:32] JR, where is a good place where folks can track you down and find you if they need your services?
JR: [57:39] The best way to find me is do a Google search for JR investigations, California or just go right to my website cali-pi.com. That’s C-A-L-I, dash, P-I,.com.
Adrian: [57:58] That’s cali-pi.com. JR, thank you so much for being in on the show. That was great. We really appreciate you being here with us.
JR: [58:08] My pleasure. It’s been a lot of fun. Thank you.
Tom: [58:10] Thanks and we look forward to chatting with you next time on the over divorced podcast. Until then, I’m Tom.
Adrian: [58:17] And I’m Adrian.
Tom: [58:18] Thanks for listening.
Adrian: [58:19] Bye.
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