My Big Fat Greek Pretext

Sometimes it’s okay to lie in the private investigator business. Let me rephrase, sometimes it’s less harmful and you will not be made the fool. The rule is I try like H-E-double hockey sticks to avoid lying on the job. Why? Simple, you don’t want to hurt your credibility should the matter make it to court and you might have to testify.

With the disclaimer out of the way, Dear Reader wants the dirt. So, about 10 years ago I had a case with a man going througha divorce. Dime a dozen right? Twist on this one. His wife was alleging a chronic condition or fibromyalgia. She wanted him to pay extra in the settlement because of her alleged disability.

The man had done his homework. He knew she was full of it and liked to get her dance on, weekly, at a greek restaurant in Petaluma. If I could show proof that she was not disabled, then he was going to save a lot of money in the long run.

So, I put on my thinking cap. “I know, I will pretend to be a reporter and get footage of her dancing,” I thought. I had the right idea but not quite the right execution.

I scouted out my quarry and the restaurant, getting a bit nervous before I told the owners that I was a freelance reporter writing an article about the place. Shouldn’t they have asked, “What’s a print reporter doing with a video camera?” I think they did ask and I recall mumbling something about my photographer not being able to attend.

I wasn’t trespassing and had great shots of my dancing faux-disabled subject. I think at one point I could not resist having someone else hold the camera to get a shot of me doing some Greek dancing with her. I turned over my footage and report to the client and never heard from him again.

In this case I felt okay-enough about my methods. I did not entrap the subject, did not trespass, just used a lame pretext that worked.

My rule is the more serious or likely your case winds up in court, the holier-than-though my methods. The legal arena is a battle for the moral high ground.

On the other hand, say, like you are trying to locate someone or gain other information, you might have to sell some newspaper subscriptions or pretend to be that delivery person who just can’t find where he is going.

In the old days, say 2004 or so, you had unscrupulous PI’s pretexting for banking and phone records.( “Uh, my phone bill got rained on in the mail, please send me another.”) Those illegal tricks will now earn a felony for the person or private investigator dumb enough to try the pretext route.

SpencerPI says live to sleuth another day and don’t cut corners.