We received a strange call asking for help. The client said "I need to find a private investigator". Well I guess you dialed the right number, "I am a private investigator". "No, he says, I need to locate a PI so I can serve him a subpoena, can you help me?
We here at Flatirons Private Investigations love a challenge - To find a guy who didn't want to be found? Mind you this is not your garden variety criminal but a guy who would know how to avoid being found.
Off we go down the rabbit hole. A quick address search shows an apartment (really a PO Box), but the PO Box doesn't have a real address attached to it. How interesting. Motor vehicle and detailed comprehensive reports also only list a PO Box. Ah, a foreclosure, wait property records and the quit claim deeds show how the house slowly became the possession of his mother. Why is this guy trying to hide if not to avoid being found?
Relatives? A couple ex-wives and a kid. The kid lives out of state with the mom but not really that far away.
Piecing Together the Puzzle
Well if you look back far enough (one nice thing about PI databases vs Google) you can start to see patterns emerge, develop associations and then start to pierce the veil surrounding somebody. His mom lives in a nursing home, his ex wife moved out of state, a child...
Lure Them to You
What we like to do at FPI to keep client expenses low, is lure the person to be served back to Colorado. Should be simple as the PI is licensed here. Certainly we could go find them and spend hours waiting outside their door until they showed up but that is inefficient at best and potentially very expensive. Instead, we set the trap using a referral from a former client and the assistance of a local business owner as bait. This has worked well for us before, luring a defendant here from Louisiana is a $100 serve vs a $5000 surveillance operation.
The hiding PI responded to our e-mails and seemed curious so we dangled a large fee in front of him and he began to salivate. Just when we were about to spring our trap, he became a tiny bit suspicious. We confirmed that he was out of state and would be for some time (code for: I am hiding from others who are dissatisfied with my substandard work). I guess we will go to him.
Fuel the Jet...
I checked the adjoining state's laws to see if we could legally locate and serve somebody down there. I fueled up the FPI plane and got ready to go. The client didn't want me to follow him out of state. Although legal, a subpoena from Colorado served in a different state was too much effort, even under the UIDDA.
At the end of the investigation, though done more out of curiosity than for compensation, the client insisted on paying for our time. Even if the client didn't pay (we occasionally work no find/no fee agreements) the cost would be written off as tuition to make us better private investigators.