Undoubtedly, a number of you are following the Pellicano case underway in the Los Angeles courthouse.
Mr. Pellicano is a private investigator who was hired by a disreputable individual to run interference against his enemies - sully their credibility, spread smut about them - with the ultimate aim of damaging their names and reputations.
And he used every trick in the book, including a handful of illegal ones, to accomplish that end.
He is currently on trial for alleged wiretapping, racketeering and other crimes.
This past week, there was much testimony about retired phone company technician, Rayford Turner, who is accused by the Government of having helped Pellicano with the wiretaps.
Teresa Wright (a former sales support manager at the phone carrier) divulged on the witness stand that she surreptitiously supplied Turner, a friend, with confidential information on people the government alleges Pellicano was wiretapping.
On the heels of this revelation, it was disclosed to the rapt Jury, that accessing that information without a valid service reason violated the phone company's code of ethics.
As Nixon henchmen would joke - "Pellicano "rat-f**ked" people, man."
All in a day's business for most private investigators.
When it comes to divorce cases, PI's are generally hired to sift through the dirty laundry.
You'll spy 'em lurking outside sleazy motel rooms in rattle-trap late model autos (picking their noses, no doubt) as they lay in wait for the incriminating "catch" - a revealing photo or some juicy tidbit - to aid in their client's scurrilous bidding. No holds barred.
Think LA CONFIDENTIAL, and you'll get the idea.
Apparently when a dispute between a top model and her ex-boyfriend struck frenzied peaks, a PI actually delved into garbage bins seeking DNA samples from items tossed in the bathroom trash. Yup, the stakes get high when high profile careers and big bucks are involved!
According to my sources, car dealerships are notorious for hiring Private Dicks to track down vehicles that have gone astray after failed payments, or disputes have arisen after a buyer determines the sellers unloaded lemons on 'em - or misrepresented the vehicle or financing details - you name it.
Oh, those folks are a nasty, low-life gang of white-trailer trash, for sure.
One woman, Susan Holmes, claims to be a licensed Private Investigator out of Trabuco Canyon in Orange County. Curiously, in spite of a thorough search on the Internet, this shadowy figure is difficult to pin down.
A review of the State's database of licensed investigators, for instance, doesn't turn up diddly squat.
Maybe, she's using an alias to distance herself from her outlandish, unlawful antics?
If so, it would appear that in her twisted mind she's under the wild impression that she's as keen at the art of detective work as the master - Sherlock Holmes. Why else would she associate with the surname, Holmes?
With these demented losers, who knows!
If she's the "Susan Holmes" who posted a comment on a web site about her ability "to hide drugs" from the police, then maybe that's the answer in a nutshell. If the woman is an addict - her faculties may be so befuddled by the stupor - that the line has blurred between what is lawful and what is not.
Could it be that it's the sale of drugs that has afforded her the luxury of boasting ownership of a horse ranch in Trabuco Canyon? After all, it's difficult to fathom how a lowly agent for a repo agency manages to lay claim to such expensive digs. The spoils of her illegal pursuits? You figure it out.
Someone should take aim and upset her apple cart because she's not only trampling on an individual's privacy - but oftentimes - viciously harassing and violating their rights in the process.
On one occasion, Ms. Holmes actually posed as a consumer's wife (he was single at the time) in a sneaky bold-faced effort to obtain his private phone records from the telephone company; then, proceeded to call the numbers on the billing statement to summarily slander and defame him to friends, family, and business associates.
Then, she disappeared into the woodwork, bragging about the mayhem she left in her wake.
Without any qualms, she's known to falsely allege that a person she's "tracking" is homosexual or lesbian (whichever applies), taking drugs, carousing at gay (or straight) bars all night, ripping people off - whatever it takes to shock and demean - is okay in her books.
In fact, it appears that she gets some kind of a perverse kick out of it, according to my sources.
While the attack is intended to defame - on occasion - she manipulates the cause to coerce a party into succumbing to demands - and ultimately - abandoning legitimate claims against her ensigns and employers.
Do her neighbours in Trabuco Canyon know what skullduggery she's up to when she slips out at night to to foist cars out from under unsuspecting citizens deep in slumber, unaware of the evil that is about to descend on them?
Her associates are prone to make outrageous threats, as well.
On more than one occasion, sources have informed me that callers at her behest, have hissed at startled victims,
"Unless you return the vehicle now, a bounty hunter will track you down."
In fact, PI's often make menacing calls several times a day, in spite of the fact Consumer Protection Statutes specify that such conduct by debt collectors is unlawful.
And to think this kind of repulsive conduct is condoned by auto dealerships like Sunrise Ford (San Fernando Valley) and others in the Los Angeles area.
The film "Repo Man" wasn't far off in its depiction of the trade!
You'd think these establishments were run by the mob, and that at any given moment, burly guys in black suits with spaghetti on their ties might show up to break legs and bust heads.
Unfortunately, Ms. Holmes has been so clever at covering her tracks, and concealing her elusive whereabouts by deceitfully using aliases, that victims have been unable to bring legal action or lodge a complaint against her with State Officials who regulate the conduct of Private Investigators.
Understandably, the field is so poorly policed, that most of these degenerates get away with their harassment and what amounts to "Urban Terrorism".
Until now, that is.
A formal complaint was lodged against Ms. Holmes this past week with the State Attorney Generals office and an investigation is pending.
It boggled my mind to learn friends of the parties being "chased down" had the audacity to answer phone calls from these flakes - and on occasion - disclosed intimate facts about their friends and family without hesitation. I'd show them the door!
Thereafter, Ms. Holmes and her henchmen used the private and confidential information to further their cause.
A handful of intelligent consumers have gotten wise over the years, have you?
Out of curiosity, I took a course for Private Detectives a few years back, to get a take on the "industry".
What an eye-opening experience!
I was flabbergasted to learn what any bozo is capable of dredging up on the Internet, with a few tools of the trade, and some smarts at his or her fingertips.
The first place a skip tracer checks?
The voter's list of course; the info is a matter of public record and easy to obtain. Yeah, although you think you're doing your civic duty when you sign up each year to vote, you may be opening yourself up to the clever maneuverings of an ambitious bill collector, a stalker, or worse.
Rent a mail box at the local post office. Then, use the secure mailing address for all records that filter into the public realm, so no prying eyes can act on 'em.
To avoid further scrutiny, be wary of signing up willy-nilly for subscriptions to newspapers and magazines. After all, it's a snap for an experienced PI to access those files, too.
Did you know that detailed financial information on mortgage papers are in the public domain, as well? Granted, a person has to engage in a little savvy leg at the Hall of Records to secure the data, but when bucks are involved - you bet your sweet bippy - someone will be quick on the uptake.
After all, mortgage documents not only reveal the name of your bank, but your social security number, and your marital status - among other things.
With this information, the PI can saunter off on another tangent; who knows, maybe access IRS records by their automated system, or find out your last transaction from a credit report to fathom where you shop.
Then, use the info to lay in wait for you!
Most of these pretentious d**ks are just small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. Once their victim coughs up the money, or they manage to snatch up the vehicle, they'll go their merry way.
But, shouldn't you take precautions for the future?
Use a Post Office Box to ensure your home address is confidential and out of the public record. For instance, direct mail for your Driver's License, credit card accounts, and bank statements to that location for security reasons. In the event you are ever out-of-town on holiday, or business, it may be lifesaver and bring you peace of mind to boot.
Use a voice mail number for applications, surveys on the street and contests to avoid being the victim of thieves, spammers, and rip-off salesmen.
Use initials to signify your identity whenever possible on subscriptions for e-mail newsletters, magazines, and the like, to protect gender info and throw off potential stalkers.
Use a secret code on your telephone account so no one can access your statement over the phone without your knowledge or permission.
Install a secret code on credit card accounts to prevent a review of your account without your authorization or knowledge.
Buy a call display screen device for your phone so you can verify the identity of a caller before you pick up. If you're out when a message was left, use reverse look-up (Internet Search) before returning the call for further protection. If the number is not listed, and the caller claimed to be a business entity or service provider, be cautious. It may be a scam and/or a fraudulent attempt to "fish" for information.
And, finally, inform your family and friends not to give out personal and confidential information on the telephone to anyone - under any circumstances - without your permission first, no matter how tempting.
After all, protection starts at home...
Be wary of Micro cameras in belt buckles...