From the files:
Stage Door Process Service
A recent service of process assignment had for its subject an up-and-coming actress who, we determined through industry contacts, was appearing in a play in a small theater in Hollywood.
Having learned that the cast arrived two hours prior to the 7:00 p.m. show, our investigator presented himself at the box office at 5:00 p.m., only to learn that the evening’s performance was sold out. Knowing that a ticket would secure entry into the theater, the investigator explained to the clerk at the box office that he was a casting agent who had been away in Australia for several weeks, but who very badly needed to attend that performance, as he was holding an important audition the following week.
The box office manager told our investigator to check back close to curtain time, and that he would have first crack at any cancellations that came through. Looking around, the investigator then noticed a group of young women outside the theater. He approached them and learned that they were performing in the show, and also that the subject usually arrived only very shortly before the performances’ starting times. He repeated his casting director story, which got one of the women with whom he was speaking (who turned out to be the director of the play) to offer him one of the tickets that were kept back for industry people such as he.
Ticket in hand, the investigator retreated to await the arrival of the subject, on the chance that she might be intercepted prior to entering the theater’s back door. At 6:45, a black SUV pulled up alongside the theater, and several women emerged, including the subject, whom the investigator recognized from a photo. There was no immediate physical access to the subject, who then entered the theater.
We had a female investigator on the job as well. She had obtained a small bunch of flowers, and, after the subject had entered the theater, approached the box office manager, saying that she was a friend of the subject’s, and that she wanted to give her the flowers and to wish her well before the performance. The box office manager told her to wait, and sent someone backstage to contact the subject, who appeared two minutes later. “Hi, ***,” said the investigator. “Yes?” The investigator then informed the subject that she was being served legal documents, which she initially refused, but subsequently accepted.
Three Strike Law
A client came to us who had been in a seriously wrong place at the wrong time. He was at home with his wife when the police arrived at the door and arrested him for Grand Theft Firearm – a felony in California that comes with up to three years in prison and that counts as a strike according to the Three Strike Law.
He was innocent, but a large amount of circumstantial evidence (and the lack of an alibi) pointed to him. His situation was worsened when he was picked out of a line-up by a witness. It was starting to look like an open-and-shut case for the police.
The client and his wife were desperate when, literally at their wits’ end, they called us and asked us to investigate what the police weren’t.
It took a lot of work (some of it undercover), but we did manage to locate the person who actually had stolen the gun, and turned our evidence over to the police, who arrested the man and released our client. (Although the case has yet to come to trial as we write this, it appears that the D.A.’s case will incorporate much of the evidence we obtained.)
Vanished family member
A very strange case we handled began with a family having dinner at a restaurant. One of the family members got up to go to the men’s room – and never came back. It was as though he had disappeared into thin air.
The family called in the police, but, as there were no signs of violence attached to the disappearance and no crime appeared to have been committed, they let the case go cold, leaving the family baffled, upset, and unsure whether or not their family member was alive or dead.
They hired a private investigator, but he was unable to locate the family member, and told the family to give up.
That they did, until, a few years later, one of the family decided to give it another shot. Almost at random, they picked our name off the Internet, and put us on the case. It took us across four states, but we did find the missing person – after recognizing that the vanished family member was likely following the instructions in the book Vanishing Point: How to Disappear in America Without a Trace. Without recognizing the pattern from the book, it is unlikely that the man would ever have been found, as he had planned his disappearance extremely well.
Although there was no fond reunion, and the man did not return to his original family (which wants to keep the reasons for the disappearance private), they do at least know that he is alive and well, and have had a huge load of worry taken off their shoulders.
Serving Legal Documents on Celebrities
One reason why private investigators are so often called upon in cases of service of process is that people to be served often attempt to evade service by making themselves unreachable. Celebrities often seek to avoid process servers as a matter of course, and serving them can prove a significant challenge to the investigator/server of process.
Often, the bigger the celebrity, the bigger the entourage, and, the bigger the entourage, the harder it is to reach the celebrity physically. (That is, of course, one reason why entourages are there in the first place.) On a recent service job, the celebrity – an actor – was known for the size of the entourage that traveled with him, and our client (the law firm) needed him served in under 48 hours.
We were able to obtain information that the subject to be served was planning a personal meeting in a public park the following afternoon, incognito, and without the entourage. Expecting that there would be at least one bodyguard at a distance, we sent two servers to stake the park out. The disguise was a very good one, and, at first, neither of our people recognized the actor. When they finally did, they went into a decoy act, with one server moving in from one direction to distract the bodyguard we suspected was there (and he was), and the other moving in with the court documents.
It was a complex operation – requiring access to information, planning and skill of execution – but it came off. The firm that had hired us all but told us it couildn’t be done in time. We pulled it off.
The girl had run away with her boyfriend
Some of the most emotionally difficult cases we handle are those involving missing children, whose parents are often beside themselves with worry, and who generally turn to us when they feel that the police have failed them. Cases like these require an emotional understanding of the client and a great deal of discretion where minors are concerned.
Although we cannot divulge particulars in detail, a mother and father recently came to us, hoping to find their teenage daughter who, they suspected, had run away. The girl had run away with her boyfriend, and our investigators were able to locate both of them before they’d crossed the state line. We were thus able to return both teenagers to their families, to considerable relief from all parties.