Making a difference: The case of catching a cheating spouse

The most gratifying kinds of private investigator cases are the ones where I feel I made a profound difference in the end.

Catching a cheating spouse can be far from the end. It’s actually just the beginning in some cases, even here in California, a “no fault” state where assets are divided evenly, and here’s why…

Mr. and Mrs. Martin, a wealthy couple married more than 20 years, owned a company that manufactured a well-known product too common for me to disclose. They enjoyed a very successful business they launched after they were married but were now in family court after Mr. Martin decided to be unfaithful.

Mr. Martin decided he didn’t want to split the assets 50/50, so decided he was going to embezzle funds from his own company by over-paying one of his vendors in Taiwan. That customer, Mr. Lee agreed to kick back those funds to the tune of $1 million. My assignment was to fly there and get documentation proving Mrs. Martin’s allegations.

I had 11 grueling hours on a non-stop flight with nothing but time to think about how I’m going to find this vendor, and convince him to provide me with the documentation to prove how much he paid back to Mr. Martin. Bank records or cancelled checks were all that would satisfy the court. Could I get them from the bank somehow, or from the Mr. Lee?

I decided on Mr. Lee, hoping that he’d believe my bluff that if he didn’t cooperate, the U.S. would bring charges against him for conspiracy to embezzle funds. Any time a P.I. is operating away from his turf, it’s a good idea to hire local back up, so I hired off-duty cop Mr. Wu from Hong Kong to interpret.

We pull up to Mr. Lee’s factory, found with the help of a local detective agency. I walked in with Mr. Wu in the event Mr. Lee was going to pull the, “I don’t speak English” routine. I pulled out my badge and license and identified myself as a private investigator from the U.S., representing the interests of Mrs. Martin.

He acknowledged my presence and knew exactly why I was there. Through the interpretation of Mr. Wu, I began the interrogation and two hours later, I was nowhere. Mr. Lee asked that we leave but invited us to return the next morning. I agreed.

I showed up early the next morning, alone. Lee’s English was better than mine which I had suspected, so I left Detective Wu behind. I wasn’t there five minutes making small talk with his secretary when suddenly I was startled with “Put your hands up against the wall!”

“Holy shoot” I thought, “Are we being robbed,” or — “Police!” someone shouted. I turned around only to be greeted by a half-a-dozen guns pointed at my head.

Out from the crowd walks a short, geeky-lookin’ American FBI agent who asked to see my I.D. What relief I felt, as flashes of me rotting away in some foreign prison quickly passed through my head.

I took out my wallet and handed it over as I’m listening to this FBI agent arguing with Mr. Lee’s brother, charging me with impersonating an FBI agent. No wonder he invited me to come back. I was set up!

The American spoke perfect Chinese and was arguing for my freedom but it sounded like I was losing. Suddenly, the FBI agent handed me back my wallet and said I was free to go.

The agent told me I was cleared to continue with Mr. Lee so long as the brother, Mr. Lee could observe. I agreed, of course.

A half-hour later, I walked out with $1 million worth of cancelled checks made payable to a dummy corporation owned by Mr. Martin.

I returned to Orange County the day Richard Nixon was buried, to testify at the Martin trial where my client was awarded a half-million dollars.

Another win for the good guys!

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