Monthly Archives: August 2012

8 Facts to Try to Gather Before You Start a Search for Someone

Before starting a search for someone or hiring someone to conduct the search, you should try to collect as much information about the subject of your search as you can.  Below is list of 8 facts that really help find the subject of your search.  You don’t need all 8, but the more you have at the start of your search, the greater the likelihood of success.

1.  Correct Spelling of the subject’s Name

You won’t believe how much this helps and how often people don’t have it.

2.  A Middle Name or Middle Initial

This can really help narrow your search.

3.  Date of Birth (DOB)

This again can go a long way toward narrowing your search to the person you are looking for.  Just knowing the year of birth is helpful in because many sites will include an age range for possible matches.  The Sacramento County Case Index allows you to search criminal records using the subject’s name and DOB.  This really narrows things for the person doing the search.  Yolo County requires a DOB to run a criminal case file search.

4.  Social Security Number

Although this can be tough to come by, it really helps with the expensive national data base searches.  Having a SSN is kind of like finding fingerprints on the murder weapon.

5.  Last Know Address

Having the last know address or any address known to have been good is a huge aid in finding someone.  Even if it is just a city or town, as long as you know it was good once upon a time it can be of help.

6.  The Subject’s Profession

When running a search it can be of great help to include the subject’s profession or the name of the company they were known to work for.

7.  Hobbies or Other Interests

Much like a subject’s profession, adding a known hobby or interest to your search queries can lead to the right person.

8.  Other Related Parties

The name of the subject’s spouse, parents or children can help you sift through court files, residence records and in come cases you will find who you are looking for by checking the social media sites maintained by people associated with your subject.

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Expectation Management – Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)

In Part One of this series we defined success in finding a particular subject as locating and contacting the subject.  The most common reason for that a search is unsuccessful relates to the failure to find the subject.  However, if you find your subject the job is only half done.  You still need to contact your subject.  If you are serving a complaint of subpoena to need to make contact in order to have successful service.  If you want to interview the person, you need to contact and hope they will talk with.  Those are situations in which you “need” find and contact your subject.  In those cases, how badly you need that person will determine how much time and money you are willing to expend to get the job done.

In one case, I had to contact the subject’s  friends in the United States and then contact him in the minefields of Kenya.  In that case, we were fortunate that he was a very cooperative witness.

If your search is of the “want” variety your decision may be quite different.  Finding old friends, associates, classmates, comrades in arms or lovers generally falls into the “want” category.  Though you may find them and try to contact them, they may not be responsive to your overtures.   The reasons for not responding to your attempts to re-establish contact are pretty reasonable and should be understandable.

They may wish to leave the past in the past.  They have moved on and like where they are.  Maybe they moved on and they are embarrassed about where they are.  Either way, they want to leave the past right where it is.

What you think of as the good old days, really weren’t so good for them and they don’t want re-visit memories that aren’t too pleasant to recall.

Perhaps they thought you were a butt-head when they knew you and they are trying to live as butt-head free as possible.  If you broke up with them, they may still think you’re a jerk.

Maybe they are just lazy and they keep forgetting to get back to you.

Whatever the reason is, you need to respect it.  If they are important enough for you to want to reach out to them, then they are important enough to have their privacy respected.

If you are certain that you located the person you are looking for and they don’t get in touch with you, the search wasn’t a total loss.  At least you know they are still out there kicking and you know where they kicking.

There is probably a thin line between legitimately trying to reconnect with someone and becoming a stalker.  No one should want to knowingly or accidentally cross that line.  Knowing where the line is becomes the challenge.  I suspect the placement of that line varies from person to person.  I suggest that my students follow the Three Strike Rule.

In California we have the Three Strike Rule that involves sentencing criminals who have been convicted of a three or more felonies.  When it comes to contacting people you “want” to get in touch with I suggest applying a Three Strike Rule as well.

If you contact a person three times (regardless of what means you use) and you don’t hear back from them, let it go.  Don’t become upset or insulted.  Respect the fact that they must have a good reason and let it go.  You wouldn’t want to be hounded by someone you really don’t want to get back in touch with, so treat the subject of your search with the same respect you would hope that others would show you.

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Expectation Management – Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 1)

Before you begin your own search or retain someone to search on your behalf, you need to know that success cannot be guaranteed.  If you have an unlimited budget, the odds of success (success being defined not only as finding a person or thing that you are looking for, but also making contact with that person or thing) are greatly improved.  However, given that most of us will be working with a limited budget the likelihood that our search will result in complete success is reduced.

The first reason you may not have success is due to the fact that the person or thing you are looking for can’t be found using only a computer and telephone or it doesn’t exist.  Among those things not likely to exist are hidden pockets of wealth such as real property, hidden bank accounts and stock portfolios.  More often than not, a client’s belief that such things must exist is based on wishful or spiteful thinking.  If an ex-spouse, ex-partner or ex-business partner took off with cash, the cash is more than likely spent, not stashed.

Sometimes people cannot be found because they are “off the gird.”  In this case, its the information grid.  Whether intentionally or not, people may not show up through basic search techniques because they just aren’t leaving a paper trail and they are not utilizing any of the more familiar social networks.  If they do not buy a house, rent an apartment, buy or rent a car or otherwise establish credit, they may not show with any current information.  If they live with others, but do appear on a lease or mortgage, they may not show up anywhere.  Even basic white pages searches are less productive than they once were because so many people rely exclusively on their cell phones.  (Mobile phones for our European readers.)

I had one case that took 2 and 1/2 years to find the subject largely because he just stopped living in a way that left much of a trail and he had fairly common name. (See the upcoming post on information to collect before you search) In case you are wondering if I was slacking off, the FBI didn’t find him at all.  That does happen with regularity, particularly when a person makes a concerted effort to live “off the grid.”

For all the reasons stated above, young people are difficult to track even if they use Facebook or any other social network.  If they have a common name, you may have to try to work your way through many hundreds of possible matches on Facebook alone.  If you are hiring someone to do the search the meter is running and that part of the search alone could take a great many hours. Teenagers and people in their early twenties can be very difficult to track until they start applying for credit or start their own businesses.

When starting a search, you must keep in mind that the possibility exists that the subject of your search cannot be found, at least for now.

Next:  Why search results can’t be guaranteed. (Part 2)

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Now on Facebook too.

We now have a Facebook page too.

You can check it out at and we hope that you will.

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Why my Learning Exchange Class has a subtitle.

As I wrote in my initial post, I teach a class at the Learning Exchange (LEX) entitled, “Find Anything on Anyone.”  Yeah, the title was created by the LEX, so its a little too broad.  As a result, I added the subtitle “Without Getting Sued or Going to Jail.” Lest anyone should think that I put that in for the sake of humor alone, I awoke today to learn of two cases that highlight the point.

I heard about the first case as I awoke to Morning Edition on National Public Radio.  If you recall from my post about what I do as an investigator, I said that although its great to dig up the information or evidence that your client would most love to get, that doesn’t always happen.  My job isn’t to manufacture evidence, just collect it.  Apparently and attorney and his investigators in Florida forget that important truth.  (

The NPR piece doesn’t say if the mother-daughter PI team was convicted, but the attorney in the case faces a prison sentence of up to ten years.  Instead of clearing the mines, they planted some and then stepped right on the very ones they planted.

The other case is closer to home.  A PI here in Northern California was arrested for fraudulently obtaining police reports.  Normally, policy reports do not fall into the realm of public records but according to Government Code Section 6254 (f), they are available in a redacted form to:

“victims of an incident, or authorized representative thereof, an insurance carrier against which a claim has been or might be made, and any person suffering bodily injury or property damage or loss, as the result of the incident caused by arson, burglary, fire, explosion, larceny, carjacking, vehicle theft, or a crime as defined by subdivision (b) of Section 13951…”

There are a number of limitations to this rule and the full text can be found at

The PI in this case was hired by the former wife in a family law dispute.  He may or may not have been working under the direction of the former wife’s attorney.  This is important because much of the evidence in the case may be protected by the work product privilege and not be discoverable.  This is why I always want to work at the direction of attorney.

The PI, who is also a former parole agent/officer, hung his old credentials around is neck and showed up at police departments seeking the files related to a woman living with the ex-husband in the case.  He allegedly represented himself as a currently active Parole Agent (and not for the purpose of entertaining at a bachelorette party) and thereby gained access to files in up to four counties.   In none of the cases did his action fall within the limitations of Government Code 6254 (f) and therefore is has been arrested and is being represented by Mark Reichel of the Law Office of Reichel & Plesser. (You can learn more about this firm at

Regardless of whether or not the PI in question misrepresented himself and in so doing opened himself, his client and her attorney to criminal prosecution and civil litigation, the amazing part is that he didn’t even have to go through the effort of getting police files.  By simply finding out where the subject of his investigation lived over the last 10 – 15 years he could have checked the criminal court files in each county.  Those files are within the realm of public records (except portions that are sealed by the court).  Had he done that, he would be off the hook and so would his client and her attorney.  (For more on this case you can check the Sacramento Bee at

If he took my class, he would have learned that in the first hour and no one would be going to jail or getting sued.

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John Kennedy Investigations has gone international.

Yesterday we went international when our blog was viewed in Canada and Greece.  It feels sooooo worldly.

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Pulling a Paul Drake

Back in the days of black and white television one of the biggest hits on the tube was Perry Mason.   Based on the character introduced in the the novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Burr played undefeated (or at least it seemed that way) attorney Perry Mason.  He was assisted by his dashing private investigator Paul Drake (played by William Hopper.)

It was a 30 minute show and as a general rule the show ended with Perry breaking down a key witness through brilliant cross-examination or Paul Drake would peek in through the courtroom doors with a missing witness or other key piece of evidence in hand.  Perry would ask for a brief recess and the Paul would cruise down the aisle to the front of the court and present Perry with goods that would turn the case in his client’s favor.

To me, that is “pulling a Paul Drake.”  I have always wanted to show up in some courthouse with the that key witness or other evidence that will blow the case wide open.  I’ve come close, but I’ve never had a moment that dramatic in my career.  In fact, it is unlikely that I ever will.  Modern rules of discovery mean that all the digging for evidence should be done before the parties go in the courtroom.  Therefore, it is highly unlikely that anything of a last-minute nature would get before a trier of fact (jury or judge.)

Just the same, when I do find some really good nugget that goes a long way toward helping my client’s case, I think about peeking in the courtroom, getting my client’s attention and then “pulling a Paul Drake.”

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