The Business/Legal Investigator

February 10, 2010

In This Issue:

Crooks, Employer Help & Surveillances

(1) South American Theft Groups here in Southwest Florida!
(2) Do you know where your vehicles are right now?
(3) Surveillance Demystified.


With the holidays now behind us, it is time to get on with 2010! Hopefully, this new year will bring economic recovery and increased opportunity. In this issue I share a couple of interesting items I came across since our last contact.

First, I attended a seminar/workshop sponsored by The Lee County Sheriff's Office in late January. The presentation was made by South American Theft Group Intelligence Network. In this issue of The Business Investigator I provide you with some data you really need to know about a criminal enterprise taking root here in SW Florida. Serious stuff!

Next, at a Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce meeting I discovered a service that any business with company vehicles on the road should know about.

Finally, I offer one of my favorite subjects: "Surveillance Demystified!"

As always, the purpose of this E-newsletter is to Protect Profits and Prevent Losses for our business clients and on-line readers. We appreciate your feedback!


David B. Watts, CLI, CFE

ALLIED BUSINESS SOLUTIONS, solely owned d/b/a of
Interprobe Affiliates, Inc. a Florida Corporation
(Our twentieth year serving our clients in Soutwest Florida!)
FL Lic. No. A89-00394



Collectively, South American Theft Groups (SATGs) represent one of the largest criminal organizations throughout the United States and Canada and, according to law enforcement authorities, they have arrived here in SW Florida. We customarily associate this type of activity with Miami-Dade and other urban locales; but several recent arrests in Lee and Collier County belie that notion. The bad guys are, indeed, here!

South American Theft Groups are organized rings of pickpockets, scammers and thieves who travel the nation targeting salesmen, retail stores, shoppers and the elderly. Group members have been linked to armed robberies, kidnappings, and even para-military and terrorist groups. They lie in wait at ATM's to mug the unsuspecting. They target jewelry stores and their couriers. They use homemade (yet sophisticated) "booster bags" in retail shops. These bags have trick bottoms and are lined with aluminum to thwart electronic door monitors. We are told not to think of these as petty criminals...they are professionals and have resorted to violence when cornered. Law enforcement is taking them very seriously!

Robert Taylor of SATGIN advises that there are at least two Peruvian and Columbian cells operating in South Florida, including our area. Believe it or not, these are family operations and the young ones are trained from childhood to take part in these crimes. When confronted by police they are, at first, polite; but at first opportunity they will become violent to effect their escape. Don't make the mistake of looking upon these as petty criminals, small time shoplifters, etc. These are multi-million dollar criminal enterprises with deep financial resources and are organized loosely along the model of the early Italian Mafia. A $400,000.00 bail bond was posted by one recently arrested. Unfortunately, the system usually deports offenders, only to have them reappear on our streets six months later. Law enforcement has been educating prosecutors and judges in this regard, so the perception of "minor offenses" will fade in time.

I strongly advise you to look further into this by contacting Robert Taylor of SATGIN. If there is truth in the saying, "Knowledge is power"; as a local business person, you need to be prepared and alert to this current danger. I will be happy to connect you with SATGIN, if you email or call.



In order to service your customers, many of you lease or own company vehicles. Your employees are assigned use of these vehicles and you hope they operate them safely. Also, you expect your helpers to be where and when they are supposed to be. After all, you can't ride along with everyone, right? you can! Not literally, not figuratively; rather, ...technically, you can, indeed, "ride along" with your employees.

Vehicle tracking has been around for a long time. Now, however, prices have adjusted downward, while the technology has improved. You should take a serious look at this effective method of monitoring your business in the field without leaving your office. Just crank up your computer and you can determine real-time speed, location, direction of travel, and time spent at stops for each vehicle. You can even maintain a history of these activities to better streamline your operation.

I am enthusiastic about this service, which costs about 83 cents a day after one low-priced unit cost and installation fee. As one who works for businesses and, our slogan being Preventing Losses and Protecting Profits, I see this service as a solid tool for employers. In case you were about to ask: It is perfectly legal to electronically monitor your owned or leased vehicle, with or without employee knowledge.

John Myer of Qualicom has authorized me to write this article and asks that you contact me to find out more about this amazing service.



by David B. Watts, CLI, CFE

First, let's establish that we are talking about the kind of surveillance you would expect a private investigator to do. That is, not fixed surveillance cameras in front of ATM machines and not government-run overhead satellites nor intersection red light traps. This is about following someone around without their knowledge and, perhaps, taking videotape or still photography along the way.

If I had to come up with one word that encapsulates the essence of surveillance work, it would be... patience! It comes with the job description. No success! Sure, you have to gain experience and have the tools of the trade; but it really takes a certain type of person to undergo the physical and psychological stresses of surveillance work.

Surveillance arises out of insurance cases when the claimant is suspected of presenting a fraudulent or over-stated claim. Surveillance is also employed in marital and custody matters. Employers utilize surveillance services when the exercise requires monitoring employees, competitors, vendors or a partner's activities. In short, whenever there is a basis for looking at another's activities without them being aware of the effort, surveillance is often the method employed.

There are legal considerations, to be sure. One of my favorite sayings is, "A cat can look at a king." That my be true; but when it comes to legal surveillance, not through his window and into his castle! The public sphere is open to surveillance, so if you didn't want anyone to see what you were doing, you shouldn't do it out in the open. Then, there is the "Plain Sight Doctrine." If I can see it without taking any extreme measures, such as trespass or unauthorized entering, it is usually accepted. Well, all that is subject to scrutiny, on a case-by-case basis, so when under cross-examination the investigator better have known what he can do and what he cannot do.

Here is a great example of contradicting surveillance evidence. The plaintiff in a civil case alleged that she was totally disabled and in great pain. While working for the defense,we found her singing in a small band at a local restaurant. She rythmically swayed and gyrated around, while putting her songs across. Our investigator got twenty minutes of outstanding video, which drastically undermined and refuted her claim allegations. Her attorney argued, "Since in Florida it is illegal to audio tape record another without permission (...that's true!) and the fact that they recorded both the video and the audio, the evidence should be inadmissable." The Court decided, after hearing defense counsel's rebuttal, that inasmuch as the Plaintiff was entertaining in public she had no expectation of privacy (audio or video); ergo, there was no violation of the audio statute. Her permission to audio/videotape was implied. You see how this can become complicated and requires great care when making field decisions on a survellance assignment.

David B. Watts, CLI, CFE
(239) 472-5506 (Lee County)
(239) 430-1130 (Collier County)

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