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Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024


Editor’s Note: Thomas G. Martin, a former supervisory Federal agent, is the owner of Martin Investigative Services, a Newport Beach-based private investigation firm with 22 private investigators, many of whom are former agents with the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service. What follows are excerts from his book, “Seeing Life Through Private Eyes.”

As an ambitious young agent in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in the late sixties, I was gung-ho about America’s newly declared “War on Drugs.” Early on, I set my sights high and decided I was going to become the number two guy in the entire agency. The number one spot was chosen by the president.

I suffered a leg injury and both the DEA physician and my own doctor insisted it was a career ender.

Some 40 years later, I know my forced retirement was the best thing that ever happened to me. As a government agent, I made some major busts and put away some highly dangerous individuals, which certainly saved a few lives somewhere.

In this job as a PI, I change lives every day and it’s easy to judge my results. I get the guy out of jail, or I don’t. I find all the missing assets, or I don’t. There’s not a whole lot of grays in this job.


In the early ’80s, I rented a tiny one-room office and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t so I volunteered to be an investigator for local newspapers and television stations.

In a divorce where the wife accused her husband of having sex with his young stepdaughter, he was convicted. I thought he was guilty but after finding evidence, including that the prosecutor was sleeping with the victim, the case was dismissed. After this case, my office was flooded with requests.

After three years, it dawned on me that I should get corporate clients. This was a simple matter of finances: Individuals cannot afford to pay the fees that a huge company can.


I used to keep a list on my website of the top 16 or so family law attorneys in Orange County but had to take it down. With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in many divorces, people started consulting the list and making appointment with the top five or six attorneys in town to prevent their spouses from being able to hire them in the event they were divorced.


I’m the most expensive PI in the country and that’s because I pay my employees the most. They deserve it because they’re the best of the best.


Unfortunately, we live in the golden age of the con artist.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who own a helicopter and live in a $10 million mansion but don’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain when it comes to investments.

Criminals are rarely prosecuted for business crimes such as embezzlement. Law enforcement is up to their eyeballs in work. Even when I go in to tell an officer, “This person stole a million dollars from my client!” the reaction is likely to be a blank stare, a yawn.


The business landscape has changed enormously in the decades since I hung out my shingle, but the need for top-notch security in every area is more important than ever before.

No Director of Security, no matter how skilled or experienced, can cover every need of today’s complex business environment. This is where a top-notch private investigator comes in.

Ask your Security Director if he or she would be willing to retain an outside company to review the effectiveness of all security functions—every last system, from company email passwords to fire and safety drills to payroll procedures. Be wary of the director who simply will not even consider this process.


In any given company of 50 or more employees, 15% of the employees are stealing something: Time, money or product. That number was consistent for decades throughout corporate America.

Granted, most of this stealing is time, a common practice which is often dismissed by management, especially in this era of working from home.


Quick Tips:

•  Company positions are usually filled through Human Resources, with the candidate’s personal information generally being run through a local background company for a cursory review costing under a hundred dollars. About 90% of private investigators and information brokers simply use the internet to gather this information, then charge you for data any teenager could access. 

Remember, when it comes to background checks, you get what you pay for.

•  Great investigators possess the most important tool in our industry, the art of “interview and interrogation.” That skill can become invaluable when hiring the highest level senior positions. A personal interview by a PI armed with a detailed amount of data— not culled from the internet or social media pages—should be a final step.

Any trouble spots such as messy divorces, tax liens, legal entanglements and so forth can then be probed by a qualified third party. Unlike HR, the PI need not be concerned about hurting the candidate’s feelings.

It’s just one last step in the hiring process—one that can go either way. The interview might confirm the executive’s high level of competency and clear up any issues or turn red flags into five-alarm fires that will eliminate the candidate before they are offered the job, thereby eliminating years of headaches in the future. Forewarned is forearmed.

•  Every business should consider conducting a sweep of their offices for monitoring devices and cameras on an annual basis. There are many fakers and pretenders out there offering this service with wands bought from Best Buy, so be vigilant in your selection process for what is not an inexpensive proposition.

The “find rate” in corporate America for locating these devices is about 16% so we always tell our clients there is an 84% chance that they have nothing to worry about. But the peace of mind to speak freely assured of unwanted surveillance? Priceless.

•  The single most important factor in security systems is what company is monitoring your home. The biggest scam going in this arena is monthly monitoring fees between $50 to $75/month…ridiculous. We can point you to a company that monitors for $18/month, including residence security and fire. And once that first-class system is installed and correctly monitored? Insist the 

executives use it. People tend to get complacent. The best system in the world must be armed and ON to work!

•  Your confidence is high because your IT department has advised all is well with your network: They have established firewalls to prevent any penetration from hackers or competitors.

Sounds good, but inventive hackers continue to bring large companies to their knees every few months. We recommend an outside company test your systems every six months. Does your security director or IT person balk at this suggestion?

Such testing is a highly-specialized service and not one we specifically provide but, like home security systems, we have a strong field of experts who know all the latest scams and provide unparalleled protection.

•  When it is time to hire, remember that an estimated 30% of private investigators have gone out of business since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Consequently, many have tried to reinvent themselves in areas where they possess no expertise. Do your homework and ask colleagues and associates for referrals. Make sure the company is licensed and in good standing in the state where they are operating.

A professional business office you can visit and positive Google reviews are always a good sign.

The advantage to having a private eye business consult is that they will find you the answers and experts you need to secure all your business operations.

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