Probably not. Picture someone planning on starting a new business saying this to their (less than tactful) accountant: “George, I have fantastic news. I’m about to start a new business. And I’m so excited because I’m planning to have one piece of software keep track of revenue, and a totally different software account for my expenses. And here is the best part … these two pieces of software won’t ever communicate with each other!” The accountant’s response would probably be along the lines that this was a monumentally bad idea and would never work. We can chuckle a bit at this exchange, and yet we just described every dental practice.
The disconnect between practice management software and the accounting process is one of the major reasons that accountants find less than 10% of the embezzlement that takes place in dental practices. However, many practitioners still believe that their accountant is a cornerstone of their protection against embezzlement.
The majority of embezzlement in dental practices is actually uncovered by the behavior of the staff member who is stealing. Our Embezzlement Risk Assessment Questionnaire is a low-cost way to evaluate the behavior of your employees. To get yours, click HERE.
No. California is one of 13 “Ban the Box” states. These states have enacted legislation that is designed to prevent people from being unreasonably denied employment because of a criminal record. Since about one in four US adults have criminal records, re-entry of these people into the workforce is viewed as an important part of their reintegration into society. The inability for people with criminal records to find legitimate work is often cited as a huge factor in recidivism.
The Ban the Box states have enacted rules that require employers to postpone performing criminal records checks, or asking questions like “do you have a criminal record” until after a conditional offer of employment has been extended. If an applicant has been offered employment, and the offer is subsequently withdrawn when a criminal record has been discovered, this places a fairly strong onus on the employer to justify the withdrawal, and the relevance of the criminal record to the job.
In other words, the employer has to be prepared to answer how a criminal record made an otherwise fully qualified applicant (as evidenced by the job offer) unsuitable for the job. By isolating this one factor, the laws seek to prevent peremptory discrimination against those with criminal records, and to stop employers from using some other justification for denying employment to those with criminal records.
Most states with Ban the Box legislation carve out a specific exemption for jobs that work with vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. Since most dental practices do deal with these vulnerable cohorts, Ban the Box legislation will probably not end up forcing dental practices to hire people that they otherwise would not; instead it provides more of a procedural hurdle, forcing a certain sequencing in the hiring process and necessitating a review of documents like application forms.
And Ban the Box legislation reinforces a concept that we have long espoused. Whether you are in a Ban the Box state or not, the mere existence of a criminal record should not always prevent you from hiring someone. If someone does have a criminal record, you need to look at various factors. For example, was it a one-time transgression, or is there a pattern of criminality? Was the offense recent or a long time ago? Was it for possession of marijuana (which is now legal in many states) or check fraud? The answers to these questions will give insight into whether someone poses a risk to your practice.
So for most dentists, Ban the Box legislation does not threaten them in any way with the possibility of hiring someone who is a danger. What this legislation does is force employers, including you, to look more closely at criminal records before making a decision.
It continues to amaze us that the people who we refer to as “serial embezzlers” continue to find jobs in dental practices. One skill that dentists, and others involved in the hiring process, seem to lack is the ability to read resumes critically.
Here is the 2019 resume of one serial embezzler. She has used different names at various times including Unique Wells and Unique Edmond. She has a lengthy criminal record, and her own page in our Hall of Shame — https://www.prosperident.com/hiring-alert-nevada/ .
So let’s take a forensic look at her resume and the attached reference letter. A few things pop out:
Work experience on the resume is limited to two corporately-owned dental practices. Many practice owners do not bother checking references, and thieves know that there is a bit more work involved in obtaining a reference from a large organization like a university or DSO than a solo practice. Embezzlers know that listing large organizations is enough to deter prospective employers from reference checking.
Her statement that she is willing to relocate for a job anywhere in the US is a bit overeager for the dental office manager or financial coordinator jobs that she is applying for.
The “some college” she has listed for education is concerningly vague. Most employers would expect to see which college, years attended, program studied etc. on a resume. It looks like Unique is trying hard to give as little past information as possible.
On the subject of vagueness, Unique lists no home address for herself.
Of course, she is not specific about which Henderson, NV Pacific Dental office she works in. There are actually four offices. She would not want you to call that office only to find out that she does not work there.
We tell practice owners to place no value whatsoever in written job references, because they are easy to forge. There are several clues to that fact that this reference letter is not real.
The reference letter is not on letterhead. Even if it was, that would provide no validation; letterhead is easy to forge. However the fact that this letter is not on letterhead, and is signed using a “script” font from a word processor, creates strong questions about its credibility.
Google searching suggest that the consultant, Kara Stevenson, and her company, do not exist.
The phone number listed for Kara Stevenson was answered by Unique when we called.
When reading the reference letter, one should be wondering in what context a consultant would be in a position to observe Unique’s work when her experience is limited to two DSOs. Most DSOs do not employ in-office consultants.
The lavish praise heaped on Unique seem inconsistent with the insurance coordinator position that she claims to have held for the past nine years. According to the consultant, Unique pretty much walks on water. If she really had the attributes “like an in-house consultant,””110% loyalty” and an “ownership mentality,”and was working for a DSO , and was willing to relocate, Pacific Dental Services (with over 700 offices, and growing by 80 per year) would have certainly promoted her by now, probably more than once.
We recently were provided with another resume that was used by someone using the name Marie Edmond. You may notice that the phone number, and much of the text is identical to that used by Unique.
Hiring is a challenging process. It is difficult to find the right person, particularly in a booming economy with a labor shortage. In this all-consuming process, it is easy to lose the skepticism that needs to be there. To make a clumsy pun, Unique is not unique. Many resumes have false, misleading or incomplete information. Many applicants have attributes that they do not want you to know about. We can never forget to question the completeness, internal consistency and reasonableness of a resume.
The following is an excerpt from David Harris’ upcoming book on protecting yourself from embezzlement. Stay tuned for the book release.
By now you know that embezzlement will eventually strike the majority of practicing dentists, and that amounts stolen can be significant.
There are a couple of things about this crime that surprises most of the dentists with whom I speak. First, when I bring up this topic with a dentist, typically what is in his or her mind is the theft of cash. And while employees who embezzle are thrilled to steal $20 bills, the amount that most practices receive in cash is small and decreasing. For most embezzlers to be able to steal the amounts that they think they should, many will evolve beyond stealing cash into targeting other forms of wealth transfer.
Cashing checks payable to you or the practice, hijacking credit card payments made to the practice, and intercepting direct deposits from insurance companies are all possibilities, and within the grasp of most thieves. The increasing level of automation in the banking system, and other technological innovations like e-deposits and devices that allow a smartphone to accept credit card payments, all play squarely into the hands of embezzlers.
The second area of surprise for most dentists is the interactive nature of this crime, and the ability of embezzlers to evaluate the systems in place in a particular office and to determine how to overcome or bypass those systems.
Many dentists start with an oversimplified view of embezzlement. They believe, and this belief has been reinforced by some of the dental literature, that blocking specific methodologies of embezzlement is the key to protecting yourself. So, for example, the practice owner should make bank deposits personally because doing so will thwart a would-be thief from stealing money from the deposit.
Someone in this situation who wants to steal will adapt, and the most common adaptation would be to find a way to have the practice management software underreport the amount received by the practice. Many practice owners believe that what is reported by their practice management software must be accurate, and this is not necessarily true.
There are lots of potential options for an embezzler; over the years I have seen hundreds of different methodologies employed, and ultimately this is what dooms the “denial of opportunity” strategies – embezzlers have too many possibilities for you ever to block them all.
So if the options available to a thief exceed your ability to block them, is this problem hopeless? Not at all; we need to shift our focus from blocking specific embezzlement methodologies to something more broad-minded.
Embezzlement consists of two elements – the act of stealing, which happens quickly and at the time and place chosen by the thief, and the act of concealment. Because of its fleeting nature, stealing is rarely observed by a dentist. However, concealment tends to be permanent, and therefore far easier to find.
The other “observable” is the behavior of a thief. In a study done by the American Dental Association, embezzlement victims were surveyed to determine what led them to realize that they were being stolen from. More than two-thirds of the victims who were surveyed said that some element of the thief’s behavior was the cause of their awakening.
The following series of steps are designed to maximize your chances of finding concealments and the behavioral indicia of embezzlement.
The daily and monthly reports from your practice management software that you review should be ones that you have printed yourself. Allowing a staff member to generate reports for you created the possibility of “selective reporting, where you are looking at a subset of the practice’s transactions while believing that you are seeing the whole practice. Once you have reviewed a report, put your initials on it to confirm that it is the one you saw, and store it under lock and key for at least a year.
The day-end reports from your software need to total accurately to the month-end report. Checking that these reports agree will allow you to detect if someone is processing payments on a day when the office is closed.
Every month, review the “deleted transactions” report and the “modified transactions” report, which may have slightly different names depending on the practice management software that you use. Deleted and modified transactions deserve particular scrutiny for irregularities.
Have all statements that you receive by mail such as your bank statement, credit card statements for office credit cards, merchant terminal statement (from the machine in the office that accepts credits card payments) sent to your home instead of your office. Let’s ensure that you see these first, and create a level of mystery about what you do with them.
Review the Accounts Receivable report, and when printing it, ask your software to print a report without credit balances. Sometimes embezzlers use “phantom” credit balances to conceal some balances owing by patients that represent amounts that the patients have actually paid, and a thief has pocketed.
On a monthly basis, reconcile the following to the totals in your practice management software: a. Bank account deposits including both those made by the practice and automatic payments from credit card companies. b. Credit card payments received c. Amounts placed with third-party financing and amounts paid to the practice from third-party financing If doing these reconciliations isn’t something you enjoy or are good at, it is permissible to outsource them to an external bookkeeper or an accounting firm. These reconciliations should never be done by someone working in the office or with access to your practice management software.
Ensure that every staff member takes vacation each year, and ensure that the majority of it is taken together. Every staff member needs to be away from the practice for at least two consecutive weeks each year. If someone is embezzling, making them leave the practice for long enough that someone else has to cover for them provides one of the best opportunities for you to catch them.
Where possible, divide up front desk duties so that the same person does not receive payments, record them in your practice management software and deposit them.
Have a written anti-fraud policy that clearly spells out what is fraudulent conduct.
Insist on cross-training of staff so that there is someone who can provide backup for every function performed by your front desk.
These ten steps will not take a lot of your time, but will dramatically increase your chances of spotting embezzlement in your practice quickly.
One of the most frequent comments we hear once the identity of an embezzler is confirmed is that he or she is “the last person I could imagine stealing”. Their surprise is understandable. We all have preconceptions about how criminals look, dress, speak, and act. Our mental image of the criminal is shaped by what we see on the news, TV dramas and by direct observation in our own communities.
Embezzlers will never fit this stereotype; many of them remind me of Sunday school teachers (which, in fact, some of them are). The explanation for why embezzlers do not fit the preconception is simple – you would never hire someone who looks your image of a criminal. So as an employer, you have already eliminated certain people because they haven’t passed your personal “smell test”, whereas everyone you hire has.
Criminologist Donald Cressey probably had the greatest influence on the development of our current understanding of economic crime. In his landmark 1973 book Other People’s Money, he proposed a framework called the Fraud Triangle. Cressey theorized that there were three necessary preconditions for fraud — Pressure, Opportunity and Rationalization.
Pressure Pressure can be either financial or emotional, and we sometimes label embezzlers with these characteristics as “Needy” and “Greedy” respectively. Needy embezzlers steal to address a financial need; some event has created a financial imbalance where more money is being spent by their household than what is being earned, and this deficiency has threatened their ability to keep themselves afloat. They steal to fund necessities like rent and mortgage payments. There are many possible triggering events. Some common ones are divorce, a spouse losing his or her job or an addiction of some kind.
In contrast, Greedy thieves steal to address an emotional deficit. In many cases, they feel that society (represented by you, their employer) has failed to recognize the true value of their talents, and they steal to address this perceived inequity (and to prove how truly smart they are). They may, perhaps even with justification, look at you as an intellectual peer. They conveniently forget the outlay you made to acquire your education and the financial and emotional burdens of practice ownership, and in their simplified worldview it seems unfair that you earn ten or twenty time what they do. Most of your staff, including any embezzlers you might be harboring, chronically overestimate what you take home. This overestimation increases the embezzler’s perception of inequity.
There are also those who derive emotional pleasure from the act of successfully taking a risk; they are somewhat analogous to the “celebrity shoplifters” we occasionally hear about. A spectacular example of this is one embezzler who we investigated who had been stealing from her doctor for several years when she won a $3 million lottery prize. If most dental staff staff members had that kind of lotto winning, they would probably quit their job, and on the way out the door would tell the doctor what they really thought of him or her.
This embezzler did not quit her job; she kept working. She also continued stealing and here is the interesting part. After her big win the amount she was stealing monthly increased. Since she clearly did not need the money that she was stealing, at that point her stealing was to address an emotional deficit and not a financial one.
One of the differentiating characteristics of Greedy thieves is how they spend their money. Needy thieves steal to protect their basic standard of living, but Greedy thieves spend conspicuously, and normally on luxury items that would otherwise be unaffordable; we have seen $140,000 automobiles, yachts and in one notable case the chartering of a plane to take friends on a shopping trip. The “egotistical” spending that we often see reinforces the view that the Greedy are stealing to address a self-esteem deficit.
A question I am often asked is whether embezzlement is more common when the economy is booming or in recession. Economic conditions affect our two cohorts differently. Tough times create more situations of financial desperation, and therefore more Needy thieves. When the economy is doing well, the perception that their friends are getting ahead more quickly than they are motivates some people to join the ranks of the Greedy. Embezzlement could take place at any point in a dentist’s career. An employee’s decision to become dishonest actually has relatively little to do with you, and is far more related to their own needs and wants. I would describe someone’s decision to start embezzling as a statistical “random walk”.
While there is no correlation between the existence of embezzlement and career stage, my view is that dentists who are in the first five or last five years of their careers are likely to take longer to realize that they have a problem than mid-career dentists. I think that in the case of new dentists, their inexperience in business, plus often trying to juggle their practices, the effort needed to build their clinical skills, and often raising young families at the same time. The dentists in the twilight of their careers are (hopefully) financially comfortable and probably are not watching the pennies as closely as they once did. Also, many senior dentists who started practicing before practices were computerized have never become conversant with their practice management software, and that puts them at a marked disadvantage when it comes to detecting embezzlement.
What isn’t often understood is how powerful the motivation to steal is, and how the combination of determination, cleverness, and knowledge of how your office operates creates a climate where embezzlement can be successfully carried out, at least for a time.
Rationalization In addition to feeling some form of pressure, an embezzler needs to decide that stealing from you is an acceptable way to address the pressure that they are facing.
We are all taught from an early age that taking other people’s things is wrong, and every embezzler must get to the point where they can tell themselves that “it is ok to break that basic rule because…” I often explain rationalization as an ethical “bar” that a thief must be able to jump over before stealing. This bar has different heights for different people, and various factors can have the effect of lowering the bar.
Sometimes (probably without realizing it) the actions of the dentist may have the effect of lowering the bar for someone in their office. For example, if staff members see you cutting ethical corners or cheating on your income taxes, or if you do something that a staff member interprets as rubbing your relative affluence in their face, you are making it much easier for them to justify stealing from you.
I remember a doctor taking his entire team to a conference in an exotic location – great idea, except that the doctor purchased plane tickets in First Class for himself and his wife, while the rest of the team were crammed into Coach seats on the same plane. Another doctor used to regularly complain to staff about how expensive repairs to his Mercedes were; you can imagine the animosity this caused since the car cost more than the annual salary of any member of his staff. At a minimum, this kind of behavior shows the doctor to be insensitive; it can also provide the would-be embezzler with sufficient rationalization to start stealing.
Other rationalizations that I have heard are that “the doctor would only waste the money anyway” or that the doctor is greedy or exploits patients or insurance companies.
Opportunity The final precondition for embezzlement is opportunity, and opportunity exists in every practice.
The biggest misconception I encounter, and I think a major enabling factor for embezzlement, is the belief that policies, procedures and “checks and balances” can prevent, or reduce the likelihood of embezzlement. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding afflicts not only practicing dentists, but also the large community of those advising dentists.
To be clear, the misunderstanding is an honest one; most of us understand other types of crime better than embezzlement, and there is a tendency to assume that what is effective in controlling other criminal activity will also control embezzlement.
Most people understand that a burglar alarm installed in a house or business dramatically reduces the chance of burglary. Locking your car’s doors decreases the probability that your car’s contents will be stolen. We assume that the same approach (i.e., increasing the perceived difficulty of stealing) will reduce the likelihood of being embezzled, and that is where we have misapplied the analogy.
The difference between burglary and embezzlement is that it is quite easy for a burglar to switch victims. If a burglar is standing on your doorstep with the plan to rob your house, a burglar alarm sticker or loudly barking Doberman will cause them to reconsider. But what happens from their reconsideration? They do not abandon their plan to steal; instead they modify it. So if your neighbor’s house looks less protected, the burglar simply robs your neighbor instead. So all of your control measures did not convert a would-be thief into a law abiding citizen; instead they caused adaptation.
But here is where analogizing to burglary reaches its limit – for a burglar, changing victims is an easy adaptation. I simply walk a few yards down the street to find an easier victim. In contrast, changing victims is a major undertaking for a would-be embezzler; they would need to quit their current job and find a new one, preferably with a doctor who they have assessed and determined to be an easy mark. Then, the thief would need to spend sufficient time in the new practice to understand the controls in place well enough, and build sufficient trust with the doctor, to steal. Thieves simply aren’t that patient, and a much easier adaptation is to keep working for you and find a different way to steal.
Put another way, what embezzlers can control, and therefore what you can influence, is not their choice of victim; it is their choice of methodology. If you block an embezzler’s first idea for stealing from you, they will move on to their second, third or twelfth choice until they find something that works. And with dental offices being highly porous in this respect, thieves have lots of options.
Relating this back to Cressey’s Fraud Triangle, I view Opportunity as a binary factor – it either exists or it doesn’t. For embezzlement, more opportunity does not correlate with increased probably of embezzlement, and reducing (but not eliminating) opportunity does not decrease the likelihood. Let’s assume that you have a motivated thief in your office who knows you well – what are the chances that they will be unable to find some method of going through or around your controls? Sadly, their chance is excellent.
We hear this a lot. At the core of your practice management software is a concept called “double-entry accounting.” This means that a transaction mandatorily affects two different “accounts” maintained by your software.
So, for example, entering a dental procedure increases both your “charges” and the receivable due from that patient. Entering a payment decreases the patient’s receivable balance and adds to “collections.”
In a perfect world, stealing money would cause one of two issues; either the day-end report would not balance to the bank deposit if the amount stolen had first been entered as a payment in the practice management software. On the other hand, if the amount received was stolen without anything being entered into the practice’s practice management software. the software would show some unfortunate patient having a balance that is higher than what it is supposed to be.
Many dentists believe that the existence of this double-entry accounting will prevent would-be thieves from successfully stealing from the practice.
There are a couple of flaws in that logic. First, many dentists do not thoroughly check reports from their practice management software against the bank deposit. It isn’t sufficient to limit the review to the amount of cash and checks being taken to the bank; the practice owner must also verify deposits made directly by third parties, such as credit card payments and “ACH” (automated clearing house) deposits made by some insurance companies and other third parties like patient financing companies. A complicating factor is that there is often a timing difference — if a patient pays by credit card today, the practice management software treats this payment as being received today, although there is typically a delay of a couple of days before this payment is deposited to the practice’s bank account.
So if the practice owner is not verifying deposits or is doing an incomplete verification, a thief may not be required to display any artistry — they simply create an out-of-balance situation in the knowledge that the doctor will not find it.
If the day-end routing is done properly by the practice owner, a thief must become more creative. There are a number of methods of generating “fake news” where so that the reports produced by the practice management software are inaccurate, so that the day-end appears to balance while at the same time patient account balances are accurate. This is common, and something that we see almost daily.
Because we do not want to add to the tool kits of any embezzlers who happen to be reading this article, we are not going to enumerate the methods of “cooking the books” here; however a dentist with concerns or questions is welcome to contact us for a private discussion.
Reference Check Essentials: Helping You Master Your Hiring Process
We recently received the following email from a dentist: “My embezzler passed my references check. I asked for 6 references, and she passed with flying colors. And then proceeded to rob me blind. I thought that maybe y’all needed to make a post about it, or SOMETHING, to the world of dentistry, because seriously, this is why we can’t trust references. When people fabricate deception like this, how can we trust anything as employers, to be able to find someone worthy of hiring?”
The dentist was referring to a website that, for a fee, will supply false references to help someone pass reference checks. Here is what one such site claims:
“Paladin Deception Services is here to assist you in obtaining the fictitious reference, the little white lie, or the alibi that you need. Our agency can provide you with either male or female testimonials over the phone in the local area code that you require. We’re confidential, professional, innovative, and affordable. Most importantly, we keep it legal. Get the verification that you need!”
People with tainted pasts are aware that dental offices are great places to seek jobs because background checking done by most offices is superficial and easily defeated.
Here is what one (illiterate) convicted felon said about working in dental offices: “Dental game is great. No back round checks unless u work with kids. Great money easy hrs and its the same thing over and over.”
We’d like to mention two sobering statistics about the people who apply for jobs with you: one in four US adults has a criminal record, and some studies suggest that the prevalence of resume falsification or enhancement exceeds 50%ii.
To help you avoid a hiring mistake similar to that of the dentist who emailed me, here are some essential steps to follow when checking references:
1. Check photo identification (and some other institutionally issued card or ID) for every applicant you interview. One of the easiest ways to hide an unsavory past is to use someone else’s name.
2. You must speak with all former employers for the past five years. There is no value whatsoever to “character” references; the only people you want to speak with are former employers. What someone’s 8th-grade science teacher thinks about them isn’t of much value.
3. Have a conversation with every single work reference listed for the past five years. Written reference letters, even if addressed personally to you, are worthless. Many people leaving a workplace “borrow” a supply of letterhead and envelopes so they can forge reference letters as needed. One study found that 17% of the employers surveyed had detected forged reference letters. You need to pick up the phone and call. No exceptions.
4. On the subject of calling, never call any phone number given to you by an applicant. You may end up speaking with a relative or friend pretending to be a former employer or a “deception” service like the one described earlier. Find phone numbers independently, and call those numbers to ensure you are speaking to the correct former employer.
5. Ensure that the office you are calling is a real business. If it is a dental office, the dentist will be registered with their State Board. Another place you can check is www.ratemds.com, which has patient reviews for virtually every dental practice. If the work experience was with a non-dental business, do they have a website? Another good place to check for legitimacy is Equifax, which maintains listings on almost every legitimate company. (https://sb.econsumer.equifax.com/bizdirect/companySearch.ehtml?advancedSearch=true).
6. When you call the office of a former employer, make sure you speak to the right person. If you are calling a dental office, speak to the practice owner first. He or she may hand you off to their office manager but start with the dentist. For any non-dental small business, identify and speak to the owner. Larger companies typically have HR departments that provide job reference information. Often, calling an HR department means that the information you obtain is limited, and you will probably not have the benefit of speaking with anybody who supervised your applicant, but make the call nonetheless.
7. You should ask the following questions to every former employer you speak with: a. What were the start date and end date of employment? Please ask the former employer for these dates; do not provide them and ask for confirmation. Applicants trying to hide something will often manipulate employment dates. b. Confirm job title for the position(s) held by the applicant. Job applicants often embellish their resumes so that, even though their former position was “receptionist,” on their resume it becomes “office manager.” c. Ask each former employer who the applicant worked for previously and subsequently. Often former employers do not know this information, but sometimes they do. Comparing what you learn with the resume provided may uncover a discrepancy. d. Ask who ended the employment relationship. This question may not be one that gets answered, but you may learn something valuable if it is. e. You should always ask whether the organization or individual you are calling would re-hire the applicant. If you are speaking with an HR department, you may get better results if you ask the question in the negative, i.e., “Is there any reason why this person is not eligible to be rehired by you?”.
8. You must get a reference from an applicant’s current or most recent employer. Often an applicant will ask you not to contact their current employer because “he/she does not know that I am leaving”. This statement may be true, but alternatively, this may be a strategy to prevent you from calling a “current” employer only to find out that your applicant was fired from their employ two weeks ago. An applicant who asks you not to contact their current employer must be told that you do not hire anyone without speaking with their most recent employer. You may offer to defer this conversation, but you must make it clear that a discussion with their current employer must take place before you finalize an offer of employment.
While most applicants for the vacancy you need to fill are honest and will make excellent employees, there are those who need to be filtered out.
We see “serial embezzlers” all too frequently, and many of them would not have secured employment with the practices they stole from if those offices had known about and implemented the hiring strategies we have outlined here. Historically low unemployment rates and the perception that there is a shortage of qualified applicants for positions in dental offices put a great deal of pressure on practice owners to rush the hiring process. I would like to urge you to resist the temptation to expedite your hiring process. The cost of hiring a rotten apple far exceeds the value of conducting a proper screening.
Here is an excellent article from the online magazine PInow.com
When the general public thinks of a private investigator, they may think to common situations in which a PI is hired, including divorce and insurance fraud. What they may not realize, however, is that private investigators often play a critical role in solving criminal cases. Through examining the importance of investigators in criminal cases, the benefits of using a private investigator become apparent.
Working With Law Enforcement
Private investigators are a unique asset that can prove to be incredibly resourceful to law enforcement officers. When police departments are understaffed or overworked, the potential for criminal cases to go unsolved increases. By working together with law enforcement, a private investigator can help bring to light new theories and identify new pieces of evidence that can help solve the case before it grows cold.This may prove to be helpful in not only providing resolution, but in pursuing a conviction, as well.
Additionally, private investigators are able to dedicate their time to a single case if they so choose, providing full resources and attention to that particular case. They are also not limited by jurisdiction lines, so they can pursue leads completely without having to stop and turn over their case.
While some police officers may be reluctant to working with a private investigator, especially in states where there are not strict licensure requirements in place for private investigators, it is important for them to take advantage of a private investigator’s services when they are unable to solve a case themselves. It is also similarly important for private investigators to respect the work that the detectives have already done. Establishing a relationship could prove to be helpful on not only the case that each are working on in the present, but also for future cases as well.
Furthermore, a great number of private investigators were once part of law enforcement in some capacity, which helps bridge the gap between law enforcement and private investigators by helping to establish common ground and a rapport.
Benefits for Law Offices
For attorneys who are pursuing the conviction or vindication of an individual, a private investigator can prove to be an important asset, depending on the type of case. While more straightforward criminal cases (for example, DUI) may not necessitate the need for a private investigator, more complicated or serious cases will.
Private investigators can assist law offices by conducting witness interviews to help bolster support for their side of the case. These could include re-interviewing witnesses who had been previously interviewed by law enforcement as well as finding and interviewing new witnesses who had either initially declined to comment or were not found.
Similarly, attorneys may not have the time and or internal resources to conduct all of the legwork needed to build a solid case. Before building a case, the attorney has to research, investigate, and review all the details of the case. This is where a private investigator becomes a critical member of the defense or prosecution team.
In fact, some states, such as Wisconsin, actually include private investigation as part of the state appointed defense; however, it is up to the assigned attorney to use them. In some situations, it could mean unnecessary jail time for defendants who are wrongly accused but their defense does not adequately support them.
An analysis of legal resources used in Wisconsin revealed that “The billing data, however, shows most lawyers deem investigators essential.”
Benefits for General Public
When it comes to criminal cases, members of the general public can also benefit significantly from hiring a private investigator. In some cases, and especially cold cases, surviving victims may contact a private investigator in an attempt to breathe new life into a case in hopes of getting it solved.
A fresh set of eyes may help uncover bits of evidence that were previously unnoticed. This is not to imply that the people assigned to the case were negligent; instead, it merely highlights the fact that different individuals will interpret and analyze the facts of a case differently, which increases the chance for the discovery of new information.
While private investigators do not have access to the same resources as law enforcement, they often can approach the detective assigned to the case and see if they are willing to work together. An example of this occurred in Beaumont, Texas, where a man was found dead of unknown, unnatural causes. The case grew cold, and ultimately, the man’s widow called and hired a private investigator. The investigator, Ken Brennan, took on the case, approached the detective, and worked with him to solve the case.
However, individuals can benefit from hiring a private investigator for criminal cases that haven’t gone cold as well. They may wish to hire an investigator to assist with a missing person’s case or to supplement an ongoing investigation or criminal case. Furthermore, there may be the potential for a criminal case and which a private investigator could assist in uncovering a crime.
Choosing a Private Investigator
It’s important to choose a reputable private investigator who is both experienced and up-to-date with any state-required licensure requirements. If you’re in need of a private investigator, you can easily search our directory by city, state or zip to find qualified investigators ready to help.