Getting To Know You, Getting To Know All About You

I hate legal investigations.

Take one of last weeks cases, for example. The Subject (not the Claimant, that’s only during insurance investigations) is embroiled in a lawsuit against his former employer for breach of non-compete agreement. Apparently, the Subject formed his own consulting company, taking a large portion of his former company’s clientele with him in the process. Business is an ugly business, Spellbound Disciples.

Lawsuits were filed. Countersuits were counter-filed. Hilarity ensued.

I have been giving the comically vague task of “Finding out whatever you can”. The main goal, of course, being to catch the Subject engaging in activity in violation of his non-compete agreement.

I started out with a little surveillance, just to make my client think some real PI work took place. Given that the Subject is currently working out of his house; however, I knew there was virtually no chance of following him to an office and documenting him meeting with clients. Which means dumpster diving.

You’ve heard the term, right? Subject puts trash out. I pick trash up and sift through it for evidence. Think of it as "CSI: Garbage Dump".

Did I ever mention I was the first college graduate in my family? Never underestimate the importance of higher education.

So I swing by his pad around 3:00 in the witching hour and make off with my ill gotten booty. The logical question for a discerning Gentle Reader to ask is, “Just how legal is taking someone’s garbage?” The answer is: Very.

Well, more like: Sorta. Trash retrieval is actually fairly established case law. You threw it away, implying you surrendered legal claim to it. I took it and had my merry way with it. Further affiant sayeth not. Still, the question always comes up in court, causing the lawyers to confer with the judge in hushed, lawyerly tones for about fifteen minutes while everyone else looks at you and thinks about how you dig through trash for a living.

In my defense, I think the philosophical question of garbage is largely chronological. Sure, right now it’s filthy, dripping, disease ridden garbage, but in 500 years scholarly types would refer to it as archeological evidence.

Doesn’t matter now. I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it. Won’t be on this case, though, because I’ve made the following discovery:

This guy is a paper shredder.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of coffee grounds and dirty diapers I dug through to discover that. Industrial model cross shredder, to boot. Probably ran close to $200 at Office Depot.

You dig through entirely too much trash if you can recognize the shredder model by the confetti it produces, wouldn’t you say?

This leaves me with a grudging new respect for my opponent. When (not if) I catch him, it won’t be some dipshit error like throwing away faxes to his clients or a CD ROM full of marketing materials. It’ll be the result of some actual investigative work on my part.

If I sound bitter about that, it’s only because I am.

I used to investigate identity thieves for credit card companies, mainly because the cops refused to do it. ID thieves in those days were friggin’ idiots. Dumpster dives used to yield treasure troves of smelly, soggy evidence. There would be three or four discarded social security cards or driver’s licenses while they attempted to come up with a master forgery. We would carefully piece together evidence to present to the police detectives, who would promptly tell us they had real crimes to investigate and please QUIT BRINGING THEM MORE DAMN WORK!

I’ve always made friends easily.

Back to my current case. He’s definitely won this round, but the war goes on. He doesn’t know that I was born with only two advantages in this world:

1. I’m too stupid to know when I’m beaten


2. I have no concept of overkill.

One of those two tragic personality disorders will eventually be his undoing. Believe it.


Anonymous Another PI said...


Reading about your dumpster diving adventure reminds me of my own.

Similarly, (usually as I try not to dry retch) I remind myself that I never expected to be rummaging through diapers and *ahem* 'feminine hygiene products' to locate useful info, when gaining several degrees at university.

Fortune is indeed fickle. Fate can be unkind.

Anyway, do you just brazenly take the bags or do you steal the same number of bags from down the road and replace the Target's so they don't suspect anything is amiss?

Enquiring minds need to know!

10:32 PM  
Anonymous Private Investigator Austin Texas said...

I always get something good out of a trash pull and will do it every chance I get. In the Austin, Texas area the police will not try to stop you. My Motto" Always grab the trash!!!

2:11 AM  
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