This is a true private investigation case solved recently tracking and catching an embezzler. We have changed the names, places and dates to protect confidentiality.
Catching an Embezzler
Modern technologies are incredibly useful for a private investigator anywhere in the world, but at the end of the day it is the old fashioned leg work, patience and perseverance and the thrilling chase that closes a case.
In early February 2013 we had a call from someone in Jakarta. We will call him Fred. Fred was extremely worried for his wife, Jane, as she was likely to go to prison although she seemed innocent and a victim of a set up.
Jane worked in the finance department in a large company in Jakarta.
In the same company there was another senior financial officer, Steve, working as a freelance auditor.
From 2010 Steve started to ask money from Jane. The reasons he gave were all related to the company’s tax payments. Jane, being young and naive, believed her senior partner after assurances that it would be fine to skip the usual financial controlling systems.
In late 2012 the company’s Director checked their tax status and found taxes had not been paid since 2010. The amount had accumulated to around 5 billion IDR ($500,000).
Jane was asked for her explanation and showed all the transfer scripts she had from Steve.
Fred had called our agency to have us track and find Steve, the embezzler, who had disappeared.
We asked Fred to give us three weeks to complete the case.
Tracking the Embezzler
Our first task was to find out the target’s location. All we really had to go on was a telephone number, and a date of birth (because Steve was freelance, or perhaps there were other reasons the company did not want to co-operate).
Officially SIM cards in Indonesia must be registered with a valid ID, or for foreigners a passport. This system was introduced as a security measure especially in light of terrorist threats.
In reality though in Indonesia, as any private investigator can tell you, you can buy a SIM card from any small shop and they will activate the card for you using their own details. So a track on a registered user will not always get you a target’s details.
Our luck was in. It turned out Steve had registered “correctly” (not a very smart embezzler mind) and he was registered as having an address in Bandung (about three hours from Jakarta).
Our team made their way to the house. However it was his ex-wife’s house and they don’t have any contact with Steve anymore (or so they said).
We did though learn that Steve had a mother who was sick and his ex-wife gave us the address (so we guess she was not lying when she said she had had no contact with Steve).
We got to Steve’s address and for four days we waited. He just did not show.
The Trace and Chase
If a telephone number is active and switched on we can track the location within a 200 meter radius.
We had been trying for a few days but the phone was always off.
Then Steve appeared on our radar system, blinking away in Bali.
The chase was on, but like any good hunter knows a great deal of patience is needed.
Within three hours we had our Director of Investigations travel from Jakarta to Bali to meet up with our sister agency there.
You can imagine how many houses there are in a built up area of a 200-meter radius. So with both agencies working together we canvassed the area for three days. He was still blinking away on our radar but we could not find him.
Then out of the blue a trace shows him back in Jakarta.
Any fisherman knows the feeling when you are close to a catch but the fish gets away. That feeling is the same for a private investigator. But still almost two weeks had passed by and despite the loss we were still confident of catching the embezzler.
Perseverance and perseverance. And as you may know that often brings its own luck. So off we went back to Jakarta and started the canvassing there.
Not again? Yes two days later Steve appeared back in Bali.
But our team had not just been running around like a headless chicken following telephone tracks. We had others doing more background research and with help from some financial consultants we finally got a solid lead: Steve has a wife in Bali and we now knew his address there.
The Hook Is In
I called in to the Bali team and got them at the address immediately. We had a picture and description and they were on standby surveillance whilst I came back to Bali.
After two days we saw him and got a nice crisp photo that we sent to our client Fred for confirmation. We also confirmed his means of transportation (cars and motorbikes etc.) and stayed still waiting.
Our client Fred took the next flight to Bali. I met him (of course one team was with the embezzler the whole time) and we sat for a while in an airport cafe to discuss the next steps.
As we sat there a Bali team member called me and said Steve and his wife were on the move. Fred and I went straight to their house and saw their car on the road.
I followed them with two car covers between my car and theirs. This close finally after all this time the heart beats. This is when the chase really makes me love my job. The thrill is in the chasing and not the apprehension, the pursuit you see and never the arrest. Not that the capture does not give me a great buzz and sense of satisfaction, but the nervousness comes with the chase.
Steve and his wife were moving towards the airport. This suspicion was strengthened by my Bali colleague telling me they had two small bags with them (not shopping bags).
The Net Closes
I never let Fred know but at this stage I was a little bit panicked.
I was weighing up what I needed to do when they arrived at the airport. I knew I had to ask police to help at this stage.
We have built a close relationship with the police and I had already had dinner with one contact a few days before to brief them just in case help was needed. I called my contact and asked if he could meet us at the airport.
As Steve pulled near the departure parking I pulled my car next to his.
My police contacts were there to meet us and we landed the target.
I actually thought I might get a round of applause from the whole airport, but no-one of course knew what was happening or what me and my team had been through. It was all done very quietly and the big embezzler was like a shuttling little timid mouse in a corner, and off he was taken to the airport’s police station.
A few hours later the police had the proof they needed as Steve confessed, looking tired and scared (if he had lawyered up he probably would have been able to walk free).
Fred did not want to take him to court (and what the company finally did with Steve he was not that concerned with). All he wanted was protection for his wife and a written statement from Steve admitting what he had taken and was using the company’s money for his own sake.