Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a private investigator? I have! Well, Memorial Resident John Moritz is one, so I wanted to get a sneak peek into the life of a real private investigator!
AM: John, when I think of private investigators I think of all the movies I’ve seen. Are those really accurate of life as a PI?
JM: Not usually. Most of the work that is done in the investigative business today relates to the corporate world, backgrounds and domestic related cases. I have worked on criminal cases and last year had a defense of a person accused of assault of his wife. We were able to work with a famous lawyer to prove that she and her friends had conjured up the whole case so that she could divorce him. I should add that she had been having an affair with a famous person. It got rather convoluted since he also was married and had a long-standing mistress all at the same time. Go figure.
Most of what you see in the movies or on television is made up for drama and is embellished. The lost person and murder cases tend to be all solved today by technology and DNA. I have traveled extensively in the past 15 years, mostly chasing fugitives related to civil and/or criminal cases and looking for assets that will put my clients as close to whole as can be when they have been wronged or scammed.
AM: How does one become a private investigator?
JM: In Texas, you can become a PI in several ways. First, you can come out of being a detective or investigator for a law enforcement agency. You cannot just be a policeman and expect that to meet the state requirements. You must prove that you were indeed a detective for a police department or agency. I had a long career with law enforcement, and my last job was with the Texas State Comptrollers Office as a senior investigator for the Tax Fraud Division. That met the requirements for me to apply and get a letter from the comptroller that I was indeed in that position.
Those who have not been in that type of position can intern under a licensee for three years to meet the three-year requirement. You have to go to school every year to meet the necessary hours for renewal annually. You can then apply for your own license, but most folks tend to stay in the employ of a licensee for all of their career. Running a PI firm is just like any other business. It is expensive to maintain an office and staff, so most just stay in the employ of others. Most of my licensed investigators have been with me for years, with the longest being 12 years.
AM: Is it true that sometimes people hire private investigators to spy on a spouse they suspect of cheating? If so, do you have any good stories?
JM: The simplest answer is yes. Spousal investigations represent somewhere around 30 percent of my business now. It used to be more like 70 percent, but I long ago gained a reputation for asset locates including spouses trying to hide assets out of the country, so now we do more and more civil and asset locates. With all that being said, the largest payday I have ever received was in a spousal case. If you read about a famous and interesting case involving someone in the social world here in Houston, I probably have had a hand in it.
One case got so emotionally involved that the wife sent us literally all over the world to seven countries. It turned out that her husband had a girlfriend in every location. And, we found that he had a large amount of Viagra prescribed to him. I sometimes wondered how he never had a heart attack with all of the women, the travel and the stress. I guess he was just a sex addict and couldn’t control himself.
AM: Have you ever worked on any famous cases?
JM: The Sandefer Oil Company case that involved the largest stock fraud thief in the history of Texas is one. There are more, but the names cannot be used as there is some litigation still going on.
AM: What is the craziest thing a client has hired you to investigate?
JM: I chased a fugitive for five years, and each time I found him, I waited for law enforcement to come get him but never did until a federal prosecutor got involved. I also handled one of the largest diamond fraud cases in the U.S., which today is used in the FBI schools as how to investigate diamond cases. The fraud exceeded $100 million U.S. dollars.