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“If You Only Knew,” Warns Orange County PI
by Karen Di Piazza
Exact publish date of this article is currently unknown.
He might not be able to tell you exactly what happened to Amelia Earhart or why Amy Johnson’s plane went down in the Thames Estuary, but Thomas G. Martin has helped many with slightly less complicated cases.
A former Federal agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (formally known as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs), he was responsible at one time for drug detection at Los Angeles International Airport. Presently, Martin is president and CEO of Martin Investigative Services, based in Anaheim, Calif., a full-service investigative agency licensed by the State of California (under license PI 9077) with a network of former DEA, FBI, IRS and Secret Service agents in all 50 states and over 60 foreign countries. Besides that, it is the home of the world’s largest database of public information.
Operating since 1969, Martin Investigative Services specializes in finding missing persons (friends, family, runaways) and assets; electronic eavesdropping detection sweep; security risk analysis/corporate security; family law/child custody matters; background investigations for personal and corporate use, and cold murder investigations.
Martin, who has had varied assignments as both an agent and a supervisor with the U.S. Department of Justice, has represented the department in over 50 foreign countries and throughout the United States. Based upon his expertise and efforts, he has received numerous domestic and foreign awards and citations and was the recipient of two U.S. Department of Justice Special Achievement Awards.
“We’ve provided sensitive technical services to officials at the highest levels of government and industry,” he said. “Unfortunately, more than ever, we’re in a world where uncertainly and fraudulent behaviors prevail, but they don’t have to.”
Martin, an expert in his field who has been featured in many of the nation’s leading newspapers and has appeared on “20/20,” “CNN National News” and all three major television networks, also gives practical advice on such matters as avoiding financial scams, and warns the public about hiring private investigators from the local “gin mill.”
“There are so many areas in which the public gets ripped off,” he said.
One piece of advice from Martin is not to hire any PI if they want to meet you “at the bar, coffee shop or your home.”
“Find out their credentials, check and make sure they are licensed and in good standing, and ask for references,” he said, adding that another area of concern is finding the right attorney.
“It can be a costly mistake if you don’t,” he said. “We’ve served the legal profession for years; we know who are the upper echelons of attorneys.”
Born and raised in California by practicing Catholics, by the time he was a sophomore Martin was “thrown into an all boys Catholic high school.” A fairly good student and athlete, he was also “a naïve kid” who toughened up a lot during the next four years, and attended a seminary to become a priest.
“When you’re Irish-Catholic and all your relatives are getting together to donate money and diamonds to buy the chalice, you feel some pressure,” he said.
Still, by his senior year he questioned the authority of personnel in the seminary, whose decisions prevented students from leaving the grounds for something as non-threatening as going to a Mexican restaurant-because it served alcohol-or to the local mall.
“I was a challenge for them,” he said. For example, he questioned why openly gay priests taught them.
“They didn’t like it one bit,” he said. “My cousin was a priest in Boston and the seminary thought it was a good idea if I left and spent some time there in his parish.”
During that six-month stint, although still six months away from receiving his bachelor’s degree in scholastic philosophy, since teachers were badly needed, he became one at Patterson High School in New Jersey and taught two months at a high school in Harlem. Both, he said, were tough places. In addition, he taught counseling at the parish.
“I was doing everything that a priest did, except say mass and hear confessions,” he said. “In 1968, Ted Kennedy asked me to bless his family during Bobby Kennedy’s funeral. That was quite an experience.”
After being exposed to drug-infested neighborhoods, counseling youths and the assignation of Bobby Kennedy, Martin looked at the world in a new light.
“I went back to California and graduated from the seminary, but then decided that I could make a better impact working on the outside,” he said.
He applied to the FBI and DEA; in June 1969, he became a federal agent. The DEA swore him in as their second youngest agent.
He said it was a “laugh riot,” since he was straight out of the priesthood and hadn’t even shot a BB gun.
“The agency really liked getting people who had never touched a weapon of any kind; I hadn’t picked up any bad habits,” he laughed. It didn’t take long for him to become an excellent sharpshooter.
For three years he was an undercover narcotics agent. For that job, he grew his hair long, grew a beard and dressed “like a scumbag” to hang around with “drug-head, biker types.”
“I worked hard at not looking like a cop,” he said.
But, he found that by looking like a scumbag, you bought dope from “scumbags on a local level.”
“That wasn’t the level we wanted to buy from because we were international,” he explained.
For the following two years, he was the DEA’s “money man,” and would sit in the backseat of a limo wearing expensive suits and flash his Rolex watch and diamond rings, a façade to attract big buyers for setups.
“We’d go to Las Vegas and setup sting operations,” he said. “For example, we used Caesars Hotel quite a bit.”
However, he became too well known. The word on the street was not to buy dope from the man wearing gold bracelets, at Caesars or from anyone “who flashes.” “We’d go into places flashing about two million dollars,” he said. “We used many casinos as sting operations, and arrested a lot of big fish.”
After that stint, he applied to the International Trading division, and was one out of seven people who made it through for consideration. From 1972 to 1975, he spent his time traveling to 65 foreign countries, involved with drug intervention, pharmacology lists, drug use, hardcore arrests and interrogations. Then, between 1976 and 1979, he headed up the DEA’s drug enforcement school in Washington, D.C. During that period, he also attended the University of Redland, where he earned his master’s degree in public management.
Martin was next transferred to Los Angeles, for two years, and became the DEA’s chief for the planning and evaluating group, with a territory covering the entire Western U.S. He later become responsible for drug detection at Los Angeles International Airport, a job he says he would’ve done “for free.”
“We had about 15 DEA agents and 40 LA police officers and sheriffs,” he said. “We had dope peddlers coming in from Columbia, the Golden Triangle, Europe, Miami and Detroit; it was nonstop drug smuggling and constant arrests.”
On top of that, the International Customs Department used dogs to sniff out the dope; then, they were required to call the DEA.
Martin recalled one case involving an individual that had swallowed 25 condoms full of heroin, and another involving the arrest of a nun, who got off a plane from Bogotá, Columbia, carrying a kilo of weed. She was booked and later sent away. Years later, they were tipped off that two women were coming in from Bogotá carrying cocaine, and that the drop would be at the Hyatt Hotel. Martin and another agent were to be the “buyers.”
“I looked up and realized that one of the women was Sister Lucy,” he said. “She was sentenced and spent 14 years locked up for drug trafficking.”
After years of being fired at, enduring several hand and repeated knee injuries and ultimately becoming seriously injured and requiring one of his arms and his shoulder to be pinned together, Martin retired from the DEA, in 1981.
By that time, he was already married to his wife Jill, and had two small children.
“Being married to a DEA agent wasn’t an easy job,” he said. “There’s a saying inside the DEA, ‘If we wanted you to have a wife, we’d issue you one.'”
At their wedding, he said, they had at least 40 gun-toting, badge-wearing federal agents.
“There was enough firepower inside the church to take out a small country,” he said.
Although he considered starting up an investigative firm, the DEA wasn’t crazy about the idea.
“Because of my injuries, the DEA was required to retrain me at their expense,” he said. “They wanted me to become an attorney or get my doctorate degree. Another reason the DEA wasn’t behind my idea of going into business was that if I failed they would still have been required to retrain me.”
Still, burned out on what he had been doing, he wanted to do what he felt he was best at and trained for, which was investigating.
“I made a deal with the DEA, and we agreed that if I failed in the private sector they weren’t responsible anymore,” he said.
In 1981, he set up shop. His first case arrived when another PI, a former FBI agent, hired him to investigate a case that had already been to trail. The case in Orange County involved a wealthy man whose wife and his 16-year-old stepdaughter had accused him of raping the girl. He had been found guilty and faced 25 years to life.
In his investigation, Martin found the victim’s clothes and diary; it proved “irrefutable evidence” that her stepfather was innocent. There were also other upsets.
“The district attorney who had prosecuted the case originally was found to have been having sexual relations with the alleged victim earlier,” he said. “The DA refused to reopen the case; a press conference was held and when the media got through with him, he was disbarred.” The man’s conviction was reversed.
Another case involved the son of an FBI agent who was on death row; a timeline Martin did showed that he was using an ATM at the time of the crime.
“You’d be surprised how many investigations turn up what is simple evidence; unfortunately, many people are sentenced who are innocent,” he said.
In 1997, Martin authored “If You Only Knew: An Internationally known Private Investigator reveals how you can take control of your life” (Griffin Publishing).
Martin said the book hits hard, especially for women. Subjects covered include marital infidelity; in the book, Martin tells more than 20 ways someone can tell if a partner is cheating.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time, if a woman suspects that her mate is cheating, she’s correct,” he says.
The book was such a success that the publisher asked Martin to develop a series of drug education handbooks for students and teachers.