Our case of the week involves a listening device we found in a Keurig coffee maker during a bug sweep. And this story begins with a flashback to a similar case we had 33 years ago.
In 1982, we were hired to perform an electronic eavesdropping detection sweep (commonly known by the public as bug sweeps) for a well-known mortgage company in Los Angeles.
That day our technician found a monitoring/listening device in the Mr. Coffee appliance which was in the kitchen area of the business. Our team later determined that a former fired and disgruntled employee had placed the device in the coffee maker.
Here is how we found out.
Monitoring devices need power to function. There are two ways they can get that power: a battery, or by tying into the electrical circuit of the business or home.
Batteries have a certain life and then they must be manually replaced, and this can often expose the culprit to unnecessary attention when he/she has to replace the battery. This is why a constant power source is usually preferred by those that place bugs.
In this case, we found the bug and knew it was powered by a battery. We also knew that the former employee had no further access to the mortgage company, so we were certain of two things: Either he would just let the battery die and not replace it, or this person had an accomplice inside the business that was willing to do the dirty work of replacing the battery.
Our staff, with the permission of the owner, placed a hidden camera in the ceiling which focused on the coffee maker. The camera was on a 24-hour loop which was reviewed by staff each morning.
Six days later we had our bingo. The video revealed that the security guard assigned to the building replaced the battery on a Sunday morning at 3:35am. He had access to the entire high-rise and replaced the battery when the building was completely empty.
The owner felt even worse we he told us that he had previously advised the guard to help himself to water and sodas in the kitchen refrigerator. The guard had an almost perfect setup until he was confronted by one of my investigators.
As our investigator was a former Federal agent skilled in the art of interview and interrogation, the security guard was no match . The security guard broken down immediately and implicated the former employee. Our investigator then took a statement from the guard about his involvement under the penalty of perjury laws of the State of California. This locked the subject into his story. If he decided to change the story down the road, there was a simple question the judge or jury could ponder: “Were you lying then or are you lying now?”
We took our evidence to the District Attorney who filed charges against both subjects. Knowing the guard would testify against the former employee, he plead guilty and served four months in jail. The security was fired, lost his guard card and placed on three months probation.
Fast forward to 2015. This past week our technician was sweeping a law office in Newport Beach. It was a case of deja vu when he found a monitoring device in a brand new Keurig 2.0 coffee maker.
We analyzed the device and found it was purchased on the black market, making tracing the device difficult to impossible.
Often our clients already know who placed the device in their office, but proving it has many investigative obstacles. In a few days, we will meet with senior management to develop a plan to locate the perpetrator. Generally, this would be to speak untruths near the device in an effort to “smoke out” the villain.
Why would someone place a device in the kitchen or eating area of an office? Most “bad guys” understand that people in a kitchen or eating area may not have any sensitivity in this area when talking about serious matters or even strategies in helping their clients.
Loose lips sink ships, as the saying goes. Always be conscientious of your unguarded talk.
If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, selecting an agency to perform a bug sweep service may prove frustrating and difficult. The vast majority of private investigators are simply not trained in the genre. We have 3 technicians, each with a minimum of 25 years experience. We have continually invested and upgraded in the equipment we use, as the technology of monitoring devices and cameras changes rapidly.
There are plenty of imitators and pretenders in this business, so beware of the person who comes out and waves a “magic wand” around, which only finds a small fraction of common bugs.
One of our six websites is dedicated to this subject matter. You can find photos of actual devices we have found at www.bugsweepteam.com.
Feel free to call us toll-free with any questions at (800) 577-1080, and good hunting.