Orange County Register: Watchful Eye
By Anne Peterson
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The text from the article is transcribed below.
Now retired as a Drug Enforcement agent, private investigator Thomas Martin chases down ex-husbands, finds telephone bugs and helps overturn convictions of what turned out to be innocent victims.
Martin, owner of Martin Investigative Services of Orange, was the first Federal drug enforcement agent to receive 100 percent pure heroin during a sting operation. The 4 year-old son of a Mexican Mafia member delivered the drugs.
But nothing makes Martin, who studied for four years to become a priest, more upset than when he sees another private investigator trying to rip someone off.
Especially someone whose home has been destroyed. “I’m very hard on the industry,” Martin, 47, said. “I had heard of someone out in Laguna who was going door to door asking people if they wanted him to background check the contractors who were going to rebuild their homes. He was asking them to pay $300 to $400 and it just fried my butt because it gives our profession a bad name.”
That is why Martin is offering fire victims free access to his agency’s information system to gather background information on contractors bidding for jobs on damaged or destroyed property.
“I want to undercut anybody who’s trying to charge these people,” he said. “To me these people just lost their homes and geez, you want to hit them for $300 or $400. No way.”
Martin’s company will check out contractors’ licenses with the Contractor’s State Licensing Board to make sure the company is legitimate. He also is offering to find out when the license was granted, the last five jobs the company has worked on in Orange County and interview the owner.
“It’s real easy to separate the chalk from the cheese,” he said. “You find out real quick who everyone is.”Paula Watkins, Southern regional director of the Contractor’s State License Board said her office have received more calls from homeowners concerned about contractors rebuilding their homes.
“We’re not getting more complaints yet because most homes haven’t been rebuilt yet,” she said. “Give us three to four months though.”Martin said he began receiving phone calls about two weeks ago from families and friends of people whose homes were burned in the Anaheim Hills and Laguna Beach fires.
When the first person called and inquired about a contractor, they asked how much Martin charged and he said nothing.”I’m more concerned that they’re (fire victims) not getting people off the street and people who are just getting license renewals,” Martin said. “There’s nothing in it for us.”
Martin considers himself more of Columbo than he does Magnum P.I. He said television depicts a glorious profession, but being a private investigator is often tedious.
“To be a private investigator in the 21st century, you have to be a cut above,” he said. “If you’re half-way good at it, you can make a decent living at it. The idea is I cut right through the cheese and a lot of times, it surprises clients.”
Martin Investigative Services specializes in local, national and worldwide investigations.
“I never know what I’m going to do when I get up in the morning,” Martin said. “You just never know. You can sit here and then the next thing you know I’m on a plane. You can’t stop at 5 o’clock.”
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