Today’s case of the week was not one for the faint of heart – it involves a surveillance job that crossed into another state and five different modes of transportation: a commercial aircraft, taxicab, tour bus, helicopter and a rafting boat.
Yolanda, a 33-year-old mother of four, came into our Newport Beach office on a Thursday morning with a simple request: “Can you follow my husband on a business trip?”
“No problem,” I said (quite prematurely as it turned out), “What information do you have on the trip?”
Yolanda then reached into her purse and pulled out copies she had made from her husband’s computer. It detailed an upcoming Friday morning airline flight for “two” from Orange County John Wayne Airport to Las Vegas, Nevada. There was a return flight late Sunday evening back to Orange County. The tickets listed her husband’s name, Eric, and an unknown female named, “Carolyn.” She found no other details.
We asked Yolanda what specifically she wanted us to do. “Follow my husband and record video of his every action with Carolyn,” she replied. We then began the detailed explanation of how difficult these types of cases can be. There is the distinct possibility that they could land in Las Vegas and never be seen again. Yolanda was understanding of the logistics.
The obvious question to Yolanda was why would you need more than just a photo or video of your husband boarding a flight with Carolyn. “He thinks I am crazy and am imaging all this. He says he has never been unfaithful to me during our marriage. I want solid proof. I want something to show my kids why I got rid of their daddy.”
This is a very common concern among our clients in marital surveillance cases. 80% of our clients in these cases are women. Most of their husbands and/or significant others think they are stupid and would never glean any evidence to disprove their claim that this is all in your head. You should see how smart my female clients become to their mates when they put the video and report of findings of their mates’ escapades next to their morning coffee. It never tastes quite the same.
We explained to Yolanda that we would need four investigators. The first would be one of our investigators at the check-in gate at John Wayne. The remaining three would be known associates of Martin Investigative Services who are licensed investigators in the State of Nevada.
On the following Friday, our investigator had video rolling when Eric and Carolyn entered the Southwest terminal hand-in-hand. They both checked one bag and proceeded to gate number 15. Their flight departed four minutes behind schedule. Our investigator was in contact with the Las Vegas based investigator who has just arrived in the baggage claim area at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
Approximately ninety-five minutes later, Eric and Carolyn were observed by the investigator to be coming down the escalator to baggage claim. They proceeded to the appropriate carousel, retrieved their luggage and were observed to enter the “taxi line” at McCarran. This is an adventure in and of itself.
The investigator inside the terminal advised the two investigators waiting outside of these events. The investigators, each driving separate vehicles, now knew they had to maneuver near the taxi line and follow one of the dozen taxicabs in the area. This is actually easier than if the subjects were picked up curbside by friends or family or if they proceeded to one of the many vehicle rental agencies at the airport.
The subjects were followed and the investigator advised they had been assigned spot #8. The investigators outside observed their luggage being put into the truck. It was a somewhat easy and routine to follow the taxicab to the Aria Hotel. The subjects exited the taxicab, retrieved their luggage, paid the fare and proceeded to the registration desk. It was determined what area and floor the subjects would be staying.
Now the tedious waiting game began with two investigators inside the lobby area and one in the parking garage area. Some seven hours later the subjects were observed in the lobby area. They were followed outside the hotel where they walked to the Shops At Crystal in the heart of City Center. They were followed to Mastro’s restaurant and where they had an existing reservation. Our investigators remained outside. Two and one-half hour later, the subjects exited the restaurant and returned to their hotel rooms. Surveillance was terminated for the evening.
The next morning surveillance was initiated at 6:00 am. This is usually massive overkill in Las Vegas as many of our subjects sometimes go to bed at that hour. Clients are told and understand that we can’t follow what we don’t see so it is extremely important to always be a little ahead of the subject’s movements.
At 9:45 am, the subjects appeared in the lobby area and were followed down an escalator to the tour bus area. There was only one bus waiting with a well-known helicopter company that conducts tours to the Grand Canyon. This information was provided to the two investigators waiting in the garage area. Having seen the rodeo before, they both immediately proceeded to Boulder City Municipal Airport, 35 minutes away. This is commonly known where the vast majority of the Grand Canyon tours start via helicopter.
About one hour later, the investigators observed the tour bus pull into the parking area of the airport. The subjects exited and entered the airport. They went to the check-in gate where they were weighed and given their tickets. They then watched a short security video about their helicopter ride.
Our investigators were able to purchase tickets but unable to get on the same flight as the subjects. No problem. Many of the helicopters land in the same area for lunch. We got lucky that our helicopter left first so we were able to record their helicopter landing. They were recorded having lunch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon overlooking the mighty Colorado River. They were also recorded kissing and toasting champagne.
45 minutes later, the subjects arrived back at the terminal area. We prepared to identify their bus back to the hotel before we were given a twist. Eric was observed to approach the desk and speak with the attendant. We later determined he was now obtaining his tickets to a previously scheduled 15-mile rafting trip down the Colorado river. The investigators determined this would be an unnecessary expense for the client to incur so we passed on following the subjects. We were able to determine when the subjects would return to the airport and their estimated time of arrival back at their hotel. The investigators then departed the area.
The investigators called and gave me an update of their efforts. I thought that we had obtained an ample amount of evidence for the client and continuing the surveillance would be an unjust and unnecessary expense for the client. She was so advised and agreed to terminate our efforts at that time. She did request that we expedite the report and the video. She did ask me for a family law attorney referral, which we were pleased to give her. This was a smart move on her part. There are over 2000 that practice in Orange County and based on our experience and thousands of hours in the courtrooms, we only recommend 16 of them.
Yolanda called me a few days ago. She said she took our counsel and left the report and video on the kitchen table for Eric to digest with his morning coffee. She also added a little spice to the mix: She had the attorney we referred her to file disillusionment of marriage papers and put those underneath our evidence.
Pass the Rolaids, please.
How to avoid being the victim of financial infidelity