Fraud is defined as “the crime of obtaining money or property by deceiving people” and also the “action contrary to truth and righteousness, which harms the person against whom it is committed.” Fraud can be camouflaged in different ways but its essence is always the same, harming another person to achieve personal benefit. When I say person I do not only refer to individuals but also to entities, such as, organizations, government agencies and companies. Fraud affects us all directly or indirectly but in many cases we cannot identify it as such until a thorough investigation is carried out.
One day a woman called my office with the following case: “I am the secretary of a small humanitarian organization whose task is to raise funds through of public activities and events to help needy families in certain poor areas of our country. Each member of the board has responsibilities in different events and one of those responsibilities is to keep the cash collected until their formal delivery to the treasurer. At the last meeting of the board, two of our directors were assaulted when they were in their way to the meeting to deliver the cash. The assailants, with their faces covered, broke the windows of the vehicle, and beat the two of them. The assailants fled with the money. We reported the incident to the police but we need your help to clarify if one of the assailants was a former member of the organization who was expelled by unfair behavior in the past. “
As I continued to discover the details of the case, I was recalling one of those movies from the Far West where this type of “robbery” was a common thing, but in the 21st century, when money can be transferred through banks, cash looks like a movie thing. Nevertheless, it remains a possible crime, so accept to take the case classifying it originally as “assault with robbery”, but this classification changed a few days later.
We began our investigation and as a courtesy, notified the police detective about our investigative work on this case. We took the time to interview each member in detail; no one can imagine how much information people know until you ask the right questions. We investigated the former member who had been expelled for unfair conduct and although he was still a suspect, there was not enough relevant evidence to involve him in the robbery. Interestingly, this individual already had a criminal background before being a member of the organization, which showed that the organization failed to check the records of its members. We interviewed the two assaulted directors, their testimonies matched to the letter, but the attitude of one of them did not give us a good feeling. We checked the vehicle and checked that the damage only occurred on the passenger window glass when the heist happened through the driver’s window. We checked the scene of the crime, a busy street, there were still some remains of the windows, we searched the neighbors and we found an eyewitness, a person who heard the glass breaking and looked out her window. According to the witness, the assailants did not have the face covered and also it looks like both assailants and robbers smiled and treated as if they had known each other from forever. This testimony confirmed, to a certain extent, the hypothesis that we had formulated based on previous testimony and the strange circumstances of the case. We requested the presence of both members, “victims of the assault” for a new, more detailed interview, but this time we also subjected them to a lie detector test. Both failed, one ended up telling the truth. The assault was a hoax, a premeditated fraud to justify not giving money to the organization, money they had spent on personal matters and that they no longer had. With the help of two friends they simulated the assault in a little-traveled area so that they could file a police report and justify the loss of money, leaving them as victims.
The results were delivered to the organization that hired us in addition to the police detective who later proceeded to file charges against both members for “false police report” and “serious perjury”. The case was initiated in both the civil courts due to the economic damage, where the premeditated fraud was explained in detail and to the criminal court consequently. The arrest and prison order came shortly after.
For your safety, always check the background of your employees, members of your organization or club, your new friends, tenants or roommates. As the well known saying goes, “Faces we see, hearts we don’t know”. Remember that trust is a double-edged sword.
Be aware of fraud, but if you need our help, please call 866-224-1245.
July 5, 2016
By Private Detective Fernando Alvarez
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