Excerpts from Prove ‘Em Innocent:
The Art & Science of Workplace Investigations
by John A. Velke III
One of the most important competencies of a retail loss prevention / asset protection professional is to be capable of conducting a fair, unbiased investigation thoroughly, confidentially, and with absolute professionalism. Velke’s book provides new and experienced investigators an opportunity to build on their investigative expertise using real-life examples and exercises derived from more than 40 years of investigative experience.
Part 1: Investigations as an Art
Jan. 10, 2017
First in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Investigations as an Art from Chapter 1.
As no two paintings are identical, investigations are not so commonplace that a single formula may suffice to arrive at the perfect conclusion to more than one. As a painter mixes pigments and paints to translate an image in the mind to canvas, an investigator uses the tools of her trade to create a picture in the mind accurately depicting what happened.
There are many ways an understanding of art and artists can enlighten investigators. Not only is art the subject of some interesting investigations, (solve the case of the paintings stolen in 1990 from the Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts and your expertise as an investigator will be recognized worldwide), but art can also provide answers to questions in other disciplines. For example, in his book Carter’s Grove, archeologist Ivor Nol Hume described how he studied European paintings to identify small fragments of ceramic tableware and kitchen utensils recovered from one of the earliest settlements in the New World. His logic was that European painters used everyday household items to accessorize their paintings and that if you knew the date of a painting you could safely assume that the ceramics depicted in the painting existed at that point in time and could have made it across the ocean to America. Therefore, when dating an excavation site, the archeologist can say that the site may date back to a date consistent with the earliest known appearance of an item found at the site, even if that known appearance is in a European painting.
Investigations undertaken by archeologist are somewhat different than the investigations typically occurring in the workplace, but this example illustrates a valuable point. The success of an archeologist can be influenced by his knowledge in an area of study not typically associated with archeology. So to then, the work of an investigator can be significantly influenced by his knowledge in areas of study not typically included in coursework preparing individuals for investigative work. Examples of the types of extended knowledge helpful in investigations will be covered in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here, the study of “investigations” encompasses a broad range of knowledge.
Anyone can create a painting or sculpture and call themselves an artist. Likewise, anyone can call themselves an investigator by trying to mimic what they have seen on television or have read in books. Rather than make an argument describing who is or is not an investigator, I’ll use one of the greatest artist of all time to compare great artists and great investigators.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 to 1519) is widely recognized as one of the greatest painters of all time. His painting of the Mona Lisa is considered the most famous portrait ever painted and his depiction of The Last Supper, just as Jesus Christ announced that one among them would betray him, has likely been studied by more historians than any other mural in the world.
Da Vinci was more than a great painter. He was also an accomplished sculptor, mathematician, architect, musician, engineer, inventor, botanist, cartographer, and writer. These attributes and gifts of intellect are not what made him a great painter. The thing that set him apart from other artists in his time was that he was a student of human behavior who placed great value on his attention to detail. This might be best explained by examining Da Vinci’s apparent obsession with the human body.
Leonardo Da Vinci, unlike many artists, did not rely on models sitting stoically in a studio to pose for his paintings. He often frequented the seedier parts of town, and watched and drew people without them knowing it. His surviving sketches not only exhibit a rare understanding of human anatomy but they reveal a wide range of human emotion expressed through the faces, hands, and postures of those he drew. Da Vinci’s artistic legacy is that he was masterful at using a flat piece of canvas to convey human emotion.
It may be unfair of me to use Leonardo Da Vinci as an example of a great artist as he was clearly much more than that. In their 1994 book, The Book of Genius written by Tony Buzan and Raymond Keene, Leonardo Da Vinci is listed as the “greatest genius of all time.” You may not aspire to be Da Vinci’s rival in the art of investigation but you can become a great investigator by adopting his passion for learning and focusing much of your attention on the study of human behavior. As you complete investigations, do so in such excruciating detail that you leave no stone unturned, no hypothesis ignored, and no suspect unconsidered. If you adopt the following quote as your “investigative credo” you will be well on your way to greatness:
“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding”
Leonardo Da Vinci
Analogies between art and investigations could fill a volume but I want to share with you one more. The work of an artist is always subject to interpretation and critique by those who may not necessarily have the ability to create art. An investigator’s work is often judged and critiqued by those who lack investigative ability. If you conduct every step of your investigation without losing sight of the fact that others (some of whom possess less ability than you) will evaluate your work, then you will naturally strive to be thorough.
Part 2: The Investigators Curse
Jan. 20, 2017
Second in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: The Investigators Curse from Chapter 1.
I have questions. I like answers. The same is true of most good investigators. Unfortunately, sometimes in life we don’t get satisfactory answers to all of our questions. Have you ever spent time trying to get the answer to a question that makes very little difference to you or anyone else? The “investigators curse” is the desire to know what is unknowable or so irrelevant that you invest your time to find the answer despite the fact that you will not do anything with your new-found knowledge.
Here is an example you may be able to relate to. During the second week of January, 2013, I spent an hour on Tuesday morning searching the internet for the answer to a question. I was on vacation in Hawaii with my wife, who would have preferred that I walk down to the beach with her, but a question came to my mind the evening before and I wanted to know the answer. Instead of walking down to the beach the next morning, I surfed the internet reading everything I could find about the College National Championship game between Alabama and Notre Dame played the day before. The funny thing is that I had watched the entire game and I only had one question I wanted the answer to. During the fourth quarter of the game two University of Alabama players had a misunderstanding. The quarterback, A.J. McCarron, got angry and said something to his Center, Barrett Jones, who then shoved McCarron backward. It was clear enough that the nature of their spat was over the play calling and the fact that the play clock was ticking down, but what wasn’t so clear is what McCarron actually said to Jones that caused Jones to lash out at his quarterback. I really wanted to know what was said to cause such upheaval.
Before the next set of downs McCarron and Jones made-up and finished the game without another blow up. Afterward, they were both careful to chalk-up the episode to a misunderstanding during the season ending game. I could not find anything which would provide me with the answer to my question. In fact, the question itself may have been impossible to answer. Would McCarron, Jones, and anyone nearby who might have heard it remember it the same way? Absent a recording, or video good enough for a lip reader to interpret, would I have been satisfied with the version offered by only one of the parties involved? The answer is, probably not. Even if McCarron and Jones had come out of the locker room at the end of the game, and both described the words spoken in exactly the same way, it is unlikely that I would have been satisfied. I would have assumed that they had an opportunity to “agree” on a version palatable to the public, or that they had been coached on what to say.
In hindsight I realized that I had been hit by the investigators curse. I wasted an hour of my vacation searching for an unknowable answer to an irrelevant question - just because I wanted to know. This is the curse lurking in the back of an investigative mind. I’d like to think that my guard was down because I was on vacation and did not really want to take a walk on the beach anyway. Nevertheless, I could have found one hundred things to do that would have been more productive. While I was in Hawaii another question came to mind. Why did the Navy never name a ship the USS Stanley Dosick? I’m fighting the urge to try to find that out, as the answer will make very little difference to me or anyone else. And therein lies the lesson. Good investigators must guard against becoming consumed by the “investigators curse”.
Copies of Velke’s book are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Prove ‘Em Innocent websites.
Part 3: The Observation Skills
Feb. 16, 2017
Third in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Observation Skills from Chapter 2.
No one succeeds as an investigator without strong observation skills. Watching human behavior is a critical element of the work investigators do, whether they are watching someone live or on video. A quick gesture, a knowing smile, and back and forth eye movement are examples of behavior that may be an indication that more is going on than a casual observer may detect. Equally important is the ability to examine evidence and deduce facts often overlooked by the less experienced. The following exchange described by Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle serves as a wonderful illustration. The exchange begins with Dr. Watson asking:
"Then, what clue could you have as to his identity?"
Sherlock Holmes replied, "Only as much as we can deduce."
"From his hat?"
"But you are joking. What can you gather from this old battered felt?"
"Here is my lens. You know my methods. What can you gather yourself as to the individuality of the man who has worn this article?"
I took the tattered object in my hands and turned it over rather ruefully. It was a very ordinary black hat of the usual round shape, hard and much the worse for wear. The lining had been of red silk, but was a good deal discolored. There was no maker's name; but, as Holmes had remarked, the initials "H. B." were scrawled upon one side. It was pierced in the brim for a hat- securer, but the elastic was missing. For the rest, it was cracked, exceedingly dusty, and spotted in several places, although there seemed to have been some attempt to hide the discolored patches by smearing them with ink.
"I can see nothing," said I, handing it back to my friend.
"On the contrary, Watson, you can see everything. You fail, however, to reason from what you see. You are too timid in drawing your inferences."
"Then, pray tell me what it is that you can infer from this hat?"
He picked it up and gazed at it in the peculiar introspective fashion which was characteristic of him. "It is perhaps less suggestive than it might have been," he remarked, "and yet there are a few inferences which are very distinct, and a few others which represent at least a strong balance of probability. That the man was highly intellectual is of course obvious upon the face of it, and also that he was fairly well-to-do within the last three years, although he has now fallen upon evil days. He had foresight, but has less now than formerly, pointing to a moral retrogression, which, when taken with the decline of his fortunes, seems to indicate some evil influence, probably drink, at work upon him. This may account also for the obvious fact that his wife has ceased to love him."
Sherlock Holmes deduced from a hat that the owner had a wife that no longer loved him! That’s a pretty amazing deduction, and if you read the entire story (easily found on the internet), you’ll find that many of Holmes’ deductive reasoning skills would not apply today. But, what is important is that Dr. Watson saw the hat and could not derive any meaning, whereas Sherlock Holmes saw the hat and reasoned so much more.
Would you notice a tractor-trailer with your company name on it sitting in a highway rest stop as you drove by on your way to work? If there is a pick-up truck backed up to it and men loading boxes onto the truck, would you take notice? Great observation skills cannot be turned on when you arrive at work and turned off when you leave for the day. You either possess them or you do not. Here’s an example of an investigator who has them:
Tony Sheppard, an organized retail crime manager for a major drug store chain, was in New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend the National Retail Federation’s annual Loss Prevention Conference in June 2012. He arrived the evening before the conference began and went to Harrah’s Casino to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. As he walked the casino floor, he noticed someone familiar. As he took a closer look, he realized that the man was known to him as Sami Elias, a habitual shoplifter whom authorities in Florida were looking for. Tony and another investigator contacted the Louisiana State Police, who verified that Volusia County, Florida, had an active felony warrant for Sami’s arrest. Sheppard kept an eye on Sami until the police arrived and took him into custody. Elias was taken back to Florida and incarcerated. Tony’s observation skills were not suppressed just because he was in an entertainment venue and not working. Great investigators cannot and do not turn off their observation skills.
The good thing about observation skills is that, if you do not have them, they are more easily learned than some of the other traits of successful investigators. They are also skills that can easily be developed further through practice. Here are two exercises you can do with help from a friend.
The Restaurant Exercise
The next time you eat out with someone, ask them to discreetly select someone in the restaurant, without telling you whom they have selected, and memorize as many details about that person as they can. It’s a good idea to ask your companion to do this while you go to the rest room. When you return, enjoy your meal. After you have left the restaurant, ask your companion to tell you one thing about the person they selected. Then share with your companion as many additional things you remember about that person. Ask your companion to tell you how many of your memories were correct. See Appendix A-6 for further commentary.
Copies of Velke’s book are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Prove ‘Em Innocent websites.
Part 4: Flexibility and Multitasking
Feb. 24, 2017
Fourth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Flexibility and Multitasking from Chapter 2.
Flexibility and the ability to multi-task are important attributes belonging to proficient investigators. The one thing investigators often say they like most about being an investigator is that every day is different and brings with it a different challenge. Those who get flustered when a schedule changes at the last minute or who suffer anxiety when everything on the “to do” list has not been accomplished for that day generally don’t do well as an investigator. If you like predictability and a regular Monday through Friday nine-to-five schedule, investigations is not the correct career field for you.
Investigation works in an ebb and flow. It is rare that an investigation begins and is worked exclusively until it is completed. Days off taken by a suspect, delays in receiving reports and evidence, the ability to record cameras for later review, and many other factors contribute to gaps in individual investigations. Investigators who are able to handle an investigative caseload of five or more investigations concurrently generally have greater success than those who start one investigation, work it until completed, and then start another.
I have often used the following analogy when teaching investigators about caseloads. When I was a ten-year-old boy, my father would take me to East Potomac Golf Course on Hains Point in Washington, D.C. This golf course is on a peninsula on the Potomac River and thus surrounded on three sides by water. As I walked around the course one day, I noticed that there were two types of fisherman nearby. One type had long rods they held in their hands. This type of fisherman would cast out a line and reel it back in on a pretty regular basis. The other type was the fishermen who had five or six forked sticks stuck in the ground, with as many lines in the water. These men seemed more patient and were not constantly reeling in their lines and re-casting.
Knowing little about fishing, I assumed that these two types of fishermen were fishing for two different types of fish. I asked my father what the difference was between the two types of fish. He said, “I don’t know what type the men with one pole are trying to catch but the other men are fishing for dinner fish.” This has served as a lesson to me for nearly fifty years. Whether you are catching fish to feed your family or conducting investigations on behalf of your employer, the more lines you have in the water, the better your results are likely to be.
Copies of Velke’s book are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Prove ‘Em Innocent websites.
Part 5: Flexibility and Multitasking
March 17, 2017
Fifth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Methodical Thinking from Chapter 2.
“Ready, Aim, Fire,” is nearly a perfect analogy illustrating the importance of methodical thinking in investigations. Soldiers and hunters will not pull the trigger and fire without first preparing and taking careful aim. The same should be said of investigators.
Think for a minute about the preparation a deer hunter goes through. It may include things like:
• Till and plant a green field
• Fertilize the green field
• Install a mineral bed
• Cut low limbs from a tree
• Install a tree stand
• Get in shape for long hikes through the woods
• Buy ammunition
• Purchase a hunting license
• Target practice and sight rifle
• Buy hunting apparel
• Go to bed early
• Get up early
• Put supplies together
• Spray a cover scent on your clothing and shoes
• Etc. Etc. Etc.
I think you get the point. Now consider what else the hunter will do before pulling the trigger. The hunter takes careful aim considering whether or not he can take the animal down at that distance with one clean shot. The hunter will wait and not take the shot if the deer is too far away or obstructed.
I am not implying that investigations are a type of “sport” or that the death of a deer is similar to concluding an investigation. What is important to realize is that good deer hunters go through numerous steps of preparation and they take careful aim before pulling the trigger. Great investigators take a much similar approach. They methodically go through multiple steps before determining who their primary suspect is. Before they take action, great investigators re-evaluate whether or not they have done everything they should have, basing that decision largely on whether or not they have sufficient evidence to arrive at the desired outcome. Great investigators realize that they might have only one chance to bring the investigation to a successful conclusion. To do so, they will wait patiently until they have all the details likely to lead to a successful conclusion.
This is not how investigations are typically portrayed on television. On TV you often see a brilliant investigator who has the knack for putting all the pieces together and arriving at a conclusion in an hour or less. Producers and script writers cannot waste time with leads that result in dead-ends or leads that exonerate suspects unless that is intentionally part of the plot. The fact is, investigations are often an exercise of trial and error. The investigator gathers facts, creates a hypothesis, and then tests that hypothesis. If the first hypothesis is proven incorrect a new hypothesis is created and then tested. The process repeats itself until the investigator has created and tested each potential hypothesis and arrived at the one, and only one, hypothesis that works. If the investigator finds two or more hypothesis that work, it is her job to keep testing and revising the hypothesis until there is only one correct answer.
Try to develop a hypothesis and test it using the following riddle:
The Dollar Riddle
Pete, Janice, and Steve all work part-time at a store in Atlantic City where every item is priced at a dollar. All three work five days per week and average 30 hours each week. They all know that cash shortages totaling more than $2.00 per day are aggressively investigated by management. Every time Pete works, his cash drawer has been short between fifty cents and a dollar for an average of 75 cents per day. When Janice works, her cash drawer balances perfectly but she has a habit of helping herself to a candy bar each time she works. Steve’s cash drawer is never short. In fact it is over between twenty-eight cents and fifty-six cents each day he works.
Pete, Janice, and Steve are all thieves. In a four week period who steals the most? How much does each person steal in four weeks? How might they each be rationalizing their thefts? Describe how you arrived at these conclusions.
See Appendix A-10 for further explanation.
Part 6: The Concept of the Status Quo Skills
April 4, 2017
Sixth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: The Concept of the Status Quo Skills from Chapter 3.
The concept of the status quo defines two risk factors important to investigators. The first is resistance to change in policy or procedure. For example, suppose your company is considering implementing a change requiring additional approval of all invoices exceeding a thousand dollars. During this discussion a manager who routinely gives final approval for invoices up to ten thousand dollars voices passionate objection to this change. He claims it is a waste of his time to get additional approval, that it will delay payments to vendors, and that the new policy will undermine his authority. Although the objections may be true and the manager may be simply protecting the efficiency of his office there could also be another possibility. What if the manager is perpetrating a fraud and realizes that the proposed extra approval will necessitate reducing his thefts to amounts less than a thousand dollars or subject him to a higher risk level of having his frauds detected?
Change is a fact of business life, and resistance to change is a common human emotion. The challenge for investigators is to evaluate an individual’s resistance to change in each situation. They can then compare it to the individual’s normal behavior and the behavior of other individuals in similar circumstances. Considering what other motive the person may have for resisting the suggested change is also important. The investigator should ask this question, “Will this change make it more difficult for someone to steal?” If the answer is yes and the person resisting the change is uncharacteristically or unreasonably passionate in their objection it may be worthwhile to take a closer look at the exposure the change is intended to address. Before implementing a change that forces a thief to change their tactic, it would be sensible to determine that your company has not already been the victim of theft or fraud.
The concept of the status quo also refers to how some are inclined to resist what should be a positive change in their employment status. It is perfectly reasonable for an investigator to wonder why someone would turn down a promotion or resist additional responsibility that comes with a raise. Valid health or personal reasons could prevent someone from taking a promotion, but to accept these reasons without questioning may be a big mistake. The true story of Henry will further explain.
Henry has been working in the seafood kitchen at a casino for more than ten years. He has been there longer than anyone else and has turned down a promotion to become the head chef twice. He claims that he does not want the added stress of being the boss even though he would make at least a dollar more per hour. His supervisors rely on Henry to train new employees and two of his trainees eventually ended up becoming his boss. Henry likes to smoke marijuana and he discovered several years ago that his current boss also likes to get high. Although Henry and his boss do not smoke together, Henry is providing him with a bag of weed approximately twice per month.
Henry has eight children at home so he occasionally supplements his income by buying and selling marijuana. His position in the casino kitchen makes things much easier for him. Henry’s main responsibility is to order all of the food for the all-you-can-eat seafood bar. Unlike a typical restaurant, all-you-can-eat bars in casinos are expected to lose money. The logic goes like this: If we can keep players on our premises by giving them great food at a fantastic price they will stay longer and lose more money.
Seven years ago Henry snuck two four ounce lobster tails out of the kitchen in his shirt at the end of his shift. A week or so later he took six out in the knapsack he carries with a change of clothes in it. At first, his thefts were confined to shrimp and lobster tails sufficient to feed his family once or twice a week. A year after he started stealing he bought a freezer and put it on his back porch. His thefts escalated as he worked to keep the freezer stocked with fish, shrimp, and lobster. Gradually he increased the casino’s orders for the seafood items he had taken so the seafood bar would have ample supply. This would help cover him and would keep them from asking questions regarding food shortage.
Five years ago Henry mentioned to some friends that he had more seafood in his freezer than he could use and offered to sell some of it to them at a great price. In just a short time word spread and people began to buy seafood from him at a great price on a regular basis. Henry soon emptied his freezer and pocketed several thousand dollars.
Today, Henry takes anywhere from twenty to thirty lobster tails and a pound or two of shrimp every single day he works. He sells the lobster tails directly to a long list of regular customers for three dollars each and he gets $5.00 for a pound of shrimp. His customers know where he works and most realize that he must be stealing the seafood but they are not going to kill their “golden goose” by turning him in.
The seafood orders are much higher than they were seven years ago but since he gradually increased the orders no one from upper management has noticed a spike in lobster and shrimp expenses. His immediate supervisor is the only person in a position to question the inflated orders but since he relies on Henry for marijuana, and does not want to lose his own job, he will remain silent forever.
Henry is making $85 to $100 per day, five days per week from his illicit sale of lobster and shrimp stolen from the casino. Conservatively, he alone will be responsible for more than $20,000 in theft losses from the casino this year. If he is not caught it is not unreasonable to believe that his supplemental income may exceed $50,000 per year within the next few years. Henry’s back porch freezer is still empty. He simply can’t keep up with the demand from his customers.
Is it any wonder why Henry has turned down two promotions that would have increased his wages by $2,080 per year? He’d have to survive on $18,000 less than what he’s “making” now. Henry is very comfortable with the status quo.
Part 7: The Concept of Chance Discovery
April 27, 2017
Seventh in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: The Concept of Chance Discovery from Chapter 3.
Some people mistakenly believe that stumbling across evidence of dishonesty is purely a matter of luck. Nothing could be further from the truth. The identification of dishonest behavior depends on more than being in the right place at the right time, it depends on being observant, interpreting observed behavior and data, and pursuing leads to a satisfactory conclusion. In other words, an investigation will not have anything to do with luck or chance discovery, but will have everything to do with being knowledgeable, observant, and thorough.
Earlier in this chapter I gave you an example about John who has a pattern of checking the rear doors of the buildings he visits before entering the front door. Some might suggest that he gets good results because he is lucky. I disagree. I would say that he gets good results because he puts himself at the right place at the right time and knows what to look for. His chance of seeing something unusual is greater than if he were not there at all.
Two quotes come to my mind on this matter. Louis Pasteur, a French scientist noted for multiple breakthroughs in the prevention of diseases, and inventor of the process of pasteurization, said, “In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind”. Another French scientist, and recipient of the Noble Prize in medicine, Charles Jules Henry Nicolle, said this; “Chance favors only those who know how to court her”. Both of these quotes were made in relation to scientific experiments that garnered unexpected results; however they share the same underlying message. To capitalize on an unexpected revelation the scientist (or in our case, the investigator) must have some basic knowledge and curiosity that leads them to embark on an investigation when faced with a so-called chance discovery.
One of the greatest illustrations of this process comes from Stephanie, a librarian at Yale University’s rare book and manuscript library. On June 8th, 2005 Stephanie was walking through the library and noticed an exacto knife blade lying on the floor. Her discovery led to the identification and apprehension of a thief responsible for stealing rare manuscripts and maps from libraries throughout the United States worth an estimated three million dollars! What is so noteworthy about Stephanie is not that she noticed an exacto blade on the floor. She could have easily found the knife blade and assumed that it had been dropped by the housekeeping staff as they were removing wads of gum from beneath the tables. Instead, Stephanie recognized that someone trying to steal valuable maps and prints from antique manuscripts might use precisely this type of tool.
Stephanie noticed that there was a man in the reading room not far from where she found the blade so she went to the visitor’s registration log and found his name, E. Forbes Smiley III. Next she went on the internet and googled Smiley’s name. What she discovered made her even more suspicious. Smiley was prominently mentioned as a dealer in rare maps. She immediately activated a security camera with a view of the glass enclosed reading room and notified the Yale Police Department of her suspicions. They sent detective Martin Buonfiglio right over but before he got there Smiley was recorded removing an antique map, with an estimated value of $150,000.00, from a rare book and putting it in his briefcase.
Detective Buonfiglio arrived and continued a surveillance of Smiley as the rare map dealer left the library and walked around the campus. After following Smiley for a while Detective Buonfiglio was confident that Smiley was acting without the help of accomplices. Smiley was acting nervous and seemed disoriented. When he stopped to check his briefcase at the entrance to a University Museum Detective Buonfiglio moved in and confronted Smiley. Smiley admitted that the knife blade was his and allowed the detective to inspect his briefcase. There the detective found an estimated $700,000 worth of stolen maps, some from the Yale rare book and manuscript room and others from other libraries.
Although Smiley initially pled “not guilty” to criminal charges he ultimately gave a confession to the F.B.I. acknowledging that he had stolen ninety-seven historical documents and sold many of them to dealers and collectors for approximately two million dollars. The total value of the items he stole amounted to three million dollars. Smiley cooperated with the F.B.I. and they were able to locate and recover many of the maps that he had taken. This cooperation was apparently taken into consideration when he was sentenced to three and a half years in a low security federal prison.
No one but E. Forbes Smiley really knows how long he had been traveling around the world stealing rare maps from unsuspecting libraries. What we do know is that he got away with it for an extensive amount of time. Had it not been for Stephanie’s methodical and thoughtful actions, he may still making profits today. The dropping of the exacto blade might have been a random chance event but its discovery and the investigative steps taken by Stephanie were not by “chance”. We may not associate good investigative techniques with librarians, but this example shows that investigative capability has more to do with an attitude of mind than a job title.
Part 8: Who is Dishonest?
May 19, 2017
Eighth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Who is Dishonest? from Chapter 4.
The short answer is this: Everyone has the capability of being dishonest. People of all types become disenfranchised with their employer, suffer a severe financial hardship, or are significantly tempted to engage in dishonest behavior. Some of these people will avail themselves of an opportunity to do something dishonest while others will not. One’s position and income do not eliminate the potential for dishonesty. Therefore, no person or position should be considered above suspicion.
Before we go any further let’s do a brief exercise.
The Uniform Supply Company
Suppose for a moment that you are applying for a job as the lead investigator for a large multi-state uniform supply company. During your interview with the VP of Operations he asks you to read the below descriptions of four employees and rank them from highest risk to lowest risk for dishonesty. She expects you to explain the thought process you used to determine your ranking.
______ A 24 year-old divorced single mother with 2 children working full-time in the accounting department
______A 45 year-old woman who has returned to the workplace after raising two kids at home and works in the laundry area, she does not have a car and is dropped off and picked up by her husband daily
______A 25 year-old husband and father who took a job as a full-time warehouseman after he was laid off from a job in the technology sector he is hoping to get back in the technology business and would like to continue to work for part-time when that happens
______ A 48 year-old salesman who travels as part of his work he drives a seven year old car and has two children in college
Once you have made your selections turn to Appendix A-11 and compare your answers.
Familiarity with crime statistics in the categories most likely to be encountered in the workplace is useful knowledge to a private sector investigator. Although there are slight changes in the statistical results each year, the following statistics can be used as a starting point to predict the likelihood that a specific individual is dishonest.
• Of the 2.8 million people arrested for crimes most likely to be encountered in business each year, 60% are males and 40% are females. Therefore, males are 34% more likely to be dishonest than females.
• The peak age for criminal behavior among both males and females is eighteen years of age
• Fifty percent of those arrested are under twenty-five years old
• Sixty-five percent of those arrested are under the age of thirty years old
• Seventy-two percent of those arrested are under the age of thirty-five years old
• Eighty percent of those arrested are under the age of forty years old
From these statistics we can say that the likelihood of dishonesty reduces with age. However, before I move on let me point out two exceptions to this statement. In a study I conducted of more than 10,000 individuals arrested for theft there were two noteworthy one-year spikes. Women who were thirty years old at the time of arrest were four times higher than those at ages twenty-seven to thirty-three. Men who were fifty years old at the time of arrest were five times higher than those at ages 48, 49, 51, and 52. With a 10,000 large sample size it is impossible for these results to be attributed to chance. Unfortunately, this study was conducted after-the-fact meaning women who were thirty and men who were age 50 were not available to be questioned about their behavior. It would be speculative to attach specific meaning to these statistics but the next chapter on why people engage in dishonest behavior may offer some insight.
I examined the tenure of more than five thousand employees arrested for theft in another multi-year study conducted by the author. Each year between sixty and seventy percent of the employees apprehended had been employed for less than twelve months. Another 20% had been employed for less than twenty-four months. The results continued to decline for each year of service and it was rare for people to be apprehended after ten years of service. Therefore, we can say that the likelihood of dishonesty reduces with tenure on the job. You may wondering how all this statistical information is useful to an investigator since we must consider all possibilities when attempting to prove em’ innocent. Here’s a hypothetical example:
Joe’s Pawn Shop
Suppose you are an investigator for a company that buys and sells gold bullion. You arrive at work one morning and discover that sometime between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. the previous day someone had taken $50,000 in gold from a locked room on your premises. There is no sign of a forced entry and there are only four people who entered the room using a biometric fingerprint keypad during the three-hour interval. You have been told to conduct a general loss interview of each of the four individuals before the end of the day. This type of interview will be discussed further in another chapter.
The four employees are as follows:
A. A twenty-four year old divorced single mother with 2 children working full-time for 5 years
B. A forty-five year old married woman who has worked for the company for 3 years
C. A twenty-five year old husband and father who has worked there full-time for 3 years
D. A forty-eight year-old married male who has worked there 12 years
In what order will you conduct the interviews?
Part 9: How Employees Commit a Dishonest Act
May 31, 2017
Ninth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: How Employees Commit a Dishonest Act from Chapter 4.
Understanding “How” employees commit dishonest acts is the most critical element of closing an investigation successfully. It’s important to recognize that there are thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of techniques and schemes used by employees to perpetrate theft and fraud against their employers. Although I’ve sprinkled many examples throughout this book these examples barely scratch the surface. The job of investigators is to learn how people have, or could, harm their employers and then test each hypothesis through their investigations.
If you are new to investigations or new to a company the best place to start is to become as knowledgeable as you can about how losses occur and to study and analyze how they have happened in the past. Most companies will take protective measures to prevent a reoccurrence of a known theft or fraud exposure but that does not mean that policies and programs are always being followed. If it happened once, it might happen again with a slightly different twist.
The second most effective way to learn how dishonest acts might occur is to learn from the experience of others. This can be accomplished through industry trade groups and associations, reading newspapers, magazines and books (like this one), and personal contact with a knowledgeable mentor. If it happened somewhere else at some other time, might it happen where you are?
Lastly, and perhaps most important of all is to learn to put yourself in the shoes of a dishonest person. You don’t have to be dishonest to think like someone who is. You merely have to be able to evaluate circumstances and opportunities and ask yourself, “If I were a dishonest person, how would I take advantage of this?” Every time you go through this exercise you add to your mental how library. If you are investigating a loss you already know about, you can access this library of knowledge and test each “how” as a hypothesis. If you aren’t investigating a specific event you can still use your how library to create a hypothesis regarding what could happen and then determine if it did.
Understanding how dishonest acts occur will be of little use unless you also consider how you are going to find out when they occur, and how you are going to investigate them. As your investigative experience develops, you will soon discover that history really does repeat itself. You will also be amazed at how often a dishonest person thinks they have invented a brand new method of theft or fraud. The reality is that the few truly new methods of dishonesty that occasionally appear are associated with a leap in the use of new technology. Everything else has been done previously.
Part 10: General Strain Theory
July 6, 2017
Tenth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: General Strain Theory from Chapter 5.
We all experience stress during our lives and handle stressful situations differently. General strain theory is based on the belief that there is a limit to how much stress we can each comfortably handle before we engage in a stress relieving behavior. For some, a stress relieving behavior can be prayer, jogging, shopping, or many other forms of socially acceptable behavior. For others, when they exceed their capacity for handling stress they turn to alcohol, infidelity, illegal drugs, dishonesty, or other forms of deviant behavior.
General strain theory was first introduced as a casual factor in criminology by Robert Agnew PhD. in 1992. He explained it this way, “…strains or stressors increase the likelihood of negative emotions like anger and frustration. These emotions create pressure for corrective action, and crime is one possible response”. Agnew’s research also suggests that it is not a single strain or stressor that results in negative behavior but the effect of multiple stressors occurring at the same time. He also submits that not all stress is equal. Being late to work due to unusually heavy traffic will not have the same magnitude of stress as losing a loved one.
What I like about the general strain theory is that it offers an explanation for why fine, decent people will do things out of their character. For example, a middle-aged woman who worked for the same company and never had performance issues or had been in trouble with the law suddenly starts pilfering office supplies and taking change from petty cash. No one would suspect her of being a thief but the facts speak for themselves and you wonder why this woman would put her job in jeopardy over such trivial amounts. Later you find that she lost her husband six months ago, her only daughter recently moved to a town ten hours away, and that she was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. You begin to understand why she is dealing with her stress in an unconventional way.
The ability or lack thereof to deal with stress is not confined to age, sex, race, etc. The following real statement given by a 25-year-old liquor store employee caught stealing serves as an excellent example of general strain theory at work:
“My name is ---------------------------- I work at store ------. I am a supervisor and started working for the company in April. In the time that I have worked for the company, I have experienced many life changing events and unfortunately have resulted in my ashamed behavior and actions. I have lived in ------------------ for a little over 3 years as I moved here with my then boyfriend to attend college. In September, I ended a 7 year relationship with my then boyfriend due to infidelity. I was devastated and financially strapped. I now had to face the humbling reality of living a life full of financial obligations. I was left to finance an apartment’s rent, utilities, and two car-payments. I bought my ex-boyfriend a vehicle, because he did not have acceptable credit. After the break up I was left with the vehicle and his half of financial responsibilities which then paralled myself into a mode of survival pitting right against wrong.
During the holiday season, the registers double-activated several gift cards which were stored in a locked drawer. Being aware of these cards and the urge to provide gifts for friends during the holiday season, I took one of the gift cards which I believe was in the amount of around $100 to purchase merchandise to give as presents.
As the season slowed down and more idle time was left on my hands, I was faced with the need to overcome a heart breaking experience by making attempts to socialize. Being in a relationship for the past 7 years has affected my ability to socialize and I thought that I could use alcohol as a way to be more socially accepted and comfortable. On May 1st --------, I falsely created a return at a register in the amount of $169.55, which I credited to my credit card and then later used the refunded amount to purchase liquor in an attempt to generate a social acceptance with a group of people by bringing alcohol. This amount was also created to be significantly high because my credit card was maxed out and I was in need of gas and groceries.
To create a refund amount I printed out barcodes from the computer and scanned them at the register, which included 4 bottles of Crown Royal 1.75L and one bottle of Capt. Morgan 1.75L, which totaled $169.55, I then manually entered my credit card number to receive the credit, as I have my credit card number memorized. I am not 100% certain as to what I wrote down on the slip but I did create a false slip in case the return was audited.
On May 11, now reaching a financial breaking point, I decided to create a false keg return. I falsely created a slip then produced an empty register ticket for 3 kegs, 3 taps, and 3 tubs which totaled $270. I then rang this transaction at a register and applied the credit to my credit card by manually entering the numbers at the register because I have my credit card number memorized.
To my fellow team members, Management staff, and leaders of the company, I am truly sorry for these regretful decisions and actions that I have taken. I fully plan on repaying all amounts of finances that have been taken from the company. Being able to work for this company has developed and empowered me to be a strong and successful person and I have (and now maybe had) full intentions of obtaining an MBA after I graduated college in the Spring and planned on staying with the company to help further grow and develop the business. It is embarrassing and devastating to realize that I have made such regretful actions due to a difficult time in my life. I plan on correcting my wrongs with the company and from the bottom of my heart apologize for my actions and ask for your forgiveness as you all made such a difference in my life and I am thankful to have been give the opportunities that were granted to me. In the event to settle my debt with the company I agree to repay $539.55 as this is the loss the company occurred due to my actions.”
This is a classic example of an intelligent individual with a bright future being faced with multiple sudden and significant stressors in her life. How is she going to afford the increase in rent, two car payments, college tuition and pay off a maxed out credit card? How is she going to learn to socialize and meet new people? How is she going to mend a broken heart? Unfortunately, she chose to alleviate her financial burden by stealing from the company, thus adding additional stressors to an already stressful existence.
It should also be noted that two of the concepts covered in chapter three are illustrated in this statement. The concept of escalation is evidenced by the fact that she stole $100.00 the first time, $169.55 the second time, and $270.00 the third time. There is very little doubt that she would have continued to steal had she not been apprehended.
This statement also illustrates the concept of repertoire. This was a smart individual who first stole when the availability of a loaded gift card gave her a sudden opportunity. Her method of operation changed to one requiring a lot more planning and sophistication. She was able to increase her thefts by printing UPC barcodes, memorizing her credit card number, ringing a fraudulent transaction in between two legitimate transactions, and creating a fraudulent slip. It is safe to say that her sophistication would have continued to improve as she advanced further in the company.
Part 11: Games & Exercises
August 18, 2017
Eleventh in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Games & Exercises from Chapter 5.
When you were a toddler you probably experienced a lesson in investigation. For example, if you were given a jigsaw puzzle requiring that you put pieces together to make a whole picture you may have then, without realizing it, embarked on your investigative career. In fact, the phrase “putting the pieces of a jigsaw together” is often used as an analogy for investigations. There are also other useful investigative analogies associated with the way most people put a jigsaw puzzle together. Most people separate the pieces and start by putting all the pieces with a straight edge together to create a frame. Similarly, investigators will start by examining all the pieces and linking the easiest ones together first. When completing a jigsaw puzzle we try to piece things together working from the outside toward the center. Likewise, investigations should begin with a wide focus and gradually narrow towards the center. Last but not least, you really do not see the entire picture of the jigsaw puzzle (or investigation) until you have put the last piece in place.
Now that you are an adult you might be less inclined to play games or solve puzzles than you were as a child; but playing games and solving puzzles can be much more than childhood leisure activities. They can serve as excellent tools to learn and improve your investigative skills. But be careful, not all games and puzzles are created equal. Some of the ones I have found most useful, and the reasons why, are described throughout the rest of this chapter.
If you know why you never want to “pass” when your partner opens a game of bridge with a bid of “one club” you already know one of the many conventions necessary to compete effectively in a game of bridge. Bridge is played with a deck of fifty-two cards evenly divided between four players who are paired into two teams. Players sit opposite their partner and communicate the strength of their hands through a bidding process referred to as an “auction.” The team winning the auction creates a “contract” to take seven or more “tricks” and one of those two players is going to be a “dummy.”
Bridge is a great game to learn and play to improve one’s investigative ability. In addition to practicing various strategies, the game requires brevity, concentration, critical thinking, memory, math skills and inferential reasoning, among other attributes. Unlike chess or Arimaa, bridge requires that players communicate effectively and work together within rigid rules to achieve success.
What makes the auction phase of the game so challenging is that players are limited to the use of fifteen words to express the strength of their hand and their desired strategy. If either player does not know the code words and meaning in the current play (referred to as “conventions”) their team is hampered and more likely to lose.
Bridge players who are good at retrieving memories of the bidding during the auction phase and the cards previously played by each player during the course of a hand are well positioned to use inferential reasoning as the same hand of bridge progresses. For example, if an opposing player bid one heart in response to a one club bid made by her partner and after seven tricks have been taken the Ace, Queen, ten, seven, five, four, three, and deuce have been played but the player making the one heart bid did not play either the Ace or the queen, and you have the Jack in your hand you can inferentially reason which player still has the King in her hand.
For those not familiar with bridge let’s look at an example of inferential reasoning written by Dagmar Zeithamova, Margaret L. Schlichting, and Alison R. Preston in their article titled The Hippocampus and inferential reasoning: Building memories to navigate future decisions published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in March 2012:
“Imagine you encounter an unfamiliar man leaving the house next door to walk his Great Dane. Because the house was recently sold, you might conclude that the man and his dog are your new neighbors. Several days later, you are in the park and see the same Great Dane again out for a walk, this time with a woman. From the knowledge acquired on these two separate occasions, you may infer a relationship between the man and woman; for instance, you may deduce that they are a couple and recently moved into the house next door with their Great Dane.” The authors conclude that “successful inferential reasoning may thus depend on our ability to recall detailed information from past events to determine how items experienced at different times are related.” This conclusion fits “investigators” like a glove. In fact, perhaps an investigative example using gloves might illustrate inferential reasoning even better. Suppose the following:
A company makes 300 pairs of cashmere lined dark brown leather gloves with distinctive stitching that are sold exclusively in one department store in New York City.
A married woman from California buys two pairs of the gloves.
Later the married woman’s husband is photographed and filmed wearing a pair of the gloves.
That same year the couple gets divorced.
Two years later the woman and a male friend are found viciously murdered outside the woman’s California condominium.
Found at the crime scene is a left-hand glove matching the distinctive characteristics of the aforementioned gloves in every detail. DNA analysis of the blood concludes that the blood was a mixture of blood belonging to both victims and the x-husband.
Found behind the ex-husbands house in California is a bloody right-hand glove matching the distinctive characteristics of the aforementioned gloves in every detail. DNA analysis of the blood concludes that the blood was a mixture of blood belonging to both victims and the x-husband.
Inferential reasoning would lead one to believe that a) the woman bought the gloves for her husband and b) the now ex-husband murdered his x-wife and her friend. However, inferential reasoning is not the same as absolute proof. In the Great Dane example the deduction that the man and woman are the new neighbors living next door could be a possibility. It could also be possible that the man lives alone with the dog and has hired a woman dog-walker to take care of the dog while he is out-of-town. The presence of the dog with the man and woman at different times does not prove they are a couple.
Similarly, while the forensic and circumstantial evidence related to the gloves strongly supports the theory that the ex-husband killed his ex-wife and her friend, opposing evidence could show that the gloves found at the crime scene and behind the ex-husbands house do not fit the ex-husband. This could make positive-proof illusive.
If you remain unconvinced that inferential reasoning skills are important to investigators, or that bridge is a game that can help you polish these skills, consider the following. Two of the most intelligent and wealthy Americans, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, regularly play bridge. You can find both men talking about the benefits of playing bridge by searching their name and the word “bridge” on www.youtube.com.
“Tis’ better to be a dummy at bridge than a dummy at investigations”
Part 12: Games & Exercises: Poker
January 18, 2018
Twelfth in a series of bi-monthly excerpts: Games & Exercises: Poker from Chapter 5.
Poker has experienced explosive growth during the last decade in part due to on-line poker sites and small “hole-cameras” that show viewers what cards are held by each player. What was once a card game appealing mostly to participants has now become a spectator sport with televised tournaments. While watching poker games can be entertaining, playing poker can be instructive and can develop helpful investigative skills. Here is a short list of some of the skills acquired and used by good poker players followed by a sentence or two illustrating the investigative value of these same skills:
Good poker players recognize nuances in body language and changes in tone and inflection of voice. They call these “tells”. Good investigators do the same thing and benefit by learning how to recognize deception.
Good poker players take a disciplined approach to play by calculating odds and playing to win. Good investigators learn to take a disciplined approach to investigations by carefully considering all investigative options and selecting those with the greatest likelihood of success first. Both groups get punished when they act impulsively.
Good poker players control their emotions. They call this having a “poker-face”. Good investigators learn to use a “poker-face” to avoid transmitting too much information to a witness or suspect.
Good poker players learn to adjust to changing conditions. The element of chance in poker requires quick and decisive thinking. Good investigators prepare for all sorts of contingencies including chance, and act quickly and decisively.
Good poker players understand information management. They try to get as much information as possible while giving as little information as possible. The exact same thing is true of good investigators. They recognize the value of information to their investigation and recognize that what information they have could be exploited by others.
Good poker players avoid being predictable. They change their style of play frequently alternating between playing loose and conservative, bluffing and not bluffing, and folding and raising depending on their position. A predictable investigator is a poor investigator.
Good poker players understand the benefits of acting last. Good investigators know how to wait until others have committed to an act or course of action before they act. They don’t jump-the gun.
Good poker players use psychology to dictate their play. Every hand is a potential winning hand and every hand is a potential losing hand. The difference in winning or losing has more to do with thinking about the type of hand held by your opponents, thinking about what they think you have, and even thinking about what they think you think they think. Good investigators get into the heads of the people they investigate. They think about what a person might be thinking to motivate their behavior. They think about what a person might be thinking to avoid being caught, and they think about what someone is thinking about what an investigator might think.
This can all sound confusing so let me sum it up using a quote from Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends And Influence People, “If there is one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as your own.” In other words, learning how to play poker can help you master the ability to get inside the head of another person. During an investigation this ability will help you determine where to look, what to look for, and when to be at the right place at the right time.