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This 11th post in my “Private Investigators” series focuses on how private investigators may use data brokers to search for your assets & other personal information.

The August 5th Bloomberg article “This Company Has Built a Profile on Every American Adult,” brings up IDI,Inc. The article suggests that IDI has built a profile about you on its idiCore database. Private investigators, debt collectors, lawyers & government authorities might access this database to search for your assets & other personal information. The end of the article also says “IDI’s marketing databases may help PIs predict people’s moves or digitally peek into their cars or medicine cabinets.” IDI could be collecting your personal information through data mining. How can data brokers like IDI mine data? They may analyze your clickstream, as mentioned by my May 11, 2015 post:

Data Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other Personal Information?

As the Federal Trade Commission, (“FTC”), video depicted above reveals, data brokers (a.k.a. “information brokers”) and some other private sector businesses sell your highly personal information. The video says for example, your location, interests, prescriptions and medical history may all be “shared or sold.” Pages 22, 24, 34 & Appendix B-5 of a May 2014 FTC report similarly indicate that data brokers can search for your financial information including: where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.

Continue Reading Private Investigators: An Asset Search Via Data Brokers Like IDI,Inc.

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Favorite Asset Search Blog posts from 2015 include:

 

ERR Rembrandt111-SC-374664Recovering Art Assets & Cultural Heritage Propertycovers how divorcing spouses; terrorists & others may employ art to hide their assets.  This post was written by Leila A. Amineddoleh, Esq. who is an art and cultural heritage lawyer and an adjunct professor at Fordham University School of Law.

 

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 Private Investigators: A Surreptitious Search For Money Hidden In Divorce & Other Cases— discusses what might possibly go wrong during a search for hidden assets. It mentions searching for assets by using wiretaps; bank searches; law enforcement databases & physical surveillance.

 

FTC video sharing infoData Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other Personal Information?explains that data brokers mine data & harvest your private information.  The information can consist of “where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 5.34.06 PMRed Flags & The IRS Search For Attorney Memmott’s Assets—analyzes a tax fraud prosecution.  In this case, prosecutors claimed Attorney Orion Douglas Memmott concealed assets through nominees (i.e. intermediaries), back-dated promissory notes & a business bank account.

 

First Image: macbrianmun/Shutterstock.com

Second Image: National Archives and Records Administration

Third Image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Byung Kyu Park

Fourth Image: Courtesy of U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Fifth Image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by DonkeyHotey

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Talking Points Photo

The following is a list of Asset Search Blog posts which discuss data brokers; private investigators; bankers; suspected tax fraudsters; etc.  As these posts show, asset searches & asset recoveries sometimes raise privacy &/or criminal law issues.

A)  Data Brokers, Data Mining & Your Privacy

  1. Data Brokers Searching For Your Assets, Bank Accounts & Other Personal Information?
  2. Government Data Mining & An Asset Search

B) Possible Illegal Asset Searches

  1. Private Investigators & Their Clients Facing Criminal Prosecution Over Illegal Asset Searches
  2. Private Investigators: A Surreptitious Search For Money Hidden In Divorce & Other Cases
  3. Private Investigators: 5 Things To Be Aware Of When Hiring A PI For A Bank Account Search
  4. Searching For Assets By Using Insiders At A Bank
  5. Searching Law Enforcement Data Bases For Your Personal Information?

C)  Criminal Prosecution For Hiding Assets

  1. An Asset Search, Tax Fraud & Divorce
  2. Prosecuting Offshore Bankers Who Allegedly Help Tax Evaders Hide Assets From The IRS
  3. Red Flags & The IRS Search For Attorney Memmott’s Assets
  4. Concealing Assets In More Than $150 Trusts?

Image: zsirosistvan/Shutterstock.com

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Photo Insider

This is my 21st post in the Divorce & Hidden Money series.  It is also the 8th post in my series describing what private investigators can and cannot do legally when searching for hidden assets.  My July 13th post mentioned private investigators & their clients using law enforcement databases and illegal pretext calls to search for assets.  As a practicing attorney, I am aware of another kind of asset search which would be illegal & this post describes it.  The post provides a hypothetical account which discusses a divorcing wife who hired a private investigator.  The private investigator in this hypothetical account, illegally obtains bank account information from an insider—a teller at a bank located in Nevada.

THE DIVORCING WIFE IN NEW JERSEY

Even though Ralph was a medical doctor with a thriving private practice, Ralph claimed in his New Jersey divorce that he had a low net worth.  Ralph’s divorcing wife Nancy suspected Ralph had hidden money in anticipation of the divorce.  Nancy gathered documents she obtained during the pretrial discovery phase of the divorce and before.

These documents included copies of Ralph’s: passport, statements for airline frequent flyer miles, phone bills, tax filings and additional financial records.  Nancy gave the documents to Mike, the licensed private investigator Nancy retained to perform an asset search regarding Ralph.  After conducting an investigation for more than a month, Mike told Nancy that Ralph hid monies at offshore banks and at a bank in Nevada.

THE SEARCH FOR SECRET BANK ACCOUNTS

Mike stated that Ralph secretly maintained about $2.5 million dollars in the offshore bank accounts which were located in high-risk geographical locations known for money laundering.  Ralph had supposedly hidden another $85,000 dollars in the secret bank account in Nevada.  Mike explained to Nancy that he could collect evidence regarding the secret bank accounts by conducting searches at the Nevada and the offshore banks.

Nancy paid Mike over $10,000 dollars for the bank account searches and Mike provided Nancy with an investigative report summarizing his search results.  The report named the offshore banks and the Nevada bank Ralph supposedly used to hide his money.  It supplied the purported secret bank account numbers; account balances and detailed the bank signatory information.

The report meanwhile, never explained the source of Mike’s information/how Mike detected Ralph’s supposed secret bank accounts.  When Nancy asked Mike how he had obtained the information at the report, Mike said the report was completely reliable.  A trusted colleague supplied Ralph’s offshore bank account information, Mike said.  Mike also explained he obtained Ralph’s Nevada bank account information from an “insider”, a teller who worked for the Nevada bank.  According to Mike, the insider used the bank’s computer system to sneak a peek at Ralph’s $85,000 dollar bank account.

THE U.S. CRIMINAL LAW VIOLATION IN NEVADA

Assuming that Mike’s representations to Nancy were true, then the bank teller and Mike could have violated privacy and other U.S. laws.  The two may have conspired to access Ralph’s Nevada bank account information in violation of  18 U.S.C. §1030  (Fraud and related activity in connection with computers).  Another type of case involving an insider at a bank was U.S.A. v. Feliciano, 2:09−cr−00197−NS.  The March 2009 indictment filed in Feliciano, alleged that a bank teller had stolen confidential customer information as part of a bank fraud/identity theft scheme.

First Image: Patrick Brassat/Shutterstock.com

Second image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

Accusation Photo

This post discusses when federal prosecutors might initiate a criminal prosecution against private investigators and their clients as a consequence of an illegal asset search.  It is the 7th post in my series covering private investigators.

If you are a divorcing spouse; heir under a will; a creditor; etc., you may hire a private investigator to help you search for hidden assets.  Your private investigator might then try to detect assets/discover leads by reviewing: passports; phone records; bank account statements; credit card transactions; tax filings; or other confidential information.  What if your private investigator illegally obtained this confidential information from sources like law enforcement databases in the U.S. or by making illegal pretext calls in the U.S.?

Could federal prosecutors then accuse you of crimes because your private investigator performed this illegal asset search for you?  If you knew that confidential information was going to be illegally obtained, prosecutors might initiate a criminal prosecution against you.  The December 6, 2007 press release issued in U.S.A. vs. Torrella et. al. 3:07-cr-05775 discussed the significance of this element of knowledge.  The press release said that several private investigators had been accused of illegally obtaining confidential information.  The private investigators supposedly wanted “to uncover assets or income” during investigations they performed for their clients.  According to the press release, the U.S. Attorney indicated a willingness to criminally prosecute the clients if the clients knew the ‘information was obtained illegally’:

This indictment alleges that private investigators across the country illegally obtained confidential information and sold it to the clients who hired them,’ said United States Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. ‘This is a very serious matter, the investigation is continuing and it is our intention to go after these ‘clients’ if we can prove that they knew this information was obtained illegally.’

In deciding whether to initiate criminal charges against you, federal prosecutors would also follow “the principle that, ordinarily, the attorney for the government should initiate or recommend Federal prosecution if he/she believes that the person’s conduct constitutes a Federal offense and that the admissible evidence probably will be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.”  U.S. Dep’t of Justice, United States Attorneys’ Manual 9-27.220 §B Comment (1997).

First Image: Jane0606/Shutterstock.com

Second image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

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As “A Surreptitious Search For Money Hidden In Divorce & Other Cases” explains, law enforcement databases may house confidential information about a person’s assets.  Private investigators & the general public cannot lawfully access these law enforcement databases/computers.  This is the 5th post in my series about what private investigators can and cannot do legally when searching for assets:

NJ.com reporter Vernal Coleman & private investigator Brian Willingham recently tweeted on an alleged scheme to access a confidential law enforcement database:

These tweets link to articles saying that Newark N.J. Police Captain Anthony Buono & Nutley N.J. private detective Dino D’Elia are suspected of conspiring to access a law enforcement computer/database.  According to one article, “Buono and D’Elia allegedly obtained the personal data of approximately 900 individuals, selling each set for $100.”  Mr. D’Elia &/or Mr. Buono are thought to have then possibly sold the data to private investigators &/or to data brokers.  State prosecutors have charged Mr. Buono & Mr. D’Elia with supposed violations of New Jersey’s conspiracy & computer theft laws.

Private investigators like Mr. D’Elia, (who are suspected of computer intrusions), sometimes face a federal prosecution rather than state prosecution.  USA v. Buell et. al., Index No. 1:15-cr-00385 is a matter in which a private investigator faced this type of federal prosecution.  At the criminal complaint in Buell, federal prosecutors alleged that private investigator Joseph P. Dwyer bribed an NYPD officer & conspired to obtain data from a law enforcement database.  Last week federal prosecutors slimmed down the criminal charges at their complaint against Mr. Dwyer.  They did this on June 18th by filing a one-count superseding information against Mr. Dwyer, charging him with a suspected bribery scheme.

First image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by elhombredenegro

Second image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

As the Federal Trade Commission, (“FTC”), video depicted above reveals, data brokers (a.k.a. “information brokers”) and some other private sector businesses sell your highly personal information.  The video says for example, your location, interests, prescriptions and medical history may all be “shared or sold.”  Pages 22, 24, 34 & Appendix B-5 of a May 2014 FTC report similarly indicate that data brokers can search for your financial information including: where and when you open a bank account; estimated household income; the assets you own; loan history; credit card use and tax return transcripts.

The video shows how private sector businesses can collect your personal information through “mobile, social media, free internet search and more.”   A March 9, 2014 60 Minutes episode entitled “The Data Brokers” sheds light on this situation.  The 60 Minutes episode explains your computer’s browsers and your mobile devices permit businesses like data brokers to follow your click stream.  Stated differently, private sector businesses are able to employ browsers and mobile devices to mine data and harvest your personal information.

According to the 60 Minutes episode, the end result is that people “are making dossiers…about individuals” and “[t]he largest data broker is Acxiom, a marketing giant that brags it has, on average, 1,500 pieces of information on more than 200 million Americans.”  If you are not already convinced that the private sector’s collection of your personal information violates your privacy, perhaps Senator Richard M. Burr’s recent speech will convince you.  As the transcript available here demonstrates, the Senator suggested during his speech last week that your private sector grocery store collects more information about you than the National Security Agency does.

Video courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

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This is the 3rd post in my private investigator series discussing what private investigators can and cannot do legally when searching for assets.  My January 6th post mentions that on behalf of clients, former attorney Mary Nolan and her private investigator conspired to place illegal wiretaps in cars.  Their clients were reportedly never accused of committing the wiretapping crimes.  The instant post discusses clients and/or lawyers who are accused of conspiring to commit crimes with the private investigators they use.

In USA v. Moser, private investigators Nathan Moser and Peter Siragusa were indicted along with their client Carlo Pacileo, the alleged director of security at ViSalus Inc.   The Jauary 7, 2015 indictment in their case alleges Mr. Pacileo, Mr. Moser and Mr. Siragusa conspired with computer hackers to illegally gather e-mails and Skype information.  They allegedly sought this information because it might have helped Mr. Pacileo’s employer ViSalus Inc., in a civil lawsuit it had filed.

The 3rd paragraph of the New York Times article “Private Eye Is Said to Face Prosecution in a Hacking” refers to the January 7th indictment in the Moser case.  The New York Times article also discussed the situation of lawyers engaging private investigators.  The article says there was speculation that lawyers sometimes hire private investigators to hack into e-mail accounts to learn about witnesses or evidence.  The article essentially says that in order to have “plausible deniability” there was evidence “some lawyers hire private investigators to obtain information for cases without delving too deeply into how it is gathered.

Would this strategy prevent the prosecution of a lawyer or client willing to take the risk of having something illegal done?  As the New York Times article “Investigator Admits Guilt in Hiring of a Hacker” explains, authorities are concerned about lawyers gathering information through hackers.  Furthermore, federal prosecutors follow “the principle that, ordinarily, the attorney for the government should initiate or recommend Federal prosecution if he/she believes that the person’s conduct constitutes a Federal offense and that the admissible evidence probably will be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction.”¹   Stated differently, a prosecutor is not likely to decline a prosecution if he or she thinks an individual hired a private investigator to commit a crime.

¹USAM 9-27.220

First image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Dennis Skley

Second image courtesy of Flickr (Licensed) by Tsahi Levent-Levi

Copyright 2015 Fred L. Abrams

This is the 2nd post in my series about private investigators & what they can & cannot do legally when searching for assets.  It is also the 10th post in my Divorce & Hidden Money series.  The Huffington Post article “Uncovering Hidden Assets In Divorce Litigation” observes that information obtained by “surreptitious means” might be used by one divorcing spouse against the other.  Obtaining information through a surreptitious search can be critical to recovering assets in a broad range of criminal & civil cases.  Depending on the circumstances, surreptitious searches might involve wiretaps; bank searches; law enforcement databases; and physical surveillance.  These surreptitious means have however, sometimes been abused by private investigators, attorneys & others in the following ways:

WIRETAPS– As stated in testimony at a 1967 U.S. Senate hearing ‘private bugging in this country can be divided into two broad categories, commercial espionage and marital litigation.’ ¹  Former attorney Mary Nolan handled divorce & family law matters for nearly 30 years before pleading guilty to the wiretapping & tax fraud charges at counts 1-4 &/or 6 of her 2012 criminal indictment.  An amended judgment showed Ms. Nolan was sentenced to serve 24 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, etc.  Ms. Nolan’s sentencing memorandum said her cases frequently involved allegations that husbands were hiding assets.  The prosecutor’s sentencing memorandum meanwhile, claimed Ms. Nolan had employed a private investigator “to install eavesdropping devices in cars used by her clients’ spouses for use in their divorce proceedings.”

BANK SEARCHES– Some private investigators try to surreptitiously search banks in the U.S. for accounts secretly opened by divorcing spouses, debtors, etc.  These investigators may claim they search through computer research; insiders; or information brokers.  Private investigators cannot ordinarily search banks legally because of privacy and other U.S. laws, as explained by the post available here.   The Court has also noted “it is more likely than not that the only way that information brokers can obtain private financial information from banks is through the use of deception and trickery, including impersonation of account holders.”  Commonwealth v. Source One Associates, Inc., No. CIV. A. 98-0507-H, 1999 WL 975120, at *6 (Mass. Super. Oct. 12, 1999) aff’d sub nom. Com. v. Source One Associates, Inc., 436 Mass. 118, 763 N.E.2d 42 (2002). Continue Reading Private Investigators: A Surreptitious Search For Money Hidden In Divorce & Other Cases