A $50 million private equity investment deal was in its final stages, with commissions and bonuses presumably already calculated, when Artus Group was assigned the due diligence investigation on a young US software company. The client was hoping for a “rubber-stamp” due diligence, however during the investigation, certain adverse information gradually came to light.
The client was pushing for a final report as the deal-date approached, but Artus Group investigators just had ‘that feeling’, even though the public record and media was not necessarily adverse. The problem stemmed from subject’s very common name – similar to ‘Robert Jones’, for example – and disseminating the thousands of possible public records was an enormous task. Of greater concern, however, was that we believed the subject’s father by the same name was an Australian metals mogul who had been convicted for bribing an Australian senator with prostitutes and money. Linking the father to the son (and if so, determining its possible relevance) was a daunting task, with a fast-approaching deadline.
Artus Group reviewed literally thousands of documents in an attempt to establish a link between the two. Finally, investigators identified a 1998 SEC filing which listed an address for the father which was known to have been used by the son between 1997 and 2001. Clarity came pretty quickly and the house of cards collapsed. Further inquiries revealed the father was a major private angel investor in his son’s U.S. company, and the deal quickly unraveled.
What became of this client? They must have been delighted of course. Incorrect: The deal fell through, commissions and bonuses were lost, and both lead analysts were fired for their roles in letting the deal get so far and failing to adequately conduct their own due diligence.
Remember: An Artus Group due diligence is not a ‘rubber stamp’. Be prepared for all possible outcomes.
Our attorney client represented a female client who wanted to divorce her husband. The relationship had deteriorated beyond repair, but she wanted proof that her husband was indeed having the affair he had denied for years.
Artus Group’s carefully planned surveillance involved seven investigators in four different states, following the subject has he traveled and lied his way across the country. In a carefully orchestrated event, a Connecticut investigator followed the subject from his home in Connecticut to JFK, then boarded the flight with the subject on his way to Philadelphia. We ‘handed off’ the subject to our investigators in the Philadelphia terminal, and two more investigators were also in place nearby, ready to follow the subject if he exited the terminal. The subject made a connecting flight to Denver – accompanied by our Pennsylvania investigator – and was joined by his girlfriend, who entered the plane separately and then slipped into the seat next to our subject. Our investigator traveled covertly with the subject and his girlfriend through until they reached Denver, where he was supposedly visiting a client. Our Pennsylvania investigator ‘handed off’ the subject to our Colorado staff upon arrival, and we then followed the subject and his girlfriend as they rented a car and traveled to their hotel – we even obtained video of them checking in to the hotel, from close range. During check-in, the subject was overheard making a telephone call to his wife in Connecticut, in which he discussed meeting his new client, while standing arm-in-arm with his girlfriend in a Denver hotel lobby. Divorce, although inevitable, was now easier for our client to face.
A computer forensic investigation was requested by a client who suspected a former senior executive at a manufacturing facility of attempting to start a competing business and steal clients, in violation of his non-compete and non-solicitation agreements.
Extensive review of his company PC and laptop revealed the executive had carefully deleted all emails, documents and browser histories. However, extensive review of remaining files and free space identified hundreds of hidden documents. Artus Group investigators found emails regarding the executive’s plans to form a new, competing company; found emails to existing clients attempting to divert business to the new company; found letters to lawyers regarding the new company; and even found images of company merchandise the executive had downloaded from the client’s server to use on his future website.
The information gathered by Artus Group computer forensic analysts was presented in court. Our analysts testified to the findings, and our client was awarded a restraining order and cease and desist order. The executive is presumably waiting for his non-compete to expire…
Our attorney client represented a female who was convinced her ex-husband still knew way too much about her private life and schedule, even after a year of being divorced. Electronic debugging identified no eavesdropping devices at the client’s house. Further analysis of her laptop however revealed her husband had secretly placed a logging software onto her laptop before he left, which had sent ‘printscreen’ snap-shots of the client’s computer screen to a Gmail account every two minutes for over a year. The husband then simply accessed the email account to view every email, every website visited, every chat thread, every Skype window the client had viewed for over a year. In what remains one of the worst invasions of privacy we have seen, as a result Artus Group’s investigation, the client was able to change computers, upgrade her computer and personal security, and get on with her life.
A pre-employment background investigation could have saved one client hundreds of thousands of dollars. The client hired a Vice President of Operations based on references alone. 12 months after the employee was hired; he was offered an equity position in the company. He accepted and signed the agreement. Later that month he had an accident on a work site on company time which no one observed. He went on workers’ compensation leave, where he remains over a year later. He is receiving a six figure income and still has an equity stake in the company. The client became embroiled in costly litigation of this matter and has spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees as a result.
The client requested a background investigation for the purposes of conducting the litigation. The background investigation revealed a Federal criminal record for attempted fraud, a previous workers’ compensation claim, one Federal bankruptcy and eighteen civil lawsuits related to non payment of debt and contract disputes, three of which were related to former employers. The client remains in litigation which has cost the company significant resources, time and money. This would have been avoided if the client had conducted a pre-employment background investigation prior to hiring the individual.
Intellectual Property Investigations
A client learned that pirated software was being sold in the US though a company in Rhode Island which was registered as a Delaware corporation. The client requested an investigation be conducted to identify the source. All they had was an old invoice as evidence.
The invoice for the software purchase was obtained which revealed a Rhode Island fax number at the top of the document. The investigation revealed the fax number was in fact forwarded to an electronic hub line in Las Vegas, which then automatically transmitted the fax in the form of an email to an email account. The investigation revealed the billing address for the fax line was a company in London which was determined to be the registered agent on record with the Delaware Secretary of State for the Rhode Island company.
Undercover contact through the email address revealed the source was a company in Croatia, which was also the parent company of the London business which paid the Las Vegas fax line invoice. The investigation revealed the identity of the manufacturer and the client proceeded with international litigation to cease and desist operation and distribution of the counterfeit software.
Mobile field surveillance consistently reveals theft, fraud, insurance fraud and domestic infidelities. A fraud investigation involved a driver for a retail store who drove produce from Atlanta, GA to numerous retail locations in Connecticut. Every week, deliveries at each store would be missing just one or two items out of shipments of over 500 garments. The shrinkage levels at each location were so small that they were not often reported or investigated. After two years, stores in the route reported an increase in missing garments. Investigators conducted mobile surveillance on the driver over a three week period during every delivery on the entire Connecticut route. Every stop was identified and recorded on video.
The surveillance revealed the driver would meet with three relatives on his route in Connecticut and would hand them a bag containing merchandise, which he had carefully removed from each delivery. Investigators followed the relatives as they went to a storage facility where they presumably stored the products each week. With sufficient video evidence, the police obtained a search warrant and reveled over $120,000 of the client’s products in the storage facility. The driver confessed to stealing products to the value of $5,000 per week at his peak and was arrested. The company had not performed a criminal background check on the driver prior to hiring him. If they had done so, they would have learned that the driver had a criminal conviction record in Florida for second degree larceny for a similar violation.
A handwritten death threat was received by a Connecticut CEO, but the writing was disguised and written in block capitals. Forensic investigators microscopically examined the indentations on the document which revealed handwriting indentations. These indentations appeared to be writing on a check written to a leading insurance company, to which the author had written the check on top of the paper and the same indentations were made on the death threat document. The amount of the check was legible and we coordinated with the insurance company to identify checks from Connecticut residents in that amount. Eight checks were identified. Database profile research determined that one of the eight was written by a person whose significant other worked for our client. Interviews were arranged at the employee’s place of business and the employee confessed to writing what he stated was a “joke”. He offered his resignation from the company, which was accepted.
A threatening voicemail was received by a CEO attempting to take her company though a sensitive hostile takeover. She stated she had previously received several similar calls but could not identify the source. She believed the person was involved in Information Technology (IT) by some of the statements made in an earlier conversation. Using spectrographic analysis, our specialists compared the threatening voicemail message against voicemail recorded absentee messages of the IT department employees. (There were no rights to privacy of those recorded messages as maintained and stated in the company’s Electronic Monitoring Policy). A positive match was identified and the individual was interviewed. A confession was not forthcoming but the individual immediately resigned without recourse to the client.
Having managed over one hundred commercial undercover investigations, one is rarely surprised by the findings. Undercover investigations have revealed heroin and cocaine sales, theft, abuse, embezzlement, discrimination and violence in the workplace. One undercover investigation was requested by a client whose Food and Beverage Director was accused of sexual harassment by female staff. The CEO had received three letters from female staff complaining about the Director in graphic terms.
A female undercover agent was placed at the client’s facility for three months. The investigation in fact revealed that another manager who wanted the food and beverage Director’s job had created a “harem” of female waitresses at the facility. The manager had formed a sex ring in the hotel and acting as their pimp, providing the females with drugs and money in return. He also wrote the letters to the CEO on the waitresses’ behalf and had them sign the letters. The investigation revealed the Food and Beverage Director was innocent of sexual harassment. The sex ring was broken, the waitresses were fired and the manager faced criminal charges.
One retail client located several of its store gift cards on sale at various Internet auction sites. The gift cards were for irregular amounts such as $87.65 and not $100.00, which suggested that they were refund credits. Investigators tracked all Internet gift card sales for a one month period and began purchasing cards using undercover pre-established names, identities, email addresses, accounts and mailing addresses. An undercover relationship was established with the sellers and their presumed anonymity was uncovered. The investigation revealed a ring of store employees in Florida generating and selling false refund gift cards. Federal criminal charges were successfully brought against the individuals.
Vicious hate mail was received by a private client. The letters contained threats, vulgarities and disgusting items. The letters were typed and photocopied and had been handled by many people, eliminating handwriting and fingerprint analysis as an investigative option. We sent the envelope to our Forensic lab for DNA analysis which revealed a DNA profile, obtained from the saliva in the licked portion of the envelope. The client was convinced the author was a relative of his. At a dinner party he held, the client obtained a cigarette end, a glass and a bottle, each of which had been used by the three leading candidates. The DNA profile obtained from the cigarette end matched the profile obtained from the envelope. This information was reported to the client for his private use.
A major personal injury case was filed against the parent company of a facility which was going out of business. A walk-through by the lawyers involved had to be initiated before the facility was closed and the equipment was sold off at auction. The event had to be recorded in intense detail for future litigation. Our Emmy award winning videographic team videotaped the event, which was conducted by our client, a leading law firm. Many other attorneys and interested parties attended the walk-through. The quality of our raw and edited production video was universally deemed to be so high that numerous copies were requested and further walk-throughs were not necessary.
We have installed covert cameras in corporations, businesses, hotels and offices throughout the Northeast. The saddest event occurred when the owner of a successful family meat business was losing boxes of filet mignon every other week. A covert camera was installed in a smoke detector outside the freezer entrance. During the next three weeks, an individual was recorded twice removing boxes of meat without authorization. Review of the tape revealed that the thief was a person who had worked for our client for 26 years and was the Production Manager at the company. The owner had paid for the employee’s son to go to college and was devastated with these results.
An Italian men’s clothing manufacturer had obtained counterfeit copies of their suits in New York. The copies were of high quality and even to the trained eye, the source of the manufacturing process used could not be determined. Our technicians obtained samples of the fabric and the labels and photographed them using laboratory grade high-end cameras with Macro lenses. The incredibly high detailed macro photographs were forwarded to a thread expert in the industry. The analysis revealed that the labels were produced using a unique process to which the expert was familiar. The client and the expert were able to identify the manufacturer of the labels and an international criminal and civil litigation case was initiated.