The founder and chief executive of Trustify, the online platform connecting clients to a network of private investigators, has been charged with fraudulently offering and selling more than $18.5 million in securities to 90 corporate and individual investors.
Daniel Boice misrepresented Trustify as a fast-growing startup with thousands of investigators and robust revenues to corporate clients, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which announced parallel actions against Boice and the company recently.
The SEC said the Arlington, Virginia-based company falsely inflated its financial performance and the number of investigators it had on its roster, and then shut its doors when it was unable to pay its employees and vendors.
“As alleged in our complaint, Boice and Trustify lied to investors about their failing business to give the appearance of a thriving technology startup, while misappropriating investor funds to support an extravagant lifestyle,” said Kelly L. Gibson, Director of the SEC’s Philadelphia Regional Office.
“The scheme resulted in millions of dollars in investors losses, and the SEC will do all it can to hold the defendants accountable.”
The charges follow the news Trustify went bankrupt last year. Just two years prior the company moved into a plush new office and was heralded by the Virginia governor’s office for its plan to create 184 new jobs in Arlington.
The SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and civil penalties from Boice. A former Trustify executive, Jennifer Mellon, Boice's wife, has also been charged by the SEC for receiving fraudulent funds.
One New York investment firm invested twice in Trustify. In 2017, it invested $4.75 million after receiving allegedly fraudulent financial statements. In 2018, it invested an additional $2 million in a “Series B” fundraising round after receiving emails that purported to confirm investments made by other banks. The confirmation email was actually sent by Boice, who used a fraudulent email handle to mimic another’s account, the Justice Department found.
Instead, the authorities said, Boice used about $8 million of funds support his and his then-wife’s own extravagant lifestyle. The money was allegedly used for private jet charters, vacations, a luxury car, jewelry, and mortgage payments. Another $500,000 also allegedly went to his own consulting company, GoLean DC.
Founded in 2015, Trustify, Inc. described itself the first technology platform to connect clients across the United States to the only nationwide network of highly trained, vetted private investigators. In 2016, Washington Business Journal named the company one of its Startups of the Week, and Trustify got a lot of attention for its forward-thinking business model.
But then the company stopped paying its bills and quickly disintegrated.
Virginia-based Private Investigator John Morse of Morse Investigation Services explained, “They had little to no desire to get in compliance, and they imploded from corporate culture that they bred. It’s as much about delivering client expectations as the final product, and I don't think they were successful at either.”
Private investigators overwhelmingly think PIs should be licensed, but some don’t know of any complaints against individual PIs.
Following a recent decision by Colorado Governor Jared Polis which effectively killed off licensing (see previous stories on this blog) in the state, Ross Investigators surveyed PIs across the country to learn their thoughts on licensing.
Licensing laws exist in all the states where PIs who responded to the survey conduct business. Most also said they thought PIs should be required to be licensed.
None knew of any moves in their states to follow Colorado’s lead and repeal licensing laws.
“Licensing protects the consumer and ensures that only licensed, insured, bonded and experience private investigators provide investigative services,” said one survey respondent.
“Licensing in and of itself does not guarantee competence,” said another respondent. “Proper licensing such as California has requiring 6,000 hours of compensated investigative experience to qualify for licensing (which) certainly goes a long way.”
Another said licenses maintain the professionalism and trustworthiness of the industry by ensuring all license holders have clean records and meet minimum experience requirements.
“However, the Colorado PI law was an absolute joke and there will be little difference without licensing.”
The survey asked PIs what they thought of Governor Polis’ statement that licenses rarely protect the public from harm and instead serve as a barrier for people trying to enter the industry to the benefit of incumbent license-holders.
Of the 22 PIs who responded, 12 said they “strongly disagreed” with the statement, five said they “disagreed,” two said they neither “agreed nor disagreed” and three said they “strongly agreed.”
The survey also asked PIs what they thought of the statement by the Professional Private Investigator Association of Colorado which said that without licenses consumers should beware because “background checks, surety bonds and demonstrating a knowledge of the laws" were no longer in place to protect them from unscrupulous private investigators.
Of the 22 PIs who responded, 16 said they “strongly agreed” with the statement, three said they “agreed,” one said they “disagreed” and two said they “strongly disagreed.”
Asked if they knew of any formal complaints against individual PIs in their states, 14 survey respondents said they did and six said they didn’t.
“One was a convicted arsonist who applied,” said one PI about a PI they knew of who’d been the subject of a complaint.
Another said: “(A) PI was illegally buying law enforcement information and selling it. Convicted and jailed.”
And another said: “Complaints in Arizona vary from PIs working outside of their scope to working security under the PI license.”
Jim Carrey (aka Ace Ventura) isn’t part of this story, but it does, ah, involve a famous pet detective.
Self-described “missing pet expert” Karin Tarqwyn is hot on the trail of Alexandra, a beloved support dog to a young woman in Iowa whose mother recently died.
Alexandra disappeared from her home in Sioux City just after noon on July 10, soon after being startled by a loud noise.
The adorable pet has been an emotional support for her owner, Josey Carroll, whose relatives say has been going through a tough time.
"Her father died in 2012. She had just turned 11-years-old. He had an aggressive lung cancer,” said Jamiee Beaubien, Josey's Aunt.
“And in April of this year, sadly her mom passed away. She's suffered so many losses now, she needs her dog home."
So the family has turned to Tarqwyn, who says she’s the most recognized pet expert in North America, to help locate Alexandra.
“Since 2005, she has worked full time assisting pet owners in the location and recovery of their missing pets,” says Tarqwyn’s website.
“Working with a team of pet detectives, Tarqwyn's focus is on missing and lost dogs and cats with a particular interest in the process and techniques necessary for the recovery of missing dogs that maybe shy, timid, aloof, reserved or skittish.”
On Wednesday, Tarqwyn and Alexandra’s family spent the entire day tracking the missing dog's scent in the Morningside area.
"It takes a village, especially for a situation like Alexandra,” Tarqwyn told Siouxland News.
“She is acting very feral right now, so she is not going to allow someone she does not know to approach, she may not even let her owners approach.
"Basically, it's gonna be someone saying 'I saw this dog,' we are either gonna get there with the family and hope that she will come to them. And sometimes, in recovery efforts, it requires trapping."
Tarqwyn says she'll continue to help the family until Alexandra is found.
As an expert on missing pets, Tarqwyn has appeared on CNN, Animal Planet, the Today Show, People, PBS and Dog Fancy.
In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Jim Carrey is tasked with finding the abducted dolphin mascot of the Miami Dolphins football team.
By Simon Crittle
A decision by Governor Jared Polis to veto a bill, which would have continued the requirement that private investigators in Colorado be licensed, has been met with anger by the bill’s proponents.
Issuing his veto, effectively killing off PI licensing, Governor Polis said "licensing rarely serves to protect the public from harm, and instead usually served incumbent license-holders as a barrier for entry for new competition including many retired officers of the peace.”
But under the headline, “Consumer BEWARE! Colorado now one of only 5 states that DO NOT require a PI to be licensed!” Andrea Orozco, president of the Professional Private Investigators Association of Colorado wrote, “Governor Polis with the swipe of a pen repealed licensing in Colorado.”
“Background checks, surety bonds and demonstrating a knowledge of the laws are no longer in place to protect the public, consumers and subjects of investigations.”
Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora Democrat and main sponsor of House Bill 1207 – Sunset Regulation of Private Investigators – said he thought the governor’s veto would hurt the state’s private investigator industry.
“I don’t think the governor made a good decision on this,” Melton told the Colorado Sun. “I think he chose to protect his staff over the people of Colorado.”
Melton was referring to staff working at the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), which administers PI licensing and vehemently opposed the bill. Last year DORA issued a scathing report which said licensing in Colorado was unnecessary as complaints against PIs were “virtually non-existent.”
“That to me shows the program is working the way it should be,” Melton said.
Melton said not having a licensing regime in Colorado meant private investigators could find it difficult to get insured.
The governor’s veto ends Colorado’s 9-year-old PI licensing regime as his signature was needed to extend existing regulations for another five years.
In vetoing the bill, Governor Polis, who last year vetoed three other unrelated licensing bills, said “licensing is often not superior to other forms of consumer protection.”
“Too often it is used to protect existing professionals within an occupation against competition from newcomers entering that occupation,” said the governor in a letter explaining his reasoning.
"Licensing in the United States has at times prevented traditionally economically disadvantaged people from having the ability to access occupations."
Governor Polis noted that the PI licensing regime didn’t require continuing education or any “real test” of competency and instead required only an “open-book” jurisprudence exam.
By Simon Crittle
Of all the genres to have captured the screens of popular imagination, private eyes have dominated the airwaves like few others. The PIs of film and television have allowed us to escape into places where rules and convention mattered as little to the stars as the female characters who doted on them. The formula of gritty male protagonist, with a vice and imperfect past, reluctantly yet righteously on the hunt for the ugly truth, it seems is timeless. It’s as if Magnum, P.I. is in fact the same character as Sherlock Holmes, only with a mustache and an American-sized portion of ego.
So reliable is the private investigator to binge-worthy success, HBO has rebooted one of the best-known names of black-and-white. Perry Mason, however, is no longer the criminal defense lawyer of the 1950s. Instead the character invented by author Erle Stanley Gardner is a Depression-era private eye played by Matthew Rhys, the Welsh actor best known for his role in the TV series, The Americans.
Set in Los Angeles and beautifully shot, the miniseries begins, as most of its genre do, with a crime. A couple are on the phone with the kidnapper of their baby, a suitcase full of ransom money at the ready. They leave the money and rush to their baby’s location only to find him dead and mutilated. The gruesome murder becomes a media sensation and Mason, a hard-bitten alcoholic and World War I veteran is, of course, the only person brash enough to take case.
Perry Mason has garnered positive if mixed reviews. Sean T. Collins of the New York Times says, “corruption, torture, murder, full-frontal nudity, foul mouths, a dead baby: Perry Mason boasts the full complement of HBO’s genre-revisionist techniques. But Rhys is the glue holding it all together. I can’t recall the last time I saw a lead performance this embodied, for lack of a better word; Rhys’s every glance, expression and gesture seems made of weariness the way Abraham Lincoln’s cabin was made out of logs.”
Joshua Rivera of the Verge is less flattering when he says the show is a gorgeous exercise in style over substance. “Perry Mason is a detective story that’s strangely reluctant to go all-in on being a mystery,” says Rivera. “While it is concerned with one long case — the ransom and subsequent grotesque murder of an infant — that case’s twists and turns are meandering and muddy, as the effort to trace the ways a horrific murder ripples through every aspect of the community begins to feel more labored than natural or revealing.”
Rebecca Nicholson of the Guardian, however, is almost all-in for Perry when she says the show is promising enough to stick with. “As a series, it takes itself desperately seriously. The episodes are called chapters. Men glower from beneath their brimmed hats, and there is a lot of intense smoking, characters furrowing their brows and dragging on cigarettes as if breathing their last breath.” Nicholson concludes she can’t wait to see how Mason cracks the case in coming episodes, yet while Perry Mason “does not yet feel particularly comfortable in its own skin, there is clearly plenty more to come.”
A new law permanently allows Coloradans to have documents notarized remotely, reversing the long-standing practice of requiring people to be in a notary’s physical presence.
The Remote Notaries Protect Privacy law, signed by Governor Jared Polis last week, continues emergency rules put in place amid the coronavirus pandemic which allowed people to have documents notorized remotely using “audio-visual communication.”
The new law extends those rules through December 31, 2020. In the meantime, the Secretary of State’s office – which administers notary services in Colorado – will develop, build and certify permanent remote notary systems which will take effect on December 31, 2020.
“This legislation provides certainty to Colorado’s people and businesses that remote notary services will continue to be available in the future,” says Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State.
The rules for remote notorization say that:
The passage of the new law follows an executive order issued by Governor Polis on March 30 that ordered the temporary suspension of the personal appearance requirement before notarial officers due to the presence of coronavirus in Colorado.
To implement the executive order, Secretary Griswold issued emergency rules which outlined the procedures and requirements for remote notarization.
The move to allow remote notorization in Colorado came in consultation with the Governor’s office, stakeholders and the legal community.
As the backlash against the killing by police of George Floyd continues, a private investigator has been hired by a group of TV networks to trawl through the social media accounts of famous actors to dig up racist posts.
Los Angeles-based PI Edward Myers is working for CBS, MTV and VH1 to weed out offensive posts made by on-air and production talent, who work for the networks, before anything is made public and embarrass the companies, according to gossip column Page Six of the New York Post.
On his Web site, Myers describes himself as an “investigation and risk assessment specialist” and offers services such as “surveillance and counter-surveillance,” as well as “intelligence gathering.”
"Edward Myers is an investigation and risk assessment specialist with over 30 years of combined experience in both the public and private sectors," says the Myers Group website.
"He has been court certified as an investigation expert and has presented as a guest speaker to corporate security professionals, private attorneys, state and federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents on a range of matters, including complex business and municipal fraud, workplace violence, threat assessment and litigation intelligence.
Page Six reported that letters have gone out to stars alerting them that Myers — who has worked as an investigator for LA County’s “hardcore gang division,” which handles the most difficult gang murders, and for Jeff Bezos’ private security chief, Gavin de Becker — will begin his probe soon.
The move comes after a spate of celebrities were recently fired over resurfaced racist posts. Last week, Bravo fired “Vanderpump Rules” stars Brett Caprioni and Max Boyens for offensive tweets, and on Wednesday the network canned “Below Deck Mediterranean” star Peter Hunziker for a racist Instagram post. Meanwhile, the CW fired Hartley Sawyer from “The Flash,” and MTV let go “Teen Mom’s” Taylor Selfridge for similar offenses (although Selfridge claims she quit).
Among the TV stars Myers may be looking into include those who worked on shows including “Dating Naked,” “Jersey Shore,” “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “Teen Mom,” “Game On,” “Vice” and “Love & Hip Hop.” No word on whether CBS’s “Magnum, PI” is among those being vetted.
Myers and network reps have not responded to media inquiries about the use of a private investigator.
George Perry Floyd Jr. was an African-American man killed during an arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After his death, protests against police violence toward black people quickly spread across the United States and internationally.
By Simon Crittle
After clearing both houses of the state legislature, the controversial private investigator (PI) licensing bill was this week sent to the governor for signature.
But it’s unclear if Governor Jared Polis will in fact sign or veto the bill, which would renew Colorado’s PI licensing regime for another five years.
The governor vetoed three other licensing bills last year and his own agency, the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), is strongly opposed to the PI bill.
At the time the governor vetoed the other bills he also called on the General Assembly to remove other “existing outdated or counterproductive licenses,” pointing to the potential for cost savings for consumers.
Ross Investigators has ask put a list of questions (see below) to the governor's office about the PI licensing bill. At the time of publication, answers had not been received.
HB20-1207 – Sunset Regulation of Private Investigators – this week passed both the General Assembly and the Senate after clearing the House Appropriation Committee unamended.
However, the bill was amended in the General Assembly with a “safety clause” added by bill sponsor Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton which said: “The General Assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety."
Under the private eye law, since 2015, 77 complaint files were opened and only eight disciplinary actions taken.
Of those, six were conditional licenses, issued to individuals because of behaviour prior to being licensed, not after.
Of the remaining actions, two were dispensed to one individual who was issued a letter of admonition as well as a practice stipulation for harassment against another private investigator.
No private investigator licenses have been revoked under the current law.
Private investigators have been regulated by DORA since 2011. Requirements to obtain a private investigator’s license include being at least 21 years old, submitting an application, passing a background check, passing a jurisprudence exam, posting a surety bond and paying fees.
The bills Governor Polis vetoed last year were supposed to regulate managers of homeowner associations, genetic counselors and sports agents.
In vetoing the bills, Governor Polis last year wrote: “Our hope is that this will allow more people to work, to access various services and to make sure that licenses protect consumers from harm — not industry insiders from competition.”
Ross Investigators has put the following questions to the governor's office:
1) Is Governor Polis going to sign or veto the bill? Either way, why is going to do what he is going to do?
2) If he is in fact going to sign it, does he not agree with the findings of DORA’s review of the law and recommendations it be scraped. Or if he is going to veto the bill, does he in fact agree with what DORA says?
3) Last year Governor Polis vetoed several other licensing bills and called on lawmakers to reconsider sponsoring licensing bills. Does the governor still feel the same way about licensing regimes?
4) Does the governor feel that private investigators play an important role in Colorado gathering information, generally on behalf of law firms, for the purpose of preparing legal cases?
Courts still rejecting unsworn affidavits despite rule changes and a 3-year-old state law saying notaries aren't required anymore
By Simon Crittle
Changes to Colorado court rules about accepting unsworn affidavits are being met with confusion as some courts are still rejecting affidavits that haven’t been notarized despite a state statute saying they don’t have to be.
In May, the Colorado court system began complying with a 3-year-old statute, the 2017 Uniform Unsworn Declarations Act, which says an “unsworn declaration in a court proceeding . . . has the same effect as a sworn declaration.”
However, the Process Servers Association of Colorado (PSAC) says some courts, particularly in Arapahoe and Adams counties, continue to reject affidavits which haven’t been notarized, slowing down court proceedings, creating headaches for attorneys and their clients.
Ross Investigators has seen documents which corroborate the PSAC’s claims that Arapahoe and Adams county courts were rejecting unsworn affidavits as recently as last month.
“It is inconvenient to have an affidavit notarized,” says PSAC president, Steven Glenn. “Maybe not here in Denver but for people who are in rural parts of the state and might have to drive 50 miles to get something notarized, it’s inconvenient.”
Glenn added that a notary was merely attesting to the fact a document was signed by a particular person in their presence, when they notarized a document, and not that the document was accurate or truthful.
“The notary isn’t attesting to the information in the document because they don’t even read it.”
The Colorado Supreme Court was first petitioned about court non-compliance with state law on unsworn affidavits last year. The court’s Rules Committee subsequently discussed the matter during its June, 2019, meeting and changed rules C.R.C.P. 4 and C.C.C.R.P. 304 regarding returns of affidavits. The rules apply to all state-administered courts.
Rob McCallum, Colorado Judicial Department spokesman, told Ross Investigators: “We had, before the Supreme Court amended the civil rules to clarify on this issue, advised to not accept anything but notarized returns of service. We reversed that with the Supreme Court rule change on May 17, 2020.”
Adding to the confusion, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the Supreme Court to send a letter to all Colorado attorneys on April 17 saying affidavits no longer had to be notarized to “avoid unnecessary in-person contact.”
It is unclear if some courts will continue rejecting, or resume rejecting unsworn affidavits when social distancing measures are lifted and Colorado courts, which currently aren’t hearing cases, return to normal business.
Ross Investigators has asked the Colorado Judicial Department why some judges still aren’t following court rules, and, why it took three years for the court system to comply with state law. At the time of publication, the department had not responded.
Businesses owned by private investigators have overwhelming slowed down since the coronavirus struck.
However, most PIs have not received stimulus money from the government to help keep them going, according to the results of a national survey conducted by Ross Private Investigators.
Some 87 percent of respondents said they had applied for loans and grants offered by the federal government.
But of the respondents who applied, 60 percent said they had not received any money from the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) and 76 percent had not received money from the Economic Disaster Injury Loan (EDIL) Advance.
Some 84 percent said they had applied for both the PPP and the EDIL Advance but had not received money from both of the grants as of yet.
On May 19, Ross Private Investigators sent 10 survey questions to a number of Yahoo Group listservs dedicated to the private investigation industry across the US. In total, 23 PIs responded over two days. Answers were anonymous.
Here’s what PIs had to say:
However, not everyone was unhappy as several PIs said the money had been helpful.
Survey respondents gave mixed responses when they reported back on whether or not the pandemic had hurt their businesses and if the stimulus money had helped.
Regarding the question of whether the pandemic had hurt their businesses, some 87 percent of respondents said “yes” it had.
But another question asked if the stimulus money had been helpful. Some 52 percent said “yes” and 48 per cent said “no.”
Several PIs also complained they missed out on loans and grants because they were sole proprietors.
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