(Continued from part 1 of 2)
The staff members based out of Trustify’s opulent Arlington, Virginia Headquarters unfortunately learned the hard way that they would end up working without pay. They must now join the ranks of Trustify’s former landlord, public relations firm and attorneys whose paychecks were backburnered while Boice and Mellon indulged in lavish spending. Boice also owes over 10K in child support backpay. As though the FBI investigating now investigating him for embezzlement wasn't enough.
Of course, Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region are built upon a rich history of boom/bust stories, most of which do not end well. There's the Baby Doe Tabor story and all the prospector's gold sites that eventually worked their way to profitability by building ski resorts and turning caved in mine shafts into high end tourist resorts.
The intrigue of the venture capitalist "uberizing" the private investigator industry with an app was astutely expressed by PursutMag Editor-in-Chief, Hal Humphreys [Disclosure: PursuitMag and the Denver Private Investigator Blog are content partners] who is a fan of disruptors and of startups. “Most of them fail. Most of them fail miserably" he also pointed out but, "every once in a while, one hits and changes everything."
Pursuit published several articles about Trustify and some of the other authors were not as forgiving as it's Editor but it's coverage over time provide a great sense of the former dumpster fire's rise and fall.
Despite it's Western history, the Rocky Mountain region didn't pull many punches when it came to Trustify. Wyoming, Private Investigator, Dean Beers, in fact, posted about the efforts he and the Professional Private Investigator Association of Colorado (PPIAC) made to report the fact Trustify was operating without a license to the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.
According to Beers, the National Council of Investigation & Security Services (NCISS) was also involved in researching the history of the company and pointing out the problematic nature of an intermediary operating without licensure as well as the history of Boice's original company, Flim Flam. Their apprehensive commentary on the business goes back as far as the Denver Private Investigator Blog's does.
The DrivenForward blog maintained by Glen Hellman wins for most consistent, persistent and comprehensive coverage of the Trustify fiasco. It contains primary documents as well as a running chart of statuses of lawsuits against Trustify. Hellman was actually pursued by one of Boice's attorneys and posted the notice on his blog.
My final effort to verify the derelict status of the site’ was to call the 888 number. I dialed and got a busy signal. When was the last time I heard one of those?
Will the consumer driven demand for a standard hourly with no retainer fee be met by yet another disruptor rendering the private investigator industry as we know it as obsolete as a busy signal?
Only time will tell. Hopefully savvy investigators as well as savvy tech entrepreneurs will continue learning from the mistakes of their predecessors.
Washington Biz Journal - https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2019/08/22/heres-whats-left-of-trustifys-private-eye-inspired.html
Driven Forward - https://drivenforward.com/former-trustify-employees-awarded-260-thousand-judgement/
Washingtonian - https://www.washingtonian.com/2018/12/09/is-the-blogger-mr-cranky-glen-hellman-out-to-save-dc-tech-industry-or-destroy-it/
PursuitMag - http://pursuitmag.com/a-trustify-postmortem/
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
If you visit Trustify’s LinkedIn listing you’ll see an announcement that reads: "Trustify has 34 job openings - find the one for you." Positions titled “Marketing Content Copywriter” and “Content Producer” include great benefits. The listings, posted a month ago, also boast of a new and presumably improved mission dedicated to, “democratizing access to private investigation and intelligences services.” Does this mean the Arlington, Virginia based multi-million venture capital backed tech startup once poised to disrupt the private investigator industry is rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the dumpster fire of law suits that’s been following its demise?
Click on “apply” and get directed to a “This job is not available anymore” notification that was presumably posted and managed by a LinkedIn admin. Perhaps the position was filled? Scroll down to a heartfelt statement by Trustify founders, Danny Boice and Jennifer Mellon. After basking in the rays of their “God given mission” and reiterating several times that they regard employees as “family,” the couple concludes by praying for the opportunity to demonstrate their transparency to prospective employees.
Boice and Mellon's prayers evidently do not apply to former Trustify employees, Matthew Scott, Elisabeth Nugent, Kevin Wiggins, Stacy Blackburn, Bey Wesley, Matthew Blanchard, Bernadette Vielhaber and Andrew Little who just won a $260,000 judgement against the company for several weeks backpay, lost wages, damages and labor law violations. In addition to the most current coverage, Glen Helman’s Driven Forward blog posts includes a tally of all six of Trustify’s litigants complete with type, status, amount and an outstanding tab of $1,627,206.99.
Click through to Trustify’s derelict website and explore the catacombs of the former landing page. The skeletal remains of a footer note the celebrated and ostracized, “$99/hour” private investigator service with no retainer fee. Boice, his wife (the couple is separated now) and their staff sold PI services to people who wouldn’t ordinarily hire a private detective because the expense was prohibitive. Then private investigators with whom Trustify subcontracted took home $30 of what could be as much as a $99 hourly pay. In the era of the venture capital backed app, why not use the Uber model to make ridesharing more affordable for everyone? (As a freelance writer who lives paycheck to paycheck, I can totally understand the appeal.)
The Occupational Employment Statistics put out by the US Department of Labor put median 2018 hourly rate for private investigators in the United States at $27.50. While the PIs that I know, personally, tend to earn more, this was the average reported by the BLS in 2018.
Many independently employed private detectives can charge higher than the national average of $27 for their services because they have more experience than most of their competitors. Some have journalism degrees and others are former police and military. Some even have law degrees and all this is reflected in the price point.
It would be challenging, though not impossible, for a Colorado PI to sustain him or herself if they charged the median hourly wage in a state where even the small town residents pay big bucks for food and shelter. A recent Lending Tree study reported on CBS that Breckinridge, Colorado and Steamboat Springs, Colorado both made the top ten for most expensive towns in the country list. Boulder is the most expensive city in Colorado and with a median income there of $71,540 and with Denver skyrocketing it is not surprising people living and working in these regions need to be charging more and working more hours.
Several Colorado private investigators who were willing to give Trustify a go during their lean times informed me that because the service hadn’t properly vetted clients and provided no reimbursements for travel or database subscriptions, it wasn’t a viable investment of their time and energy. Consequently they stopped using the service to try and find work.
(Part 2 of 2 coming soon)
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
Private investigators specializing in legal investigations frequently integrate Google Earth and other forms of aerial imagery into their investigations. A related story broke last night that is being lauded being lauded by publications worldwide as a landmark case because it lead to a case being solved accidentally when a West Palm Beach cold case was unearthed by a discovery made while someone looking at his old neighborhood.
According to the Sheriff's office Facebook page September 10th news release, "the remains were positively identified as William Moldt," after his heavily calcified car was dragged out of the lake it was found in. The accidental Google Earth discovery lead to the skeletal remains of someone who disappeared in 1997.
See also: are Amazon drones coming for your surveillance gigs?
At the time of Moldt's 1997 disappearance the gated community was under construction but a little over two decades later, a former resident noticed a vehicle submerged in a lake on his computer screen. Using Google Earth's aerial map of his old neighborhood, he spied the car in the lake and informed a former neighbor and current resident of the community. That neighbor borrowed another neighbor's drone to more closely investigate.
They contacted the property owners and then finally, the police who brought in a tow line which they used to bring the remains to Palm Beach County Medical Examiner’s Office for processing. The body was identified as William Earl Moldt who was reported missing in November 1997.
Stories of citizen sleuths uncovering calcified cars using private investigator technologies isn't limited to Google Earth. Last week a child in Vancouver, British Columbia solved a 27 year old cold case this way.
Storyful's News Intelligence Investigative Journalist Kelly Jones talks Stalk Scan
Google Earth software which was developed by a CIA backed initiative and eventually acquired by Googlemaps, has been used to solve other cases and The Daily Dot provided accounts of these scenarios of cases solved with Google Earth. You can view their list which is toggled to another crime story, here.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blog
Denver comes in 11th on the list of private investigator salaries nationwide. Does that mean that if you're a private investigator living in Colorado you should migrate to NYC? Not necessarily .
Claiming to see salaries "as high as $99,500 and as low as $22,500, the majority of Entry Level Private Investigator salaries currently range between $34,500 (25th percentile) to $46,000 (75th percentile) across the United States" according to Zip Recruiter's national chart dated September 2, 2019. But where are they getting their data? And how many private investigators are they speaking to? "The average pay range for an Entry Level Private Investigator varies little (about $11,500), which suggests that regardless of location, there are not many opportunities for increased pay or advancement, even with several years of experience" reflects an anonymous analysis on another part of their website. And they may be onto something.
Putting the data together enables you to compare a private investigator living in New York City to Denver and other major cities in the US. Most can expect an average annual salary of $49,268 as of August 26, 2019 and an average annual pay for an Entry Level Private Investigator in the United States averaging $46,587 a year. Does this mean that the highest average private investigator salary in the country is just $2,681 shy of what the highest earning PIs in the country make?
Zip Recruiter's post unfortunately, also falls short in providing the number of jobs surveyed. Previous years' Labor Day posts discussing salary pulls data from the United States Census Bureau and from the Bureau of Labor Statistics provide the most comprehensive results however recruitments sites rolling out salary data based on the jobs posted on the site are also useful. Moreover, reviewing and discussing salary with your colleagues is, according to Adam Conover, the best way to bridge the income inequality gap and this is a clip of Conover's rundown if you'd like to know more:
Back to recruitment site data though: if you're following recruiter sites, they update frequently and tend to provide local as well as national analysis. This makes it worth the effort, despite the fact it's not as comprehensive as government sites or sites using government data.
Glassdoor's comparisons, which were updated July 29, 2019, list the average base pay at $53,854 but lists entry at $45,318 which is in Zip Recruiter's ballpark. But GlassDoor provides additional options that allow viewers to compare bonuses and see how large firms compare to small firms. Spoiler alert: larger firms pay better. GlassDoor also offers recent anonymously shared salary reports which, although also unverified, provide feedback from someone who was actually employed rather than something a job poster submits.
Could Glassdoor be amalgamating too many listings which range from topics as broad as "Environmental Health Investigator" for the City and County of Denver to "Cyber Coder Fraud Investigative Analysis" for Cyber Coders. Absolutely. Is it nevertheless a viable resource to include in your research? Yes it is.
Indeed's rundown of PI salaries is the outlier in so far as they actually include the number of salaries submitted: 338. Indeed also provides the unique observations that the average PIs tenure is 1-3 years and hourly averages $23.11 which is a penny away from the Arlington, Virginia average and more than Denver's $21.81 average.
Happy Labor Day!!
The Colorado Bar Association's addresses Colorado's Rule 8.4 (c) by issuing Formal Opinion 137. Here's what it means:
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
In May 2019, the Ethics Committee of the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) issued Formal Opinion 137 to address negative ethical ramifications that Rule 8.4 (c) might have. From it's 2017 announcement, apprehensions about the Rule permitting Colorado lawyers to "advise, direct, or supervise others," ---private investigators are one of the three categories of support affiliates specified in the rule-- to participate in lawful investigative activities involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
Concern about the Rule's professional --not to mention ethical-- consequences have prompted anxious conversations and blog posts but Opinion 137 marks Colorado Bar and Ethic's Committee's first official response to 8.4 (c) since the Colorado Supreme Court amended the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct in 2017.
See also: Chris Wells on Facebook and the Colorado Bar Associations Sock Puppet Prerogative
The Colorado Bar Association's 6,195 word Formal Opinion (which the CBA explicitly states is for advisory purposes only) is not light, late-summer weekend getaway reading material. Slog through the legalese for a comprehensive discussion and analysis of Rule 8.4 (c) and it will deepen your understanding of it's potential impact on your career as a Colorado private investigator.
Formal Opinion 137 also does a great job of differentiating between the different kinds of investigations and how this rule applies to national as well as state cases so you may not emerge from the read feeling rested and recharged however it will deepen your understanding of how issues similar to 8.4 (c) played out in previous discussions involving Ethics Opinion and Treatises.
Formal Opinion 137 also cites relevant Law Review Articles and citations from Practice Guides before concluding with a five page addendum if you haven't gotten enough by then.
See also: Colorado's new misconduct rule: what could the consequences be?
Since September 2017, if you are a private investigator, process server, bail bond recovery agent, skip tracer or surveillance operative, Colorado attorneys have had the legal authority to direct you to commence "engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" if they deem it necessary. In addition to the rule's blatant irreverence for ethical codes that licensed private investigators practicing in the State of Colorado --an industry that includes process servers, skip tracers and bail recovery agents as well as private detectives-- licenses depend on, membership compliance and regulations are also poised to revoke violators. This Rule could therefore impact your future resources as a PI or put you in a position in which you are forced to chose between a client and a license of professional organization if it hasn't already.
If you are you a Colorado lawyer or licensed private detective and your work at a private investigator been impacted by Colo. RPC 8.4(c) following it's adoption by the Colorado Supreme Court in September 2017 we would like to hear your story.
Send us your questions and thoughts on CBA Ethics Opinion 137 and on 8.4(c) You can post responses in the comment and on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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