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
The day was overcast and unseasonably warm. The staff of Colorado's Judicial Center was professional and friendly. "That's actually a job?" the front desk receptionist asked when I handed the business card listing my title as the "Denver Private Investigator Blogger," over the round, dark wood receptionist table.
Indeed it is, I explained and could I schedule a meeting with Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman or one of her media representatives to discuss Rule 8.4 C?
Following its September 28, 2017 announcement, I've only heard shocked and horrified responses from the private investigator community. Jesse Paul's Denver Post article stated "lawyers can now engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation when advising law enforcement officers, investigators or clients during lawful investigative activities. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office says they can’t personally conduct such subterfuge, but can supervise those actions."
Let that sink in. Attorneys ---the ones who hire private investigators to interview witnesses, obtain evidence and investigate cases--- can now outsource the sordid and insidious tasks of committing fraud and acting deceitfully to the private investigators who depend on those attorney's assignments in order to make payroll!!
Future posts will explore the question of how much pressure a client can put on a private investigator to push legal boundaries. I'll be interviewing a wide range of Colorado legal industry professionals. I shall also continue trying to get through to Coffman's office or get referred to another Colorado government official who can help clarify why this rule seemed necessary to ensure safety and justice in Colorado.
Is there is someone you think I should speak with or interview? Please leave a message in the comments below or notify us via Facebook or Twitter.
By Susanna Speier
Denver Private Investigator Blogger
The bad news is that the most viewed eclipse in history resulted in permanent eye injuries for people who purchased counterfeit or defective eclipse glasses on Amazon. The good news? If your eyes were fried by last month's eclipse, there is now a class action personal injury lawsuit pending and one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs is the Hannon Law Firm, LLC which is conveniently located on Downing Street in Denver, Colorado.
The class action lawsuit against Amazon was filed on August 29th by a Charleston, South Carolina couple who sustained eye injuries after viewing the August 21st eclipse. The compensation is an undisclosed amount that will exceed $75,000 according to the Class Action Complaint on file. "Corey Payne and Kayla Harris said they experienced headaches and vision impairment after using the glasses to watch the US eclipse on 21 August," reported the BBC last week.
Amazon issued a recall on August 10th, however the South Carolina couple says they were not notified in time and ended up viewing the eclipse through defective glasses. The couple experienced headaches, watery eyes and dizziness in the hours following the eclipse and reported experiencing distorted vision during the days that followed.
According to PBS digital science producer, Nsikan Akpan, Amazon had been offering to reimburse customers who purchased defective glasses before the eclipse however Amazon refused to list names of the vendors carrying the faulty products.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provided information to the public on how to obtain ISO and ISO 12312-2 compliant glasses. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) also issued a list specifying credible eclipse glasses retailers vendors along with credible sources for camera lens solar filters.
According to ABC, "Paper Optics" was one of the manufacturers responsible for selling products that resulted in eye damage however, the name of the manufacturer is not specified on the Class Action Complaint and Amazon currently carries a number of American Paper Optics product listings with no mention of the lawsuit. An Amazon sellers forum, however, is discussing the lawsuit.
On their website, American Paper Optics claims to be ISO certified and tested. The company is also first on the AAS list of safe manufacturers. A safety notification on American Paper Optics' website however illustrates the visual characteristics that distinguish real from counterfeit eclipse glasses.
"American Paper Optics" is a Tennessee based company who, according to TopClassActionsDOTcom "projected it would make and sell 100 million pairs of eclipse glasses, about 10 million of which were sold to Amazon.
"Amazon attempted to recall these Amazon eclipse glasses in an email announcement sent out Aug. 19, two days before the eclipse. The email stated that the supplier of Amazon eclipse glasses could not confirm that they were produced by a recommended manufacturer. Amazon recommended that people not use the glasses to view the eclipse.
The plaintiffs say this recall announcement was “tragically too little, too late.” Despite the allegedly inadequate email announcement, plaintiffs and their proposed Class Members still used these Amazon eclipse glasses to view the eclipse, exposing themselves to eye damage.
Payne says he bought a three-pack of eclipse glasses from Amazon on Aug. 1. He and Harris, his fiancée, say they never got notice of the Amazon eclipse glasses recall before they used these glasses to watch the eclipse."
"The safety of solar eclipse glasses was a major concern of astronomy experts in the weeks leading up to the much-watched event," according to MarketWatch, "Third-party online vendors, such as Amazon and eBay, EBAY... monitored their sites for counterfeit solar eclipse glasses, removing posts and refunding customers for glasses that were not compliant with safety standards, both companies told MarketWatch," when interviewed for the story.
The United States district court document excerpt is attached below. The complete document was obtained through Geekwire and you can click through to view that document in full. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the case.
A screenshot of American Paper Optics' warning is also included along with a link to their website. It is still unclear whether the glasses the plaintiffs purchased through Amazon were counterfeit or defective, however we expect to be learning more shortly.
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