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
My cat, Kee-hap, would make a great spy. She's adept in picking up communication subtleties and can hear cans and doors opening from anywhere inside the house. She sneaks up stealthily on birds, bugs and sometimes wild rabbits. Her red and orange tiger stripes will blend beautifully with the fall leaves as early autumn rolls through Colorado.
Quick to endear herself to strangers Kee-hap has joined me for visits with friends in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. She behaves well on busses and makes friends easily. She is a great car companion and has joined me on road trips through Arizona, Utah, California and New Mexico as well as in and around Colorado. In fact, Kee-hap has visited Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Castle Rock. She has yet to experience Boulder, Fort Collins, Steamboat Springs and Aspen but invites are always welcome!
It is unlikely that the private investigator and security field will be a viable option for a cat needing to pass the state required juris prudence exam, however, the idea of a feline private investigator is not a new one. In fact there was a government sanctioned program to turn cats into spies in the 1960s.
This summer marked the 70th anniversary of Harry S Truman signing the National Security Act of 1947, which paved the way for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The agency's plan to turn cats into spies, among other things, was revisited by media for the anniversary and according to Time Magazine's Olivia B. Waxman, the CIA began the "Acoustic Kitty" experiment of trying to trick cats up with espionage gear in the 1960s. The plan was to place to place them in locations where they would gather information.
According to "Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda. The Office of Research and Development figured out a way to implant a three-quarter-inch transmitter in the loose, fleshy part at the back of a cat's neck, and a microphone in the cat's ear canal. A very thin, almost invisible wire connected the two devices. The size of the transmitter meant the device could only hold very small batteries and only had space to record a limited amount of audio. (One attempted solution was to give a cat a transmitter in its rib cage and an antenna in its tail, the ex-CIA agent Victor Marchetti claimed in The Wizards of Langley: Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology.)
The experiment fell short when agents got hungry the would wander away from the designated location. As a big part of the appeal was the fact that the would not have to be trained to stay focused once they knew which sounds to identify, the tendency to wander off site proved to be a deal breaker there was no way of communicating the goals and requirements of the mission to them.
You can read more about the experience on Time.com and read the primary documents on the study, which were declassified in 2001, here. And if you are looking for a feline team member, Kee-hap is available for assignments, however, she can only be considered for assignments in those states that do not not require PIs be licensed.
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