For a lot of people, zany detective cases are the stuff of TV shows and movies, not reality. But when you work as a private investigator, real life truly is stranger than fiction.
On two AskReddit threads, people who have worked in the PI field shared some of the craziest stories from work — at least, the craziest ones they can talk about.
1. He faked his own death.
“I’m a paralegal who investigates backgrounds of witnesses for our cases. I found someone who was pretending to be someone else who died as a kid. My boss alerted the feds and they investigated and found out he had faked his death 20 years before to avoid a embezzlement trial. He got convicted for the false identity because he filed taxes in the fake name. Not sure about the original embezzlement charge.
He was a witness in a financial case involving the SEC, btw.”
2. The energy drink bandit.
“I’ve been a P.I. for about 3 years – mostly for disability fraud, no cheating wives or anything. Coolest/strangest thing I observed was a low level criminal (who was supposed to be disabled), who would spend all day going from Walmart to Walmart.
In each Walmart, he would fill the shopping cart full to the brim with energy drinks (Monster I think), walk briskly out the door without paying, throw them in his trunk, and take off like a bat out of hell.
At the end of the day he sold a trunk-load of energy drinks to a corner store and I video taped him walking out with a wad of cash.
Definitely not as exciting as the movies, but it was a fun day for me.”
3. He thought his neighbor was invisible.
“Guy calls me to help catch his neighbor who is knocking over his trashcans at night. We set up a small night vision camera to catch the guy. Watch the video the next day – it is the wind. The client freaks out, says that his neighbor could have had an invisibility field or could have been moving too fast (like the Flash) to show up on camera. Wants to pay us thousands of dollars to rent a heat-seeking camera or one that can shoot thousands of frames per second… Turns out lots of crazy people call PIs to investigate the TV controlling them, alien abduction, etc.”
4. Went looking for a cat, found a drug operation.
“Last year (I was 17) I pretended to be a private investigator just for fun and my neighbour gave me a tenner to go look for his missing cat, I guess he just wanted me to have some fun and I was just fooling around and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t find anything.
But damn did I find something.
At the bottom of my street there was an old abandoned retirement home, closed a couple years after I moved in. I went there first and found a blood trail leading into the place, there wasn’t a lot of blood but just enough that it could have been the cat’s blood.
Case in point, the building was being used by some druggies that were hiding their operation, just some weed, meth and coke and a couple of guns. After seeing that I shat myself because I was only going in to the whole PI thing as a joke.
I anonymously tipped off the police who raided the place, apperantly one of the guys accidently attacked the cat who started to wail loudly and he was scared people would come to investigate, he couldn’t bring himself to kill the cat so he dragged it inside and forgot to clean the blood away.
It was one of the most thrilling, yet terrifying things that I had ever gotten myself into. But hey, at least the cat lived and my neighbour got her back!”
5. A twisted rich man’s mansion.
“I don’t have my license but I work in a PI office. I’m the only administrative staff member. It’s basically me and my Vietnam Vet boss in a Ron Swanson-April Ludgate kind of situation. A story he told me recently comes to mind.
He and his partner were once hired to sweep a house and look for any valuables. They agreed to the case before knowing the full extent of the damage to the home because the lawyers were willing to pay well and our caseload was small at the time.
The home was owned by a man who inherited a large fortune because his father had invested in a little movie that went on to become one of the biggest horror franchises of all time. The son never worked a day in his life. He had a big mansion out in the boonies. No one ever saw him or his wife because they spent all of their time inside.
The home was now empty because he went nuts and murdered his wife and their dog. He was serving life in prison and the family’s estate needed the home cleared.
When my boss and his partner got in there they realized how bad it was. For years this guy and his wife had been shooting up drugs in the house. Every square inch of the mansion was covered in trash. After binging on drugs and alcohol the two would puke and then just cover the vomit with trash and leave it there. The same went for the dog shit and piss. This went on for years. In addition to the puke and animal waste there were needles littered through the trash. My boss had to buy hazmat suits to sweep the home and look for valuables. Apparently, there was a ton of diamond and gold jewelry just thrown right in with the filth.
At one point they found a table behind a door that was missed by the forensic crew completely covered in the wife’s blood from where he had mutilated the body.
They also found an entire room full of a many thousand dollar kiln and ceramics supplies, all untouched. I guess the guy decided he wanted to become a master potter before quickly abandoning that pursuit to become a fucking murderer.
They could only access the home through one exterior door that wasn’t blocked. When they eventually walked around the exterior of the home they found that the guy had purchased himself a shark cage. As in, he decided he wanted to become a shark photographer, and ignoring the fact that he didn’t live right on the ocean, BOUGHT a shark cage and stuck it in the yard. Eventually, people started to invade the grounds and steal stuff from the home and one day the shark cage just disappeared.
6. Cheating husbands and coaches.
“P.I. for 5 year, I had a few exciting, not necessarily strange cases. One incident was of a coach who was sleeping with one of the female players. One of the players that was benched hired me to document the coach for sleeping with one of the starters on the team…They were careful with how they arranged their meetings, and took me a bit to document it, but ultimately got the information.
Fast forward a week later and the papers reporting the coach has resigned to work in the family business…fast forward another week later, the story broke with all the evidence I had collected (I was not named in the story as I had requested not to be.) Another case was my quickest (2 hours). Picked up surveillance after the subject had dinner with his wife at Applebee’s, followed to a hospital parking garage and he went in to visit his mother. I stayed to monitor the vehicle, and another shows up.
The subject exited the hospital and jumped in the other vehicle…I then recorded him getting a bj. Case opened and closed in 2 hours (paid $1,000 retainer, was able to keep all $1,000 since retainers are non refundable I charged $60/hr and would’ve only made $120)….I have many many more stories….some funny, some really sad (I specialized in father’s rights cases).”
7. The subject died immediately.
“Not me personally, but I worked with a guy whose subject died on the first day of surveillance. Drug overdose. I’m sure the final report must have been legendary. “The claimant died.””
8. He snorted coke out of where?!
“My personal favorite case was this one wherein a guy with a video-game esque last name (akin to Gannon) had a criminal record against him. The record indicated that he had been charged with cocaine usage and that he had reportedly snorted the cocaine out of a Hooker’s a*s.”
9. Some people are just in denial.
“Get hired by a wife to see if her husband is sleeping with his secretary. We follow them, recording them going into his single-bed hotel room at 10:20pm after a nice dinner and leaving together the next morning at 8am. She says it proves nothing, that they could have just been working late…”
10. No tattoo is safe.
“I had one hired against me, and they found out everything. Tattoos that aren’t visible normally, the address I lived at in a different country, medical records from an accident that happened 6 years prior, so many random things that aren’t publicly available.”
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