Mitts Law Presents Part Lawyer, Part Detective: Tracking Down the Wily Defendant
Posted on September 14th, 2016 by Mitts Law, LLC
Defendants sometimes (frequently) do not want to be found. Particularly at the outset of a case, when serving the complaint is necessary to begin the case, wily defendants may attempt to evade service by a variety of means. Defendants' common propensity for evasion should come as no surprise: If an individual already performed a bad act for which he or she is liable, there is a fair chance that such an individual is not going to willingly face the music and voluntarily submit themselves to a court's jurisdiction. Those individuals must be located and served whether they like it or not.
Despite such defendants' best efforts at hiding, at Mitts Law we find, and serve, even the most evasive defendants.
Mitts Law functions, in some ways, like a private detective agency when the need arises. I have personally "staked out" premises, knocked on doors and otherwise have gotten directly involved in whatever lawful means may be necessary get to the truth of the matter. Unlike a private investigator, as a law firm, we can also use the machinery of the legal system to gain access to all manner of records, information, testimony and documents which can piece together a trail leading to the defendant's whereabouts.
In one such instance, our client was defrauded by a deceitful individual masquerading as a California attorney. In what appeared to be a legitimate business deal, this fraudster promised to act as an escrow agent in a transaction. Instead of safeguarding the funds, the fraudster absconded with the money, to the tune of over half a million dollars.
Our client only had a fake name, a phone number, an e-mail address and a bank account to which the money was sent when we started tracking down the perpetrator. We began our investigation by seeking immediate discovery. We went right into court and highlighted the severe harm to our client, the brazen treachery of the defendant and the urgency of the matter. The judge granted us wide latitude for immediate discovery and provided the necessary orders to obtain the information we required to locate the con artist.
We obtained, among other things, the call records for the Google Voice account the defendant used to place phone calls to our client, connecting us to other involved individuals with calls on the account. We obtained Social Security records and U.S. passport records to verify the identity and historical location of the defendant. We traced the funds in bank records, subpoenaing the accounts at other banks to which the stolen funds were transferred. We followed checks and debit card payments that were made from those accounts to piece together the whereabouts and habits of this defendant.
Interestingly, it was a subpoena to a dentist that put the final nail in the evasive defendant's coffin. The fraudster paid for cosmetic dental work with a check from one of the bank accounts, leading us to the dentist. The subpoena response contained a photo of the defendant and a new, confirmed address. These additional details allowed us to pin him down and properly effect service. As a result of our investigation, we learned a great deal about the identity of this identity thief at the outset of the case, and obtained a judgment against him for fraud, among other things, in short order.
Our methods of investigation and discovery vary depending upon the needs of the case. For example, in another case, we had a process server wait on the step of the prison where we knew the defendant visited her convicted brother once a month in order to serve her. We have located individuals internationally as well, translating documents and utilizing foreign investigators, law firms and courts. We have followed trails of assets and found successor companies with assets of former companies that were supposedly long-defunct. Simply put, if a defendant is out there, Mitts Law is going to locate that defendant to ensure justice is served.