The Case of the Telltale Cement

It was the best of times (getting paid without having to work), then it was the worst of times (getting busted). Not an uncommon trajectory for those inclined to fraud, whose daily activities we are asked to monitor and document. But getting this file from “best” to “worst” was no walk in the park and required a highly developed sense of smell as it applies to false claims.

Our subject was a “disabled” construction worker (back, shoulders, wrists). Our first surveillance produced no film of the subject, although we saw plenty of other people in and around his address. A reopen of the investigation several months later looked like itwas going the same route. The investigator canvassed the area and determined our subject had moved and found the new address only a few blocks away.

Finally we got some film – walking to school and picking up a child and walking home. Nothing to write home about, but at least the subject had made it into the viewfinder. The next day we again got non-conclusive film of the subject. He did not look or act injured – but then again he was not doing anything that would demonstrate his claimed disabilities to be false. But a good investigator gets a feeling when something is about to happen and makes the most of that.

As the second day of surveillance was winding down, our subject opened his garage door. There in the late afternoon sun was what caused our investigator’s nose to twitch – bags of cement stacked high, construction equipment, and chain-link fencing. Something indeed was about to happen. The minute the garage door was closed and our subject had gone inside, the investigator was on the phone to the examiner to get an extra day. No way he was going to come this far and quit before the finish line.

The extra day was granted on the phone and the investigator was in place before the sun came up. That was smart as our subject started early and demonstrated his credentials as an experienced construction worker, not to mention his physical capability. A chain link fence and retaining wall were on the agenda, and what followed was 4 hours of film of the subject digging using a pickax, picking up and carrying heavy bags of cement, using a wheelbarrow, and the crowning glory – using a jackhammer in positions and for a duration that would have hospitalized a lesser man.

Needless to say, the examiner was ecstatic. Her sense that something was not right was now documented in Technicolor. It did not take long for our subject to reach the “worst of times” – payments ended and the distinct possibility of a heart-to-heart conversation with law enforcement in the near future.

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