The Telltale Vacuum Cleaner

Our subject had been at odds with her employer, and subsequently she went out on a job-related stress disability claim. Later investigation of the cash register and inventory sheets revealed a suspicious development: the company had come up short for several items of merchandise during the employee’s tenure.

DMA Investigations was called upon to locate the employee and conduct surveillance to find out what she was up to while out on her stress claim. The employer told us they suspected she might be trying to start up a cleaning service business.

An initial trip to the address gave me something less than hope. A huge multiplex, six stories high with over five hundred units, and gated. Situations like this are always tough for surveillance. It was like an overpopulated citadel with no secret password for the drawbridge. It was going to be hard to even locate the subject, much less effectively track her movements.

A cursory check of the surrounding area gave me no ideas. Our subject’s name had somehow been wiped clean from the manager’s record. And with half a hundred residents milling about, many meeting our subject’s description, I wondered if now wouldn’t be an opportune time for my annual two week vacation.

I resigned myself to a usual stake out procedure and swigged hot coffee as the sun came up. When my cup went dry, I decided to take a walk, and as luck would have it ended up passing the clue that unraveled the case – a white van with a vacuum cleaner and some cleaning supplies in the back.

I remembered what the employer had told us about the subject’s possible intention to start a cleaning business. Could this possibly be her van? Is my luck that good? I ran the plates and sure enough, it was her van. This could be a secret passage into the citadel, or more accurately, a way to identify the subject when she ventured forth across the moat. Meanwhile I waited.

Finally a woman matching our subject’s description exited the complex, approached the van and unlocked it, and removed the vacuum cleaner and supplies. Another car pulled up, she got in, and I found myself tailing a red sedan stuffed with claimant and business partner and of course, the telltale vacuum and supplies. It was now rush hour and LA drivers are unforgiving. I cursed as I lost her in a sea of shining metal and concrete. But I had gotten a major toehold on the citadel.

The next morning found me again sipping hot coffee as the sun peaked over the valley. I waited, and right on schedule our claimant showed up for duty. The driver of the red sedan was on time too. It was rush hour again but I managed to keep up this time, and our red car, business partner and claimant were making tracks for Santa Monica. The vehicle slowed and I eased off. Then it parked and I rounded the block, circled back and looked for a parking spot that would offer a view.

Mixing cleaning fluids into spray bottles, packing rags and of course toting the telltale vacuum cleaner took more minutes than one might imagine and I was able to capture every second of this industrious duo on video.

Starting a new business while one is too “stressed out” to work, and is collecting Workers Comp benefits for disability, is frowned upon by insurance companies, examiners, and the law. I hope our claimant’s new business venture is profitable, because she’s going to need it.

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