Sometimes the best stories private investigators tell differ widely from their formal, filed reports.
Lynn Griffith, private investigator and owner of Sting Investigations, is often amused by events that occur “off the clock.”
Parked at a restaurant waiting for a suspect to exit, a couple he was not charged to watch made out in their car, which was parked next to Griffith. His windows were tinted, so they didn’t see him. But he could see — and hear — them.
“I didn’t want to risk not seeing my subject, so I kept my eyes straight. But you could not help but notice them,” he said.
Griffith is often hired to watch husbands and wives, suspected of cheating on their spouse.
One investigation dragged on for months until there was a “surprise” ending.
He was performing surveillance on an individual off and on for one year because a wife suspected her husband was having an affair. However, Griffith never found proof.
“I advised her that we might want to stop. But she replied, ‘I can afford it. I think he’s doing something and you are helping me out.’”
Eventually, Griffith caught the husband coming out of a motel room with another woman, on video.
“He was with a good friend of the wife, so that was a surprise,” he said.
“We catch people cheating on someone almost every day,” he said.
But, Griffith’s business is much more than keeping tabs on suspected cheaters.
He’s been part of investigations that recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of construction equipment and jewelry. He’s also found people who went missing.
The 34-year-old, who is a licensed private investigator with several certifications, has been in business a little more than five years.
Just the Ads, Ma’am
He earned his reputation partly via the advertising he does in and around the metro area, and northeast Oklahoma. “Sting Investigations” is on Tulsa Metropolitan Transit buses and benches at bus stops. It is on telephone book covers and in numerous other publications.
He declined to state the amount he has spent on advertising, but stated that he believes that he spends more on advertising monthly, “than any other investigative agency has worldwide.” In fact his advertising budget each month most likely exceeds the combined amount spent on advertising for all Tulsa investigators during their entire careers.
He indicated that the business is growing stronger because of the name recognition his advertising strategies have created.
“The advertising is valuable to us, keeping our name fresh in people’s minds,” he said.
It has paid off, although it is impossible to know what type of ad pays off best, he said. “I have no regrets for any of the advertising,” he said.
“Advertising has allowed us to acquire many new clients,” he said. “Doing
a great job for those clients, has enabled us to have a steady flow of repeat clients, and referral business.”
When potential clients come to Griffith for help, he usually requires $1,000 down. He deducts from the retainer at a rate of $60 per hour.
Once on the job, he communicates with the client frequently.
“I talk to them a lot and fill them in on details as they can handle,” he said.
Keeping an Eye on Things
Griffith may not have seen it all yet, but he’s close.
On occasion, Griffith has been hired to keep tabs on someone’s mistress, “just in case they were not the only one she was having an affair with,” he said.
Today, the bulk of his cases require surveillance.
“That is my preference,” he said. “We do more domestic cases. Cheating spouses and child custody. The work is the same.”
By speciallizing in surveillance Sting Investigations has been able to become experts in that specific area of investigations. It has been able to acquire the best camera equipment, computer equipment and investigators for that specific skill set.
Surveillance has proven to be a good tool in missing person’s cases, he said.
“If someone is missing, most likely someone else knows where they are,” he said. “If we watch that person, they will lead you to them.”
Technology has made his job easier.
Placing a GPS tracking device on an automobile, Griffith can keep tabs on people with a hand-held computer.
Being a PI is not always about sitting in a car for hours watching somebody’s house.
“Most people will spend a lot of time at home doing nothing,” Griffith said. “Or, they spend it at work not going anywhere. If you can establish the times they are out and watch them during those times, it will give you an idea.”
GPS devices are not foolproof, he said, but they get the job done.
“GPS in and of itself will not solve most cases. It is however a great tool when combined with surveillance and the expertise of a private investigator,” Griffith said. “I can track (people) on my computer at any time. If I get a call while I’m out shopping, I can answer any questions.”
The Real Deal
The attitudes he sees from law enforcement in response to his work is mixed.
Some dislike investigators who advertise like Griffith; others view PIs as a useful tool. Griffith cited when he was hired to help recover equipment. During the investigation, he uncovered a theft ring. The Tulsa Police Department eventually busted the ring and made the arrests.
Law enforcement officers have referred people to Sting.
“Our agency has been hired as the result of someone in law enforcement referring us,” he said.
Griffith has been interested in being a detective since third grade.
He remembered when construction equipment was stolen from a relative.
Griffith pedaled around the neighborhood, passing out fliers.
He also was influenced by the fictional character, Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown, who was the main character in a long series of children’s books written by Donald J. Sobol. The character had a terrific memory and solved difficult cases.
Griffith actually portrayed the child investigator in a fifth-grade school play. He not only learned his lines but everyone’s lines.
Later, Griffith was influenced by various TV detective shows like “Rockford,” “Magnum PI” and “Simon & Simon.”
“Simon & Simon hooked me,” he said. “TV shows compress years of activity in real life to an hour. But that show came as close as any to being the real deal.”
He has had his share of close calls.
“Trying to find people who do not want to be found can be dangerous. I’ve had guns pointed at me – been threatened,” he said.
Once he had to serve papers on an individual who had about 30 pit bulls running loose on the property.
Despite some tense moments, Griffith was able to serve the papers and, “eventually, [the suspect] talked to me like we were best friends.”
Being an undercover investigator means being able to adapt to almost anything the situation requires, Griffith said.
“You have to adapt. Meeting new people, being in an undercover situation – you have to blend so no one suspects anything,” he said.
“My life is full of mystery, intrigue and plot twists — who could ask for more?” ?