Once we solved an embezzlement case based on this single piece of information from our client: He suspected a thirty-ish woman with blond hair.
A Lot of Assumptions and No Concrete Evidence
Our client told us his elderly uncle had been a Scrooge-like character who had saved a lot of money over the years, over a quarter million, yet after his sudden death by heart attack it was discovered that his savings account had next to nothing in it. How did our client know that his uncle had previously saved a lot of money? Apparently he’d once shown a bank statement to a young great-niece who had since moved to another state to attend college.
A Neighbor Claimed Seeing the Blonde
Our client suspected a blonde woman, possibly in her early thirties, might have defrauded his elderly uncle as she had been his only visitor in the last six months of his life (based on a sighting by a neighbor who’d been peeking through her blinds). He had no idea who this blonde was or what her possible relationship might have been with his uncle. Because he (and other relatives, except for this young great-niece) had not been on speaking terms with the uncle (who apparently greeted their attempts with hostility and anger), no one else in the family had any idea who this blonde might be, either.
One night I said to my husband, “Maybe the uncle was living the life he liked. Ignoring relatives who got on his nerves, and talking only to lovely young women.”
However, we weren’t so sure we believed this blond phantom really existed. The neighbor (who lived across the street) said the blonde had been “walking away from” the uncle’s house. Okay, but this could also mean that the blonde had been walking down the sidewalk away from someone’s else’s house.
We decided to start canvassing the neighborhood, see if anyone else had seen this blonde.
Knocking on Neighbors’ Doors
We knocked on doors, identifying ourselves and asking if anyone might have seen a thirty-something blonde visiting the elderly man’s home. After numerous “no’s,” we got a yes.
A young man said he’d noticed a tall blonde visiting the old man several times a week and that she drove a vintage sports car. However, he’d only caught a glimpse of the car as she always parked on the far side of the man’s home, so it hadn’t been easily visible to most people on the block.
And another yes. A middle-aged woman had seen the blonde show up the day after the old man died. The neighbor said the blonde entered the man’s house with a key and exited with several boxes of items.
We Extended Our Canvassing
Okay, the blonde was real. And seemed to have been quite close to the uncle if she had a key to his place. We let our client know of our findings, and suggested he change the locks.
Then we brainstormed what steps to take next. We wondered if the blonde might have been, well, a paid companion. If so, maybe the two of them only had visitations in his home, then she left. In our walk-through of the house, however, we hadn’t seen anything that helped identify her.
Or maybe the uncle thought she was…his girlfriend? As the uncle didn’t drive (and didn’t have a car), and no one had noticed the blonde driving the uncle anywhere, we wondered if they might have walked to one of the nearby bars or restaurants for a date, possibly in the evenings when they might not have been as easily seen?
We walked from the uncle’s house, visiting each bar and restaurant, showing his photo and asking waitresses and bartenders if they had ever seen this man with a young blonde. Finally, a bartender remembered the woman and the elderly man. Said they sometimes sat at the bar, enjoying cocktails. Several times they moved to a back booth where they’d have dinner afterward. He even knew her first name. Said she once mentioned driving up from [town name] to visit the old guy.
We knew this town, which was approximately a forty-minute drive from the uncle’s home. Fortunately, for our case, the town was small, which meant we’d have better luck identifying her via a proprietary database search, from which we learned her full name, date of birth, and oh my…a possible criminal history (proprietary databases sometimes dredge up high-level information about criminal histories, fyi). We also learned that the vintage automobile had been purchased within the last six months.
We next ran her data in our state court records database…and discovered she had a criminal record for – guess what? – embezzlement.
We forwarded this information to our client, with the suggestion he contact a probate attorney ASAP.