(The hourly rate is $85 more than what the city is paying a private company to assist it in kicking homeless people out from where they’re sleeping.)

In an August 4 email, Mayor Ed Murray and City Council Member Tim Burgess asked Ethics and Elections Commission director Wayne Barnett to track down the whistleblower, alleging a violation of city’s ethics code. Barnett thanked them, then promised a “thorough investigation” and to take “appropriate measures if we are able to identify the source.”

Barnett has designated about 10 percent of his commission’s total annual budget for the investigation.

The document we published, way back in June, was a summary of the city’s offer to the Seattle Police Officers Guild (SPOG). The vast majority of Seattle police officers rejected the contract—which fell short in key ways of benchmarks set this month by the federal judge overseeing Department of Justice-mandated reforms.

The current contract imposes onerous limits on the ways the city can hold its rank and file cops accountable for misconduct; the new contract would have relaxed some of those limits, without wholly doing away with them. Samuel Sinyangwe, the New York-based co-founder of the Black Lives Matter group Campaign Zero, which analyzes police contracts, said the contract still contains “many provisions that undermine accountability and are simply not present in many cities’ contracts.”

Sinyangwe called contract offer “mediocre at best,” from an accountability perspective.

It’s not clear how Eakes will go about the investigation. City Attorney Pete Holmes suggested in a July statement that he and employees would submit to questioning in the inquiry under threat of perjury. Nor is there any proposed end date for the investigation. Eakes did not respond to a request for comment.

As we’ve reported before, there is “near-consensus” among the the Department of Justice, Office of Professional Accountability (OPA), OPA Review Board, OPA Auditor, and the Community Police Commission that labor negotiations with the police guild should not be kept secret to begin with.

 

]]> https://sinvestigations.com/private-investigator-gets-65000-contract-city-hunt-police-whistleblower/feed/ 0 Private investigator: ‘Foul play’ likely in Tia Bonta disappearance https://sinvestigations.com/private-investigator-foul-play-likely-tia-bonta-disappearance/ https://sinvestigations.com/private-investigator-foul-play-likely-tia-bonta-disappearance/#respond Sun, 28 Aug 2016 18:51:10 +0000 https://sinvestigations.com/?p=266 Author: Elyssa Cherney – August 26, 2016

Tia Bonta’s family clung to the hope she would show up at her son Kingston’s first birthday party — even though they hadn’t seen or heard from the 24-year-old in three weeks.

So on Tuesday, a small group of somber relatives gathered to have ice cream cake. The event came and passed, though, with no sign of Bonta.

“She’s a great mom, so it’s devastating she wasn’t here,” said her father, Kevin. “The day before [I thought], if she doesn’t make it to this one, I just got a weird feeling.”

Since Bonta vanished July 31, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office has scoured two wooded areas looking for clues of her whereabouts. A person of interest, who initially talked to police and was the last person to report seeing Bonta, is also nowhere to be found. As the days of uncertainty turned into weeks, the family retained a private investigation firm to follow new leads.

At the time of her disappearance, Bonta was working toward a degree at Keiser University in Orlando, according to family and her Facebook page. She finally felt as if she had direction, her father said. While she hadn’t settled on a career, she had been interested in criminal justice since high school, when she went on a ride-along with an officer, Kevin Bonta said.

James Copenhaver, a former sheriff’s deputy whose PI firm was hired by the Bontas, said the skipped birthday party concerned him too.

“I’ve had many families hire us for missing young adults, and in some way, they always make contact with their child,” Copenhaver said Friday. “I have my concerns due to the fact that it’s been so many days or weeks that she hasn’t reached out … so I do suspect foul play, without a question.”

History of drug use

Several arrests starting in 2014 describe Bonta’s history of drug use, according to Orange County court records. As a result, Copenhaver said he can’t rule out whether Bonta’s struggles may have played a role in her disappearance.

In December 2014, Bonta was arrested with her brother in connection with an attempted burglary. She told deputies a man paid her $20 for a ride, and she didn’t know the same man was trying to break into cars since “she began to tie her arm” and “shoot up cocaine,” an arrest report states.

In Bonta’s most recent arrest — June 3 on charges of heroin and cocaine possession in east Orange County — deputies found a bag of heroin in a car she was driving, according to an arrest affidavit. She also pulled a small bag of cocaine out of her bra and handed it to the deputy after the traffic stop, the report said.

Bonta pleaded no contest to the charges but violated conditions of her release after rear ending another car and leaving the scene, according to a charging affidavit. As a result, Bonta returned to jail June 30 until her release on July 25.

Copenhaver said he is trying to construct a time line for the six days following her release, the final days before she went missing. Much of it remains unclear, and he said he is looking into whether she started using drugs again.

“She had three weeks to clean up in jail, and she was looking very clean, very healthy, but did she fall back into that trap? That’s unknown,” he said.

‘Person of interest’ disappears

More answers could depend on finding the person of interest, identified by investigators as convicted felon James Dellafield.

Dellafield, 44, talked to investigators Aug. 5 after Kevin Bonta gave them his number, according to a missing person report. Kevin Bonta said he saw Tia getting into a car with the man, who goes by “JD,” at a Days Inn on East Colonial Drive in the Alafaya area, the report said.

A deputy called Dellafield on the phone, and he confirmed that he picked up Bonta and then dropped her off at a house near Buck Road and Cleburne Road. Dellafield said he didn’t know the address but Kevin Bonta did, as he had picked his daughter up there a couple of times.

Copenhaver said he believes Tia was staying at the Days Inn, and he is working to acquire surveillance footage from the hotel chain. Copenhaver also said another investigation led him to the same house on Cleburne Road, where he saw a lot of foot traffic.

Dellafield, of Sanford, served two prison stints since 2002. He was released in 2006 after a six-year sentence for aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and aggravated fleeing and alluding. He served another two-year term from 2011 to 2013 for a slew of convictions, including cocaine possession and distribution and grand theft of a motor vehicle.

Sgt. Steven Strickland, a lead detective on the case, declined an interview Friday, citing the open investigation. A spokeswoman wouldn’t elaborate about why investigators searched the woods — one in the Alafaya area and the other just north of Union Park.

In the meantime, Kevin Bonta is caring for 1-year-old Kingston. Tia also lived with him before she went missing.

“Our prayers are that she is alive and well,” Kevin Bonta said. “We ask that no matter what, we get closure, and we get it quickly.”

Anyone with information about the case can anonymously call Crimeline at 1-800-423-8477.

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A private investigator who charges up to £10,000/day says the police ‘are worse than useless’ on fraud cases https://sinvestigations.com/private-investigator-charges-10000day-says-police-worse-useless-fraud-cases/ https://sinvestigations.com/private-investigator-charges-10000day-says-police-worse-useless-fraud-cases/#respond Sun, 28 Aug 2016 18:29:53 +0000 https://sinvestigations.com/?p=244 Author: Will Heilpern – Aug. 1, 2016

Fraud has become the most pervasive crime in the UK, with nearly one in 10 citizens (around 5.8 million people) now victims of criminal deception online, according to the latest Crime Survey of England and Wales.

The report also found that the police often do not have sufficient resources to investigate fraud, leaving many victims of cyber deception without justice.

Many of those victims turn to one of the UK’s estimated 10,000 private investigators — like 57-year-old Paul Hawkes, who says the police are “are worse than useless” at solving fraud cases.

Brought up in west London, Hawkes left school at 18 to work in the financial sector before joining a firm focused on locating debtors. He enjoyed the thrill of uncovering seemingly untraceable information so much that he established his own private intelligence business, now called Research Associates, in 1977.

The company solves cases of personal and commercial fraud, locates missing people, and participates in covert surveillance for spouses suspicious of adultery.

Hawkes charges anything from £65 an hour for simple investigative work, up to £10,000 per day for interrogation.

Business Insider visited Hawkes in his basement office in Notting Hill — which he shares with three colleagues — to learn about his work on cyber fraud cases, and what it’s like to be one of London’s most experienced private investigators.

A large proportion of Hawkes’ detective work is solving cases of cyber fraud, which lacks the glamour traditionally associated with the profession — something he tries to play down.

Nevertheless, he can’t avoid the mythical status of private investigators entirely.

“I’ve got a bit of a hatred for magnifying glasses,” Hawkes protested, embarrassed that I had spotted two within moments of sitting down. “Having said that, just because of my age … there’s another in the drawer.”

The bulletproof vests, hidden camera equipment, and a polygraph lie detector that were also on display in his office betrayed a more serious side to Hawkes’ work life. He became most earnest when discussing a recent fraud case.

“The police — I have to say it out loud — on frauds, they are worse than useless,” Hawkes said.

The private detective recalled a case he worked on in 2015, in which an Italian manufacturer (kept anonymous) sent more than £800,000 worth of air conditioning units to a company masquerading as a British household name retail company. The fraudsters tricked the manufacturing company with an indistinguishable clone website.

“The long and short of it is that they sent this stuff over to a depot in Tottenham and it just disappeared,” Hawkes said.

When the Italian company contacted the British police, it became evident that they were not prepared to investigate the case. At this point, the company contacted Hawkes.

Hawkes and the Research Associates team then gathered evidence using techniques approved by former police fraud investigators, to build a legal case against the con-men.

To trace the ultimate destination of the goods, and locate the fraudsters, Hawkes arranged to send a second shipment of air conditioning units, bugged with tiny trackers “about half the size of a credit card.”

The private investigators then phoned the police, using a crime action number they had acquired for the case, handing over evidence and the exact location of the criminals.

The officer on duty asked if the investigators had the real names of the people involved. They did not.

“We’re not going to send anyone along for health and safety reasons then,” the officer said, according to Hawkes. “They might be armed.”

Unable to take further action, Hawkes watched the tracker as the packages were picked up, taken to the airport, and transported abroad, where they would be resold.

“We handed it [to the police] on a plate, with breathtaking amounts of info,” he said.

According to the private investigator, police inaction in fraud cases is the result of a Home Office circular from 2004, which lists a number of scenarios in which police are not required to investigate. An especially vague section tells the police not to investigate a fraud case when the “likely eventual outcome” is “not sufficient to justify the likely cost and effort of the investigation.”

However, Hawkes said that not every police force is as reluctant to act. Some forces, like the City of London police, have well-established fraud prevention teams.

A more satisfying part of Hawkes’ job is reuniting estranged family members. He claims that Research Associates has a success rate of “well over 95{d81351653b022d6e921eb5a25ff2b362261693dca71d0694328dc42c8948ce18}” for finding missing people.

“The thing to get into your head is that no one disappears,” he said. “They just disappear from your sight. They will be going about routines. People need routines.”

To demonstrate how easy it is for him to find information about people, Hawkes did a simple search on a subscription database which gathers intelligence from publicly available sources.Nearly 40 years into his career, Hawkes has seen radical changes in the ways information is located, with the development of the internet.

In moments, by typing in my name, he found my date of birth, former and current address, various email addresses and phone numbers, as well as the same details for all of my immediate family.

“That’s a start,” he said ominously. “Then we’d start drilling down.”

One way the private investigator “drills down” is using his training as a forensic psychophysiologist.

The techniques he uses to interrogate are “completely and utterly not what you think they are,” he explained. “Gone are the bright lights and the shouting and in come techniques that you probably associate with counselling and therapy, but I’m pretty good at finding the truth.”

While Hawkes enjoys his work, the father of four says it’s not a path he would recommend to his children. “There’s something in me that likes more than my fair share of stress,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”

I asked the seasoned private investigator how much longer he plans to continue working.

“You’re asking me how long I’m going to be alive,” he said. “I’ll probably do it until I croak.”

 

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