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Use caution when hiring a Private Investigator

August 31, 2010

I found a somewhat suspicious private investigator advertisement on yesterday:

SD Investigations
P.O. Box 351
Blacksburg, VA 24063-0351
Contact: Don Sebolt
(540) 552-9304

Services: Missing Person Searches, Background Checks, Surveillance


 I say “suspicious” because I had never heard of SD Investigations before.  If that was a legitimately licensed private investigation company located so close to home, I would have.  My contacts around Blacksburg are strong enough that the subject would of been brought up to me. 

 So… I did a bit of additional research, and  found out that SD Investigations is not licensed.  It is illegal in Virginia for them to offer investigation services without a license. If your not licensed, and already violating the law, why would you bother with insurance?   Additionally, a good attorney should manage to get any evidence obtained by Mr. Sebolt on behalf of his prospective clients thrown out in court.  If obtained illegally, I would expect it would be ruled as inadmissible.

This makes the third unlicensed company I’ve stumbled on in a month… very concerning to me.  The Commonwealth of Virginia’s DCJS (department of criminal justice services) doesn’t take unlicensed activity lightly, neither should you as the potential client.  Prior to Virginia issuing a private security services license to a company, the owner has to fulfill a number of obligations. 

First, the firm in question must have a qualified “compliance agent.” That individual is responsible for ensuring that state and federal laws (in addition to specific state mandated regulations) are followed.

Second, the firm must be fully insured for both their own legal protection as well as protection of the client in the event of mishaps or civil damages.

Third, the compliance agent as well as the private investigators, have to take additional coursework related to the private security industry every two years to keep their registration active.  The compliance agent in particular has additional responsibilities on his/her shoulder as the regulations are subject to change.  In fact, DCJS is on the verge of making some major revisions to the current code. 

Fourth, licensed private investigation companies are subject to audits by DCJS to make sure that they are following the regulations.  In short, that there’s no funny business going on.

Please, do yourself and the industry a favor.  Prior to hiring a private company find out the regulatory body in your state which oversees the licensing of private investigators in your state.  Verify that the PI is  indeed authorized (and qualified) to provide the services before contracting with them. If you have concerns or suspicions, let that state agency described above know.   In many states (such as Virginia) the credentials of the company in question can be verified online. 

In Virginia the regulatory body overseeing private security services the Virginia department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS for short).  They have a pretty well put together webpage: 

(Ironically the website appears to be down at the moment, but it will be backup shortly)

About three months ago I found out a certain unlicensed private investigator in another part of the state was providing surveillance services in a divorce case.  I did some more digging, and also found out the same individual had lost his private investigation license in another state due to unscrupulous practices.  In an effort to protect the industry, I made the opposing council aware of the situation:  that “investigator X” was not licensed and had been tailing his client.

The outcome?  I’m not going to go into details here, but needless to say it was not pretty…. “investigator x” wound up in some serious trouble, and the attorney that had hired him  had a good splash of egg on his face.

As for Mr. Sebolt, I suspect that he will be contacted shortly by an  DCJS enforcement agent.  I want my industry to be viewed as professional and respectable.  Enough said.


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