My experiences with Private Investigators
For several years, I had been trying to locate someone
who had been separated from me through an adoption. I
have since decided to stop the search, but
while searching I tried to use the services of professional
search firms, specifically private investigators ("PI"s) who specialize
in adoption reunion searches.
While I was searching, I kept a diary of who I interacted with,
the nature of the interactions, and the results.
Most (not all) of the diary appears below.
I came to understand that persons who are trying to find
family members who have been separated from them by adoption are
in an emotionally vulnerable position, and are
uniquely susceptible to manipulation and/or exploitation
by any unscrupulous or amoral operator who wants to prey on them.
Because I have stopped searching, I have no idea which, if any,
of these firms have since gone out of business. Of those still in
business, I have no idea which, if any, have changed their tactics
in how they deal with their clients and their potential clients.
Because of this, I have no idea whether you, or anyone else, will
be treated the same way I was treated. What follows below is
how I was treated.
On Friday 11 April 2003, I spoke by phone with
Ken Cummins at
733 15th St NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005,
202-789-1581, and explained what I was
looking for. He said that it would probably be a fairly simple
search, and to send him what I had.
So I printed out what I had and mailed it
to him, along with a check for $150.
My check to Capitol Inquiry cleared my bank on 17 April 2003.
Other than that, Capitol Inquiry did not acknowledge receiving my request
and did not communicate with me in any way.
On Saturday 5 July 2003, I noticed that
Ken Cummins was interviewed in the August 2003 issue of
Reason, on p. 28, col. 1.
By that point, Capitol Inquiry (and Ken Cummins) had had
my money for some three months, and still hadn't acknowledged
receiving it, or communicating with me in any way.
As of yet, Capitol Inquiry has still not acknowledged
receiving my money or my query, and has not tried to communicate
with me in any way. Why this is so is a mystery. All I know is that
I'm out $150 and I still don't have what I'm looking for.
In May 2004, I saw an episode of the
show where the guest was a PI named Joseph Culligan.
Mr. Culligan's website is
and the name of his company is
"Research Investigative Services", P. O. Box 521636, Miami, FL 33152-1636.
His company holds Florida Private Investigative Agency License A89-000412.
On the show and on the website, Mr. Culligan claims
"We will find anybody!", so I sent in my $345 and
defined who I'm looking for.
On 25 May 2004 I receive a response (postmarked 22 May) which gives a
list of half-a-dozen persons whose name is somewhat similar to the
person I'm looking for, but the person I'm looking for is not among them.
Included with the list is an unsigned note admitting failure and asking
for more information. I sent this further information on 26 May 2004.
By 26 June 2004 I hadn't received any further response from Mr. Culligan's
company, so I re-sent my letter
of 26 May with a cover letter saying that I hoped that the reason I
hadn't heard from them is that my letter of 26 May
had been lost in the mail, and that I hoped they were still looking.
On 14 July 2004 I received a response (postmarked 12 July) saying that
Mr. Culligan himself had read my letter (wow!). They asked for some more
information, and asked that I send an email to
so I did. No response, so on 18 August 2004 I printed out
my email message and snail-mailed it to them. On 27 August 2004 they
emailed me back, saying that my original email may have been caught in
a spam filter, and sort of promising me a detailed response in ten
days. By 10 September 2004 I hadn't heard anything, so I snail-mailed
a reminder. Early on 15 September 2004 they responded by email, asking for
more information, which I provided later that day by both email
and snail-mail (I can't tell whether they've fixed their spam filter
or not). Late on 19 September 2004 they responded by email asking for my
phone number. Early on 20 September 2004 I emailed them my
home phone number.
Mr. Culligan then phoned me, and we spoke several times over
the next few days. He provided several suggestions for actions
for me to take. I would have thought that he or his staff would
take these actions for me, but apparently he doesn't have sufficient
resources for this, and has to rely on his clients to do their
own legwork. What the heck, I'm game. It took a month before
I could make the arrangements to take these actions, but once I
made the arrangements and tried to take these actions, I found
that none of them helped, or, for that matter, could have helped.
On 24 October 2004, and again on 26 October 2004, I sent emails to them
explaining how frustrated I was with the way things were going.
Mr. Culligan's website says
"Our guarantee: If we can not find someone for you in 14 days from when
we get your order, we will refund your money".
I'd rather have the person I'm looking for located,
rather than get my money back, but as of today I don't have have either.
Then again, the page (Flash animation)
which contains this claim also refers
to him as "Joeseph Culligan" and says that he's a
"Liscensed Private Investigator". See a screenshot of the page
here. Maybe these misspellings are
a way to evade repaying ("It wasn't me, Joseph, who made that promise,
it was that other guy, Joeseph!"), and maybe not. In any case,
it's good that he, or whoever builds his webpages for him, chose the
PI field of work, rather than, say, education or copy-editing.
Perhaps they should change their motto from "We will find anybody" to
"We will find anybody except the person this customer is looking for".
It wasn't until mid-July 2004 that I realized that Joseph Culligan the PI
was the same person as Joseph Culligan the domain-name squatter.
Small world :-)
On Monday 12 July 2004 I sent a letter to
23123 State Road 7, Suite 223, Boca Raton, Florida 33428,
Florida Investigative License #A2200304, asking
what information they would want from me to start a search.
On Monday 19 July 2004 they phoned me and asked for details.
I faxed them over, and on Thursday 22 July 2004 they phoned back.
They said that due to certain specifics in my case, the chances
of it being successful, at least at this time, were very slim,
and that they weren't interested in taking my case, at least
at this time, because they
didn't want to waste my money. They said that some of the other,
non-PI, steps I had already taken would be more likely to achieve
results at this time, and that I should check back with them in
a few years.
Gotta give them credit for candor :-)
On Sunday 12 September 2004, I printed out, and filled in, a
Client Information Form from the website of
Kinsolving Investigations, P. O. Box 1917, Matthews, NC 28106,
704-537-5919 or 1-800-527-8698 (voice) or 704-846-5123 (fax),
and on Monday 13 September 2004 I mailed the form to them.
By Friday 8 October 2004 I had not received a fee quote from them,
or any response at all, so I resent the form to them with a cover note
wondering what had happened.
On Thursday 14 October 2004 I received a response from Kinsolving
saying that my search can be done. The envelope included a
I was to sign and return. The contract said that I wouldn't have to
pay anything up front, that once I signed and returned the contract
they would do the search, and I would only
pay them when they find who I'm looking for. The price is $3500.
Their contract goes into careful and precise detail about how they would
not release the results of their search to me until I paid up,
and the steps they would take to enforce payment if I didn't
pay up. The contract also
states that what they would release to me after I pay would be
the name and current address and telephone number of the person I'm
looking for. Nothing more, no supporting
evidence to show me that what I would be getting for my $3500 would
be anything more substantive than Kinsolving Investigations handing me
a name they picked at random from a phone book. This is not to say
that Kinsolving would do that, just that their contract gives me no way to
be assured that they haven't. And with the clause in the contract that says
"The client agrees to indemnify and save harmless the investigator
against any and all liability which may occur as a result of the use
of the information provided", if Kinsolving does that (hand me a name
they pick at random from a phone book and claim it's the person I'm
looking for), then I have no recourse against Kinsolving.
Also the contract was two pages long, with the first page marked
"Page 1 of 3" and the second page marked "Page 2 of 3". This does not
appear to be an attempt to pull a fast one on me (if litigation ensues,
Kinsolving can include a third page of the contract with terms I haven't
seen), but instead appears to just be sloppiness on the part of
Kinsolving. After all, one of the paragraphs of the contract reads,
in full, "This electronic agreement is a legally enforceable document."
What electronic agreement? The contract they sent me is on paper.
Given Kinsolving's apparent lack of seriousness about anything other than
getting paid, I didn't bother to respond.
On Thursday 18 November 2004,
I printed out and filled in the "Fax quote request form"
the website of InfoTrace Inc., P. O. Box 839, Bolingbrook, IL 60440,
Phone 866-805-1863, Fax 815-293-2328.
On Friday 19 November 2004, I mailed it to them.
On Wednesday 1 December 2004 an InfoTrace vice-president phoned me at home
and asked me to phone him back. We played phone-tag for a few days, and
finally spoke on Friday 3 December 2004. He said that InfoTrace could
provide several different ways of approaching my search, that he'd do
some checking around, and get back to me during the next week.
On Monday 13 December 2004,
and again on Thursday 16 December 2004,
I phoned InfoTrace and left messages
wondering what (if anything) they had found.
On Saturday 18 December 2004 I received a letter from InfoTrace
declining to take my case, and recommending two alternatives:
(1) wait a couple of years and then follow a legal procedure, and
(2) do certain things at a couple of websites.
On Sunday 19 December 2004 I wrote back, pointing out that,
according to the legislation which established that legal procedure,
my case is not eligible for the legal procedure,
and that those particular websites are not effective for me.
Also the phone number they gave me for further information about the
legal procedure had been disconnected.
Other than that, their recommendations were helpful :-)
On Wednesday 19 January 2005, I phoned Infotrace again,
leaving a message asking if they had found the correct phone number for
further information about this legal procedure.
To date, no response from InfoTrace.
On Saturday 27 November 2004, I printed out and
filled in an "Adoption Case Report" from
the website of Lynn-Marie Carty, doing business as
"ReunitePeople.com", 6822 22nd Avenue North, Suite 186,
St. Petersburg, Fla, 33710,
Phone 727-384-3463 (FIND),
Later on that day I dropped it in the mail.
On Sunday 26 December 2004, I wrote to them saying that
it's been a month with no communication from them,
and that if they aren't interested in my business
then please tell me who is.
On the afternoon of Thursday 27 January 2005, I received a
phone call from Lynn-Marie Carty, of Reunite People.
In the message she left on my answering machine,
she said that she can't amend birth certificates, and
because of that she can't help me. Amend birth certificates?
That's completely orthogonal to my search, and bears no resemblance
at all to what I said in the "Adoption Case Report" that I had sent
her two months before. So I wrote her back, saying that it probably
was a good thing that she isn't going to help me, seeing as how I
couldn't explain myself well enough for her to understand me.
She called again, but these later phone calls only confirmed
that Ms. Carty is, at best, spectacularly inept at reading and
understanding a simple declarative sentence in English.
On Sunday 28 November 2004, I noticed
the website of Locaters Plus,
Phone 1-866-LOCATE1 (1-866-562-2831),
from the domain registration:
128 Valley Road, Lincoln Park, NJ 07035,
Phone 973-872-4793, Fax 973-872-7028.
Their "Contact Us" form is located at
I took no action at that time, but
on Sunday 26 December 2004, I dropped a query into the mail.
On Tuesday 25 January 2005, I wrote to them saying that
it's been a month with no communication from them,
and that if they aren't interested in my business
then please tell me who is.
No response to date.
On Monday 29 November 2004, I noticed
the website of Adoption Search Bureau,
P. O. Box 383, Mansfield, TX 76063-0383,
Phone 817-473-0449, Fax 817-473-0113,
a division of Worldwide Tracers, Inc.
(103 Broad Street)
"You can start your adoption search today for only $200 down and $50 per month
or Put your adoption search on layaway for only $50 down."
"All Major Credit Cards Are Accepted."
"We search until we find who we are looking for!"
They provide a specific service, Petitioning The Court,
for $380.00. They claim to have a significant history of
"Case Precedence", not available to others.
No action taken at this time.
On Sunday 26 December 2004, I dropped a query into the mail.
On Tuesday 18 January 2005, I received a glossy twelve-page brochure
from them (postmarked 14 Jan), with information about the various
services they provide, along with prices. According to this brochure,
their Full Search is $795. Because of certain specifics of
my case, I instead chose their $380 "Petitioning The Court" service.
I filled out their "Confidential Questionnaire" and their
"Investigative Agreement" (both of which were included in the
brochure), and on Thursday 20 January 2005, I sent them, and a cover
letter and a money order for $380, to Adoption Search Bureau.
The very next day, Friday 21 January 2005, I received an envelope
(postmarked 17 Jan) from Worldwide Tracers, Inc., the parent company
of Adoption Search Bureau. Enclosed was a personal letter from
Pat Rutherford, whose job title at Worldwide Tracers is "Director".
Because of the specifics of my case, he encouraged me to use their
Full Search service, and that they had a good source working in
the state I was interested in, but acknowledged that their
"Petitioning The Court" service (the one I had already chosen)
could be helpful. He referred me to
the other pages he sent in the envelope for details. The page which
explained their Full Search service said that it was $695. Hunh?
On Saturday 22 January 2005, I wrote to Pat Rutherford, pointing out
the price discrepancy, and also pointing out that his website,
http://www.worldwidetracers.com/special.html, had at that
time a Valentine's
Day special offer of $200 off the price of their Full Search, but
without specifying whether this was $200 off of the $795 price
(thus $595) or $200 off the $695 price (thus $495).
I told Mr. Rutherford that until his company got its act together,
and decided what they were going to charge me for their Full Search
service, I wasn't going to bother with it. Instead, I was going
forward with their "Petitioning The Court" service. I asked if he
had any customers for whom his company had performed this Petitioning
who would be willing to allow me to contact them, or whether this is a
"blind faith"-type situation.
On Friday 28 January 2005, I received a thick envelope (postmarked
25 January) from Monda Schoonover of Adoption Search Bureau. This
contained more detailed
information on petitioning the court. I filled out their
"Client Information Worksheet", and on Sunday 30 January 2005
I mailed it back, along with a detailed medical history of the
birthfather and his family.
On Tuesday 22 February 2005, I received a leter from Pat Rutherford,
in which he doesn't respond to my query for references, but in which
he now says that his company does not take an adoption
case in the state I'm interested in. Say what?
On Friday 11 March 2005, I received a note from Monda Schoonover,
asking for medical details on the birthmother and her family.
I send this to her on Monday 14 March 2005.
On Thursday 21 April I received a note from Monda Schoonover
acknowledging that my
message of 14 March 2005 had been received, and on Friday 22 April 2005
I mailed a large stack of evidence (death certificates, medical
Months go by. No response, no reaction, no communication
at all from either Worldwide Tracers or Adoption Search Bureau.
On Sunday 17 July 2005, after three months of silence,
I drop a postcard into
the mail, inquiring about the status of my case. No response.
On Monday 1 August 2005 I send an abbreviated version of this timeline
(above) to Pat Rutherford and Monda Schoonover. No response.
I send another one on Monday 8 August 2005,
and another one on Monday 15 August 2005,
and another one on Monday 22 August 2005.
Later on Monday 22 August 2005,
after I had responded to International Locator (see below),
I (finally!) received a note from Monda Schoonover
(postmarked Friday 19 August) saying that they were waiting for
someone else, a third party,
to send something in to them. It appears that
they had decided to not tell me this, but instead to let me wait
until I said something to them. Does this mean that
if I hadn't said something, they'd still be waiting?
Because I had not received a firm commitment from International Locator,
on Thursday 1 September 2005, I wrote back to Ms. Schoonover,
saying that the participation of this third party was preferred
(by me), but that if said third party wasn't going to participate,
then we'll have to proceed without input from said third party.
On Saturday 1 October 2005, I received an envelope from
(postmarked 27 September) which contained copies of her messages to
the said third party, trying to prod said third party into action.
After that, silence. For months.
Perhaps they're (again) waiting for me to say something.
It's now January 2006. No communication has been received
from either Worldwide Tracers or Adoption Search Bureau for months,
and it's been over a year since I initially contacted them.
I give up.
Followup: By August 2006, Worldwide Tracers had noticed this webpage.
Their reaction can be found
On Monday 3 Jan 2005, the FOX network broadcast the first
episode of a reality series called "Who's Your Daddy?".
To date, no further episodes have been broadcast, but a review of that
episode can be found starting at
The PI firm which did the work for the show was called
on the show, but this is actually one of several dozen different
Internet façades for a company called
International Locator, Inc.,
2235 First Street, Suite 113,
Fort Myers, Fla., 33901.
Telephone number 1-866-855-FIND.
The CEO of International Locator is
Steven J. Weisz.
No action taken at that time.
On Sunday 31 July 2005, while WorldWide Tracers was still in silent mode,
I wrote to International Locator, asking if they were available.
On Saturday 13 August 2005 I received a note (postmarked 10 Aug. 2005)
from Benjamin L. Blalock, Director of Investigations for
International Locator (though his address is 1533 Hendry Street #201,
also in Fort Myers).
He included a Search Information Form and a Full Search Agreement
(a contract for services). The quoted fee is $1975.50 up front,
unrefundable, with filing fees, etc., extra.
Since WorldWide Tracers was still in silent mode
(I couldn't tell whether or not they had gone out of
business), on Tuesday
16 August 2005 I wrote back to Mr. Blalock, enclosing a filled-out
Search Information Form. I didn't include their Full Search Agreement
(the contract), and I explained that one of the clauses stated that
I would only get general updates, not specific or detailed updates,
and only at six month intervals. I pointed out that they could fulfil
the terms of
this clause by sending me a letter saying nothing more than
"We're working on it" every six months for the rest of my life.
And if I didn't like the service they were providing me,
I wouldn't be able to drop them and get someone else because of
another clause, which states that I could not do any other
research efforts that are not approved by International Locator.
Because of the non-communicativeness of Worldwide Tracers,
I was willing to drop Worldwide Tracers and go with
The International Locator Agreement, as written,
would cost me almost $2000, so I asked International Locator
how much it would cost to get an Agreement with substantive, not
trivial updates, at more frequent intervals than six months,
and with an escape clause.
It's now January 2006. I have not received any response to my
letter of 16 August 2005 to Mr. Blalock/International Locator.
Apparently they're not interested in having any sort of
discussion with me about the circumstances under which I might hire them.
I give up.
Based on my experiences, trying to hire a PI firm to conduct an
adoption reunion search will result in failure 100% of the time.
Other persons may have or have had different experiences,
with the process in general or with these companies in
particular. These were my experiences.
William Addams Reitwiesner