Gumshoes Mine Data Bases to Ferret out Fraud

Article excerpt

As a private investigator specializing in legal and financial cases, Jim Mintz stakes out the information superhighway, probing for data that individuals and corporations may not want to reveal to their bankers.

Mr. Mintz, president of James Mintz Group Inc., is often up against sharp-minded grifters who all too frequently dupe banks and others with exceptionally devious scams.

A seasoned investigator with 18 years' experience, he gathers information for litigation, due diligence, and other corporate and financial purposes.

He's racked up some impressive achievements, which include the hunt for Ivan Boesky's hidden assets in the Swiss Alps and the probe that sent a little old lady to jail for bilking a company for $12 million.

But unlike the private eyes portrayed on television, Mr. Mintz, 40, does not carry a gun, nor does he engage in nerve-wracking car chases.

In fact, he rarely leaves his desk.

With the proliferation of such online data bases as Nexis/Lexis, CBD Infotek, Dialog, and Teledata, the days of gumshoe wear and tear are essentially over.

"It was kind of a muscle business, ex-cops really," recalls Mr. Mintz. "You had to go out knocking on doors and having dogs bite you on the leg and stuff.

"But these data bases and other things have really fueled the change."

Employing six other private eyes in New York and Washington, the firm digs for dirt on credit applicants using a plethora of data bases, such as CBD Infotek, itself an amalgamation of data bases.

It offers address-change files and Social Security Administration death records, among other sources of information.

More obscure data bases include those that track yacht ownership, Nevada divorce records, and one that even one reveals which "private golf club a Japanese businessman belongs to."

"It's kind of difficult to count them all." Mr. Mintz admits.

However diverse the data bases are, they represent a tremendous resource when any one of his 24 bank customers wish to locate the assets a borrower might have squirreled away.

"We are strengthening a banker's hand in dealing with borrowers." Mr. Mintz says. "The further away from home a banker goes to do a deal, the less he's going to know about the people, and the less his gut instincts will help him."

He said he recently completed a successful investigation on behalf of a commercial bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. had directed the bank to write off entirely a seven-figure loan, Mr. Mintz said. The bank hired the Mintz Group to find the assets.

Using information obtained through cross-referencing several more remote data bases, Mr. Mintz said, he was able to demonstrate that the borrowers indeed possessed "significant dough."

"The bank held fast to its position and didn't write it off," Mr. Mintz said. "They ultimately were able to settle it."

Many big banks, especially those with lots of foreign business, have become adept at fighting money-laundering schemes and other credit-related fraud.

But banks need to get even better at using all the resources available to detect scams, said Mike Anthony, a private investigator and executive vice president with Investigative Group Inc. …