Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Your Best Friend or Worst Enemy

Heyyy, Campers! My friend, private investigator Chuck Chambers, had a write-up in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune recently:


Paul Gonzalez Videla/The Herald


[MANATEE - His clients include the wives and husbands of politicians, federal judges, physicians, preachers and lawyers, as well as the every day Joe Schmo - "no one is immune."

Bradenton resident Chuck Chambers has spent nearly 25 years as a private investigator handling approximately 30,000 cases, most of which generate in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Although the majority of his cases generate locally, he is also internationally certified.

With the assistance of five detectives, Chambers' business handles such tasks as background research on employee candidates, significant others and parents; searching for missing or misplaced persons and collecting information for prosecutors and private attorneys.

Chambers' specialties include homicides, major fraud, criminal defense, civil litigation and criminal corporation cases.

But his No. 1 request, by a landslide, is infidelity cases.

"Infidelity is definitely the largest," he said. "About 70 percent of the cases involve infidelity."

Over time, Chambers has gathered the following infidelity case statistics:

• More women contact him for his services than men.

• About 80 percent of the clients are married

• About 98 percent of his women clients' suspicions are valid, versus 60 percent of men clients.

• The average infidelity case takes 20 hours of investigation and costs $2,000.

• The typical initial call from the client: "I've never done this before, but I think (he or she) is seeing someone else and I need to know for my own peace of mind."

• Infidelity occurs most frequently with a co-worker and more often before or after work hours.

One of Chambers' most remembered cases involved an 80-year-old man he calls "Panama Jack."

Panama Jack was married to a woman in her 50s who became suspicious because he was leaving every day at the same time, for about the same amount of time, Chambers said.

"We found out he was having sexual contact with a woman in her 80s. The two would meet in broad daylight in public places," he said.

After receiving word that her husband was cheating, the wife decided to intertwine a little fun to the disappointing news. A short time later, while suspecting he was at it again, she called Chambers, who confirmed Panama Jack was with the woman about 45 miles away and had parked his car in a nearby fast food restaurant.

The soon to be ex-wife grabbed her extra set of car keys and took her husband's car from the parking lot.

When he returned, he had to call her and tell her what happened. But, he of course, told her someone had stolen the car in the city they lived in, which she knew was just another lie.

Although a sometimes adventurous job, being a private investigator does come with a few drawbacks.

The detectives typically have 15 to 20 cases open at a time and may work seven days a week.

And continuously being subjected to so many infidelity cases can take a toll on the investigators who have to remain unbiased during all facets of the case.

"You have to learn to be nonjudgmental," he said.

It's human nature

But, that doesn't mean he hasn't learned a thing or two over the years.

"The more I do this, the more understanding I become of human nature," Chambers said. "It's not the end of the world. It may seem like it is to those who don't see what I see all the time."

And what he sees tends to make him more of a realist.

"It's better than psychology," he said. "It's not a textbook case, we deal with reality."

It seems as though all of that reality may cause trouble in a detective's personal relationships.

"It's not hard to get jaded to the point of becoming disappointed in the human race, but you just have to learn to not get jealous or make accusations," Chambers said.

Chambers has been married to his wife, Leona, for 40 years.

It helps that the two work together sometimes, something Leona finds exciting.

"It's quite interesting and it sure beats housework," she said.

Her input also provides a different insight with certain cases.

"Sometimes we discuss the cases," she said. "I'll have thoughts he didn't think of, it's a group effort."

The only negative side to her husband's career choice is the danger that can arise.

"I get nervous with some of the cases they do," she said. "Especially the drug cases, I don't like him to be around that."

The family business

However, it looks like Leona Chambers will be dealing with those feelings for quite some time.

The couple's son, Bill, 37, already works for the business and their grandsons Michael and Wesley are also intrigued.

"They see what their grandfather does and they've been around it so much that solving problems caught their interests."

In addition to problem solving, those interested in private investigative work should be creative, ambitious and be able to think fast on their feet, overcome and improvise, Chambers said.

Chambers, who first worked as a police officer with the Palmetto Police Department for five years, decided to take a side road on his career path to dabble in his own investigation business.

"I enjoyed helping people in Palmetto, but I wanted to find a different way that wasn't so rigid and provided a higher income," Chambers said.

He began his business in 1982 as a one-man band in a field that's become very competitive.

"It quickly grew by word of mouth," Chambers said.

His nearly 30 years of combined experience in law enforcement and private investigations has made for an interesting book.

His latest, "The Private Investigator's Handbook," available at most local bookstores, is a culmination of techniques that can legally be used by anyone to discover infidelity, locate missing persons and assets, uncover financial fraud, and collect and use evidence.--Rebecca Blue]

Chuck Chambers, slipping into a doorway near you!

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