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Stakeouts & Tracking

By Chris Harrowell - Manukau Courier

Fraud investigations, background checks, litigation support and stakeouts - that's the life of a private investigator.

And in south Auckland, investigators Dave Pizzini and Richard Middleton are revealing that it's not always like what's shown on TV.

The two ex-detectives have 50 years of policing experience between them. They can see their old workplace at Manukau police station from the Veritas Investigations' office.

Private investigators Richard Middleton, left, and Dave Pizzini work out of an office tower in Manukau, south Auckland.

The firm was formed after Middleton retired and was at a loose end at what to do.

"When I retired I'd always said to my wife when the time was right I'll look for some work," he says. "That was my answer for nine months".

"Then my wife sat me down and said 'listen, Richard, I'm changing your status. You're no longer retired, you're unemployed'."

The duo specialise in investigating company theft and fraud, background and CV checks, litigation support, locating people, and serving court documents.

hey get a lot of cases from criminal defence barristers they worked with in the police when those barristers were Crown prosecutors.

"Most of them had prosecuted cases in the high court for us during our police careers," Pizzini says.

"They were predominantly homicides but ran the whole gamut of serious crimes over the years."

Pizzini and Middleton can't discuss the details of cases they've taken on, but are willing to give examples of the sort of work they do.

One of Middleton's areas of expertise is carrying out background and CV checks on people.

"I did one last year where an employee was charged with a very serious criminal offence related to their company's work," he says.

"She was a recent hire and the company wanted to know what happens in a police investigation, so I was able to give them advice around that, and also whether they could have done anything differently through their processes to weed this person out [beforehand]."

Middleton says the employee had told the company she'd lived at an address for three years, but he discovered she'd had six different addresses in two years.

He also carries out a lot of social media research for clients wanting to know more about prospective employees.

"It often provides an avenue of further inquiry," he says.

"I'm surprised every day by how much people put online about their lives, but it's incredibly helpful."

Pizzini is the company's go-to man for litigation support work, which sees him assist defence lawyers representing clients charged with crimes.

He's managed witnesses who are needed to appear in court and finds people who will be called to give evidence during trials.

"I would take formal statements from them and summons them to make sure they get to court, do scene examination-type work, and I've taken photos that were put into a booklet for a jury," Pizzini says.

There are certain types of cases the pair won't take on, and they need to know exactly who their client is, they say.

An example is when Middleton was contacted through the Veritas website by an anonymous person who asked if he would carry out a background investigation into a prominent New Zealander and "get some dirt" on the person.

"They wanted to do it all through the website," he says.

"I said I wanted some contact details from them and they weren't prepared to give me any, and wouldn't tell me who they were, so I ceased contact with them.

"Another one wanted to put $500 into my business bank account and have me do a [vehicle] number plate check.

"We won't work for anyone who we don't know and [we need to] know their reasons for it are genuine."

While their jobs may not resemble the glitzy and dramatic work of fictional private investigators on TV or in movies, Pizzini does sometimes do stakeouts, which he calls "reconnaissance".

"I did one the other week," he says. "It was of an address of a guy I'm looking for.

"I know what his car looks like so I did a reconnaissance … early in the morning to see if the car is there."

Neither Middleton nor Pizzini have ever been in a physical altercation while carrying out their private investigations work.

Pizzini says he's had the odd door "slammed in my face" but when that happens he asks people not to "shoot the messenger", he says.

Middleton says they create a health and safety plan for any job that needs one, and sometimes both go along if necessary.

"The other week I wanted to go on a door-knock that involved quite a dangerous person.

"It was Dave's job but I said two of us should go and we need a health and safety plan.

"We have a legal responsibility to keep ourselves safe."

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