Koyal Group Training Services: My Biz: Making private investigation a family business
Hunting down a witness, catching a cheating spouse, finding out if someone is really injured — Jeff Marlin of Marlin’s Special Investigation doesn’t have a typical job.
Marlin’s father, Mike Marlin, founded the business in 1994 after retiring from the Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) with the State of Iowa.
Jeff, a graduate of the University of Iowa, spent four years in Kansas City working as a police officer, but left the field to obtain his degree in math education. He returned to Iowa in 1996 and was teaching full-time when his father invited him to assist with the investigative work during the summers.
“In 2000 my father asked me to come on board full time, and in 2007 I bought the business from him,” Jeff said.
Mike Marlin, a 1970 graduate of the University of Iowa, gave up his PI license in 2010, but remains a consultant to the business. With 40 years of investigative experience in murder, robbery and fraud as well as hundreds of hours in specialized training in interviewing tactics and background investigation techniques, he provides strategic input.
“When I have difficult cases, or I want to get another opinion, I come and talk with him,” Jeff added.
“Currently, I do a lot of surveillance,” he said. “It’s broken down into domestic, workers compensation and personal injury type of cases.”
“Stereotypically, people think of domestic investigations as cheating husbands and wives, but a lot of the time the surveillance is in regard to children,” he said. “Such as when the couple are divorced and one spouse wants to make sure that another person whose come into their ex-spouse’s life and is now around their children, is a safe person for them to be around.”
In addition to surveillance, Jeff does criminal defense work for state and federal lawyers. He said he’ll do background checks and hunt down witnesses for cases ranging from sexual abuse and drug charges to murder investigations.
He uses social media site Facebook to gather information and find photos, as well as high-tech equipment during the investigative process.
“I use a video camera, regular digital camera and pinhole cameras,” Jeff said. “Some of the cameras look like an ordinary cell phone—all I have to do is hit the button and they can record conversations and videotape at the same time.”
But the work can sometimes mean long hours.
“I know what my son does, and I know what I did when I was working in this business,” his father Mike said. “And you are away from your family a lot.”
Jeff agreed but added that owning his business always has its advantages.
“As a PI, I can make my own day, and I don’t have to take every case that comes along,” he said. “If I have something going on with my kids, I will work around what my clients need.”