Friday, September 01, 2006

William Koch's Investigation

William Koch is a billionaire, and most well-known for winning the Americas Cup in 1992. Koch collects wine. In fact, in the basement of his Florida mansion he has 17,000 bottles of it. Several bottles were alleged to be rare French wines once owned by our third president, Thomas Jefferson.

However, the legitimacy of this claim was challenged by several sources. Koch purchased the alleged rare wine from a German collector named Hardy Rodenstock. Since doubt was cast upon the authenticity of the wines, and knowing full well that the authorities had little interest in the plight of a billionaire and his rare wines, Koch himself launched an investigation of the wines and Rodenstock.

He hired former FBI agents to head the investigation. They concluded that Koch had been taken by a con artist. Now, Koch is suing Rodenstock. Koch footed the bill for the investigation, which cost over a million dollars.

Among other things, the private investigators learned that Rodenstock used to go by another name, and he apparently faked documents, among other misdeeds.

This brings us to the issue of the cost of investigations. A million dollars. Just to prove the legitimacy of a few bottles of wine.

People contact Sherlock Investigations for background investigations on various individuals. Among the things they ask us to find out are the number of bank accounts a person has, the amount of money in each account, properties owned, the person's place of employment and employment history, his marital status, how many wives he's had, the number of children, his educational background, and on and on.

When we tell them what we can actually do for their budget of, say, $500, they balk. Well, first of all, it's illegal to get most financial information. We can get information on certain assets, such as property, vehicles, boats, and planes.

Private Investigators can get a lot of information on a person. If there's anything detrimental, they can get that too. However, it's going to cost the client.

When the FBI does a background check on a person it takes at least 6 months, and costs the government thousands of dollars. Yet, people often want the same thing from us for $500, and done in five days.

As much as possible, we like to quote flat rates for investigations. To do so, we have to determine how many hours it will take us to gather the information. We roughly figure our fee at the rate of $150 an hour. So a ten-hour investigation would cost $1500. In reality, most of our background investigations go for $500. To do the kind of work many clients demand would cost in the thousands.

So, the truth is, you get what you pay for.

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