Saturday, November 05, 2011

Working undercover

Right. This time I have another question to pose the investigative community concerning undercover work.

There may be a possibility that I am to assist a colleague who has an out-of-town assignment requiring the placement of an undercover operative posing as a new hire. The client manages a warehousing operation where it is believed a ring of employees is stealing stock to order. The undercover operation is to identify and, if possible, inflitrate the ring to get enough evidence to lead to arrests and successful prosecutions.

All well and good, except this position requires some some specific licences in order to (legally) carry out its duties: ie driving forklifts and other such vehicles.

Can you see the nature of this problem?

In order not to jeapordise the operation, or safety of the undercover operative, I would expect that they go in 'clean'. That is, they are not carrying with them anything that may burn their cover such as ID (in own name), personal cellphone, or any other identifying material.

Makes sense, right?

But what about those pesky drivers' licences? You know, the ones needed to do the job...?

The thought is that I (or whoever may do this job) would just quickly sit the necessary courses and get their licence. Fine! Except it will be in their own name. Not necessarily something you really want known when investigating a lucrative illegal operation though, is it. Repercussions and all that.

So what do you do?

Fake a licence? Which would, of course, be illegal. Falsifying or altering a document and all that...

So what are you supposed to do in cases like this?

A bit of a conundrum.


  1. Plant hidden CCTV cameras in and around the warehouse. Alot cheaper for the employer and safer for you.

  2. Covert technical surveillance may be simultaneously employed as well, but this poses an interesting quandry that may be just as an issue in other situations where an investigator is placed undercover.

  3. In that case it is an ethical and legal question.

    You cannot operate alot of machinery without the proper licensing and if you do, and the case goes to court, then you may face charges yourself. As it is also illegal to create fake licenses of any kind, then you can not go down that road either.

    Than means you are left with two choice, go undercover with your real name and licenses or pass on the job.

    If the matter does go to court, then your name will known to the defendants as you are likely to be called as a witness to present hat you saw, did and heard.

    On another note, if you also infiltrate in the ring as you suggested you ay, if you also take part in illegal activities you may get charged.

  4. Interesting points you have raised.

    Obviously, the point of my post was how do you maintain a fictitous cover on the one hand, yet comply with all legal requirements on the other?

    It may very well be that you cannot. At least not in situations like this one.

    In regards to going to Court, another good point there. Recently in a matter here, a PI had to, at the last minute, change from an Anton Pillar Order to a police-enacted search warrant as otherwise the identity of his Confidential Informant would have been compromised once the matter went to Court.

    As for the last point, I may be charged but I'd doubt that it would go to court. Still, it makes you think about the possibilities you may face in undercover work.

    I'm thinking this particular case may be too tricky. We'd need legal guidance all the way so as not to step over any boundaries that may compromise the investigation and subsequent prosecutions.

  5. Undercover work is not worthwhile unless you work for a large organisation with all the resources and contacts to do it so that the undercover is safe, both physically and legally.

  6. Yes, well money = resources n'est pas?

    I think the biggest threat is that the client company isn't willing to commit the resources required to run a proper operation through to its conclusion.