Investigator keeps eye out
While police detectives work to solve criminal cases such as murders and robberies, private investigators are often hired by individuals and companies to help solve other mysteries. "A lot of people have the misconception that we, as private investigators, are dirty or ruthless," says Eric Agaki, owner of Hover View Investigations, which has offices in Agoura Hills and Hollywood.
But in reality, Agaki says, private investigators and police detectives share common duties and often collaborate to solve cases.
On March 24 Agaki announced his investigation of Doheny Glatt Kosher Meats, a prominent Los Angeles food distributor that allegedly breached kosher protocols. Glatt kosher rules require meat to come only from animals with smooth or defect-free lungs.
SPY CAM—Private investigator Eric Agaki of Hover View Investigations in Agoura Hills took this photo at the rear entrance of Doheny Meats, a kosher food distributor, in early March. It allegedly shows the owner of the company directing the unloading of boxes without the supervision of an on site kosher overseer. Over the past six months the private investigator made video recordings that he says show the butcher shop repackaging and selling meat that was not certified kosher. Competitors complained to the Rabbinical Council of California that Doheny gained an unfair business advantage.
The cost for glatt kosher products is about three times higher than regular fare.
The Rabbinical Council is a religious authority that oversees all facets of food production and distribution to make sure meat and poultry come from kosher animals slaughtered according to Jewish tradition.
The scandal during Passover compelled the council to revoke its certification of Doheny Meats, which provides kosher meat and poultry to restaurants, caterers and customers throughout Los Angeles.
Agaki, who was born in Israel, said he conducted the investigation on his own time and without pay.
"I'm Jewish and I keep kosher at my home. I have a lot of family members who keep glatt kosher, and I didn't want my family to be ripped off," he said.
According to Agaki, the USDA is also investigating the butcher shop because it reused certified boxes and transported perishable products without proper refrigeration.
The work of a private detective
While Agaki is busy at his Hollywood offices, Amy Doerner, managing investigator for Hover View, runs the company's operation in Agoura Hills.
Most of Hover's cases involve divorce and infidelity, but the firm also offers a wide range of intelligence services, said Doerner, a Conejo Valley resident.
In addition to conducting background checks, finding missing people and researching insurance fraud, Hover View tries to foil con artists and gathers evidence to help defendants in court.
"It's something different every single day. I love it when I truly help somebody," says Doerner, who is currently researching a dog-napping that spans several states and has leads connected to Agoura Hills. In another case, Doerner recovered a watch that had been stolen from a man in Los Angeles who later saw the watch for sale on Craigslist. Because police did not have enough resources to pursue the incident, the victim called Hover View Investigations for help.
Posing as a potential buyer, Doerner set up a meeting with the seller at the Topanga Mall. Afterward, Doerner presented evidence to the police, who subsequently made an arrest.
The local private eye also helped a birth mother worried about her teenage son who had been adopted by a local couple.
"The mom was able to keep in contact with him for a while and became very concerned that something was wrong when she didn't hear from him for two years," Doerner said.
Although she could not share specifics with the birth mother, Doerner said she was able to give the biological parent peace of mind knowing that her son is safe.
Doerner earned a criminal justice degree with the goal of becoming a fingerprint expert.
She postponed her pursuits to raise her son but found a new opportunity to become a fact-finding professional when Agaki, who worked alone, hired her as an assistant.
"I learned from the ground up. I do enjoy putting that puzzle piece together, finding the needle in the haystack—that's what this business is all about," Doerner said.
Hourly rates for private detectives begin at $125, with a fourhour minimum. On average, cases require 15 to 25 hours to solve, Agaki said.