My Client, a Wanted Fugitive
Written by Lisa Reed for PI Magazine
“I didn’t know that getting an e-mail from a client named “Ian Black” would lead to a three year involvement with police agencies in the U.S. and Mexico. Nor that I’d struggle with my ethical and professional standards and a sensitive ego.”
“Ian Black” wanted me to locate Jones, an “old friend who was down on his luck.” He provided a link to the NJ Department of Corrections’ website, which I assumed was for the friend. I explained that I would attempt to locate Jones, but “Black” would not receive the address unless Jones gave me permission to release it. “Black” agreed and sent me photos of himself to show Jones.
Doing due diligence on my client and Cook McQuilkin (the e-mail ID “Black” used) I couldn’t find either of them had ever resided in New Jersey. Since I wasn’t asked to do anything illegal, I continued.
Then, “Black” asked if I would take on another job for his friend who wanted a duplicate title to a Hummer in Mexico. The vehicle had been stolen, then recovered, but without paperwork. “Black” provided prior contacts/emails that his friend, Roger Day, had had with the attorney for the dealership in New York. “Black” explained that the title was never clear, that this sale took place online through eBay; that the NY dealer was “shady” and did not properly conduct business. He went on a rant about this dealer who he wanted to shut down for fraudulently selling the car directly to Roger Day, bypassing eBay and avoiding paying the commission.
My brother, a car salesman, explained that it sounded like “title jumping”, a way to evade paying sales tax. Title jumping involves someone purchasing a vehicle but never registering the title in his or her own name. The car is then sold with the title still reflecting the previous owner’s information. The dealer reported that the vehicle was shipped directly to Mexico, not sold to Roger Day.
I had suspected from the beginning that something was not right. I checked “Roger Day” on the Internet. There he was on the “America’s Most Wanted” page. His photo matched the one “Black” had sent of himself!
Roger Day was wanted by the Department of Defense (DOD) for defrauding the government of millions of dollars. He had set up false companies and bid on contracts within the DOD.
Now, I faced a dilemma. I am a retired police officer, have family in the military. What Day did was unacceptable, not to mention the possible catastrophic consequences on our military. My initial instinct was to notify law enforcement.
But, I had a client— “Ian Black”. Was I ethically bound to him? My research showed a consensus that “Black” was my client, and he did not exist. The person I knew as “Ian Black” was Roger Day. He had committed a crime and deceived me; therefore, I was not bound by any ethical obligation not to reveal his identity. I had a duty to report.
One of my employees called her attorney-father who handles a lot of federal defense cases. He called a DOD investigator and reported to me that he could have sworn he heard the investigator fall off his chair! Two DOD investigators came to my office. I showed them the photograph and explained what I was hired to do. They asked me to continue contact with “Black”. I had signed up confidential informants during my law enforcement career, but it was not a title I ever expected to have attached to my name.
The DOD had supplied the information to America’s Most Wanted just two weeks prior to my call. The segment on Day was actually aired on TV after I began cooperating with the DOD. Talk about timing!
I thought I would continue my phone calls with “Black” and the government would have means to track him through his computer. He had no cell phone because using the computer was free. I kept imagining that after a conversation with him I would receive a call that he was in custody. I definitely didn’t expect to become so involved.
I couldn’t take notes at the same time that I was talking to “Black”, so I purchased a recording device from PI Gear. I always referred to him as “Ian” and made everyone in my office refer to him by that name. I was so afraid of slipping up during my calls.
I continued to look for Jones and was able to make contact with Jones’ girlfriend. She didn’t know an “Ian Black.” The only person she could think of with the money to hire a PI was Roger Day. I pretended not to know him, and forwarded pictures to show to her boyfriend. She confirmed that the pictures were of Rodger Day. She said Day and her boyfriend had been cellmates. “Black” was pleased to receive contact information for Jones’ girlfriend.
For the next five months I continued contact with “Black” and focused on getting him to become personally interested in me. I told him I was single and had one child, a teenage son. I wanted to give the DOD investigators more to go on. It proved relatively easy to do. I showed him a lot of attention and told him how funny, or smart, and interesting he was, using his narcissism to my benefit. I told him of a planned trip to Mexico (fiction) and asked if he could recommend a place to stay in Mexico— another way to help the DOD. He offered a condo on Playa del Carmen.
I pretended to be trying to get the title from NY. He asked me to write a letter of complaint to eBay, which I did. The letter was passed on to eBay. I forwarded their response to “Black”. He then asked me to get a title for a vehicle from Arizona that was owned by Greg Stewart. (He didn’t mention that Stewart was one of his co-defendants).
The phone calls were coming at different times of the day, including holidays. We discussed the arrangements for my trip. He wanted continuous updates on the two titles. He asked me if I would fly to Texas, meet him in Nuevo Laredo to pick up gold bars to mail to a dealer in Seattle. I would then go back to Nuevo Laredo and drive with him to Playa del Carmen. The DOD was very interested in this prospect because they wanted to recoup some of their losses. I was a little nervous.
“Black” decided against his plan because he wasn’t sure how I would get the gold across the border. He then suggested that I bring back $100,000 in gold coins and declare them as payment from a client. In the States I would send the coins to a gold dealer who would wire the purchase money to “Black”, and he would then send money to reimburse me for my flight.
I told him that I had never been out of the country before so I really needed him to pick me up. He was trying to make it in time, but some of the roads could be washed out from storms and mud slides, so he made arrangements for a woman to pick me up if he couldn’t make it. He described her and said she did not speak English.
At one point he commented “I don’t get it, you are a retired cop, a big bad PI who goes into bad areas in NJ.” I responded that I usually brought someone with me, and carried a gun. Boy, did I feel silly making myself sound like a scared little girl! But, it worked.
On July 31, 2008 I travelled with a female agent to Cancun where other agents and Mexican Federales (the equivalent of the U.S. Marshal’s office) waited. The local Mexican Police could not be informed of the impending arrest because of their alleged widespread corruption. The DOD had no jurisdiction in Mexico.
I was told that “Black” would not get within five feet of me. If his female friend came to get me, I wasn’t to go with her. If he drove up to the circle area of the airport where only vehicular traffic was allowed, I was to approach him, but place my backpack on the ground to alert the Federales.
At the airport, I went to an outside cafe table and ordered a drink. Thirty minutes or so later, I heard his voice behind me. I turned and said hello as he and a female began taking my luggage. As I stood up, I noticed that one of the agents was on his cell phone trying to contact the Federales. To stall our departure, I asked “Black” if I could finish my drink. He agreed and a few moment’s later was approached by a Federale who asked if he was Roger Day. He replied that he was and was subsequently arrested.
As he passed me, handcuffed, he said “You got me Lis”.
I learned later that he tried to bribe the Federales to release him, promising a payoff in gold. The female was not stopped and could not be detained.
This occurred July 31, 2008. He was extradited to the States in December, 2012. In June, 2011, I met with the Assistant U.S. Attorney for trial prep. On August 21, 2011 I testified in U.S. District Court in Richmond, VA. There where 35 witnesses.
I could not believe the judge’s reaction to me. “As a private investigator, I imagine you have a code of ethics to follow,’ he said. I replied that we do and that my research determined that my client did not exist.
The judge questioned whether I ever followed my client’s (referring to Roger Day) direction and not just the government’s. He also asked if I returned the monies Day had paid me.
The defense only asked me two questions—probably because the judge had done their job for them. I left the courtroom wondering what had just happened. How did I go from thinking I did the right thing to being accused by a federal judge of improprieties?
On August 25, 2011, Roger C. Day Jr. was found guilty of all charges and will be sentenced on December 15, 2012.
When I first realized that my client was a wanted fugitive, I knew what I had to do. But I couldn’t imagine what that first phone call would mean, or that it would be three years until it was over. I am a retired police officer who worked with squads and partners. I was used to being a part of the team, of knowing everything about the case. Now, I was just an informant on a “need to know” basis.
I was offended. I should have been treated differently, been a part of the team. But, the rational side of my brain knew I was not. They could not divulge anything from me that I didn’t need to know. Yet, there I was, taking phone calls at home at 10:00 at night from this man who thought I was single while my husband was in the other room; pretending that my daughter was my niece when he called in case he heard her in the background, having my son upset that his mother, no longer a police officer, was going to Mexico as bait.
After the arrest, I never spoke again to two of the three agents that I had been with in Mexico, and one of them was someone I dealt with regularly during the five months. Months after the arrest I learned that the agents had received an award for the investigation. I felt used. I was angry and disappointed. And then, three years later, my ethics were questioned by a federal judge.
But, I also realized as I drove away from Richmond: The DOD conducted a major investigation and the AUSA obviously did a really good job of presenting the evidence for the jury to have convicted Day. I realized that I was an intricate part in this because had I not contacted the DOD, this trial would not have taken place. But, I still am only a small piece in this whole story. There were witnesses from Canada and Mexico, as well as from all over the United States. I understand that I couldn’t know more than I needed to and friendships didn’t happen because they didn’t want to give the impression of improper conduct on the part of the government officials.
I did what I did because it was the right thing to do. Yes, I would have liked to get a letter in my jacket (police jargon), but I am not a police officer. Not being a police officer, losing that identity, was something that took a while to get used to.
After the arrest, I learned that Roger Day had sent the same e-mail to a handful of other New Jersey investigators. Why did he choose me? Am I the only one that responded to him? I also wondered throughout the five months why he trusted me. He was somewhat intelligent to have committed the crimes he committed, why then would he get in touch with a retired police officer? Why did he reveal so much, like giving me his real name? According to the agent, Day told me more that he ever told the others and it was all accurate.
Would I do it again? I think I would, but I hope to never be faced with a similar situation.
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