Kate Walker, a qualified, multi-lingual translation specialist and her partner, Freddy Brown, a European language expert, met at the University of Melbourne 6 years before starting their very own, small-scale international translations business. Originally catering for translations from Asian languages to English and vice-versa, their rapid success meant that they could expand, bring in more staff and cater for a wider market, allowing them to tend to French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Russian clients as well.
The couple has family based in a number of countries around the world and so, during the major holidays, they would frequently jet off and spend a few weeks with their parents, siblings and friends away from home.
Taking into consideration the size of their operation and the fact that many of their clients continued to work over the holiday seasons meant that they needed to have the office manager and a small team of translators employed while they were away to keep things running smoothly. Over Christmas, the pair had usually opted for just two, more senior members of staff to tend to the phones and answer emails, but last year was one of the busiest they’d had, so for Christmas 2014, they decided to bring the office manager in to assist over the two weeks they were gone, along with the two regulars they normally had.
Having run the business successfully for the four years before, by relying on their employees to keep things ticking over in their absence, they weren’t concerned and looked forward to spending some time in the snowy peaks of the Alps with Kate’s parents over this particular Christmas period.
After settling in for the first few days of their vacation in an area with very poor mobile phone reception, but a solid internet connection back at their Guesthouse, Kate and Freddie were limited to email communications with the office, and so asked that the Manager send them a detailed report of the day’s activities come the end of play every afternoon.
Just four days into their holiday, Freddie received an alarming email for Joe, the office manager, telling him that he’d fallen ill and, despite making a valiant attempt to continue working, was being plagued with headaches so intense that his vision was starting to become affected. As such, he requested that he take unpaid leave, as he was aware that he had caused an inconvenience, but Freddie insisted he go home, try to work if he could from there, and if not, he would still be paid regardless – his concern was mainly the fact that Natasha, a young but bright Russian translator was relatively new to the business and had specifically requested to work over Christmas as she’d managed to bring in a large client just a month before. Kate and Freddie decided to allow it, under the premise that Joe would be there, and in so doing, only hired one of their holiday regulars, Simon, to work alongside her and Joe.
Kate asked Joe to brief the pair in the reports that she and Freddie required and requested that Natasha regularly write to keep her in the loop as to what was going on in the office in their absence. The couple were aware of a faulty connection to the building and so were slightly uncomfortable in leaving it to the two translators to fix, should it stop working. Thankfully, and much to their surprise, Simon told the owners that the connection had dropped on the day they left, but Joe and he were able to have it repaired within an hour and it had been functioning perfectly since.
On Monday of the following week, Kate received an email from one of her long-term clients informing her that he’d been trying to get in touch with the office because he was in desperate need of having a product prototype presentation prepared in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese, but there was no answer when he called.
Freddy then attempted to make the call himself, over Skype, but the phone just rang and rang. He then dialled Simon’s mobile phone number, which he answered and reported that the phone’s were working fine as he’d just been on the line with another client with no issues. Kate tried calling the office with Freddy and Simon still on the line, and again could not get through. Simon confirmed that he and Natasha would investigate and make arrangements to have a technician visit the office if the problem persisted. In the meantime, Kate set to work translating the presentation to English from Thai and the next morning, emailed it to Simon to have it translated as quickly as possible into Spanish and Portuguese while Freddy put the French version together.
However, Kate never heard back from Simon and, after calling the office with no answer again, managed to reach him on his mobile, demanding an explanation for the silence. Simon insisted that everything was running like clockwork and that he’d managed to make several phone calls and received numerous emails, but nothing from Kate nor Freddie for some time. He suggested that there had perhaps been an error in their phone settings that they needed to have fixed.
Freddy then asked Simon to call him on his mobile phone to check whether the line worked, to which Simon agreed. Freddy hung up and waited for the phone to ring. After 15 minutes, he called Simon back, only to reach his voicemail, following which, Kate tried to reach Natasha’s mobile, which was incidentally turned off.
After another thirty-odd minutes of waiting, Freddy finally received a call from Simon, where he was told that there was actually an intermittent problem that neither he, Natasha nor a technician they’d organised could pinpoint. After enquiring as to why he took so long to call Freddy back, Simon responded that he’d been trying but couldn’t get through. The two men tried to reason their way through the problem, failing which they decided to discuss the product prototype presentation that urgently needed attention. Simon reiterated that he hadn’t received anything from either Freddy or Kate, but was looking forward to getting started.
Flabbergasted, Freddy insisted that Simon urgently sort out the problems with their emails as the matter was becoming more pressing by the hour; the deadline was closing in and Simon hadn’t even begun on the two versions of the documents yet.
After the call, Kate remembered that they had set the emails up themselves before hiring a technician to take over remotely, and so began skimming through old emails to find the login details. They were able to gain access to Simon’s emails, only to find that he had in fact received their messages.
Following the discovery, Kate called Precise Investigation to enquire as to what services we could offer in terms of getting to the bottom of all the confusion – they had never encountered such a strange turn of events while they were away and they could only imagine that something wasn’t being said, which was clearly impacting both Simon and Natasha’s ability to perform at work.
With 13 days of their vacation still to come, Kate asked our investigators to visit their offices the next day and follow Simon, in particular, to determine the root cause of all the commotion. Her initial thought was that the two were perhaps skipping out on work in favour of enjoying each others’ company, more specifically that they were engaging in a romantic relationship while they were “on the clock.” In the meantime, keeping a poker face, Freddy suggested to Simon that he use a different mail program because they could see he was receiving the messages, but perhaps not being able to read them.
While it did seem like some kind of love affair would be the most probable outcome, it turned out that Kate and Freddy could not have been further from the truth. Our investigator managed to snap photographs of Natasha flicking fuse switches in the office through the window and while we were unable to see exactly which switches she was flipping, the investigator at the scene attempted to call the office as she was fiddling around, helping us to gauge that she was, in fact, turning the phones on and off temporarily. But why?
As we delved further into the case, our operative became aware of the fact that while Simon had begun working on something at his machine, Natasha would leave the office for about 20 minutes, at least twice a day over the four days we performed the surveillance op. Tailing her on one occasion made everything clear; Natasha had been popping out to buy small quantities of Ice (Crystal Meth) that the two shared in the office. At least one hit when they entered the office, shortly before which Natasha would turn the phones off, then back on after the high wore off, and then going on to repeat the process over lunch and then once again before they both left. One two separate occasions, both Simon and Natasha stayed at the office for a few hours longer than they were asked to, where they made themselves countless cups of coffee and continued to “enjoy” the perks of the drug that they were purchasing everyday.
Neither Natasha nor Simon had any recorded history of being involved with drugs, so it can only be suggested that they had only recently discovered the wonders of the incredibly harmful substance, but in so doing, jeopardised their ability to perform at work. Simon did manage to have the Spanish and Portuguese documents ready in time, but after reviewing them, the client came back and reportedly made a light-hearted but scary remark, asking whether the person who’d produced it was sober? The quality was good enough for the client to correct the mistakes before crunch time, but he did inform Kate that he was expecting work of a higher calibre, which only led her and Freddy to press on with the Investigation.
All in all, we were able to capture several videos and photographs of Simon leaning out of the office window to have a cigarette, in a building where smoking is not permitted, but moreover, he had laced his cigarettes in the drug, which became apparent as he took more and more drags, eventually becoming lame and slumping back into the office with seemingly little life left in his body… although he did have a huge smile.
On their return to Australia just a few days later, Kate and Freddy met with the field agent, where they received printed copies of the photographs and a memory stick holding the video footage. Both Natasha and Simon were dismissed from work immediately after being called into a meeting to review the images and given accurate references to reflect their contributions to the tasks at hand, as well as their eagerness to bend the rules at the nearest opportunity.
Without Precise Investigation’s help Kate and Freddy said, “[we] wouldn’t have had a clue that they were doing drugs in the office […] we’re pretty shocked that they even cut the phone lines just so they could have their fun, and all on our time when we had such an important client to keep happy.”
While this isn’t necessarily the most heart-pumping of cases we’ve undertaken, it was great to see just how easy it is for employees to get away with doing so little when their managers and directors aren’t around. And yes, while these two were fuelled by drugs, would they have managed to continue their shenanigans after their bosses returned to work? We’ll never know.
If you’re heading out this Christmas, it’s really important to know that the people you’re trusting to keep everything moving forward are pulling their weight, whether it’s managing your business, looking after your children, pets or plants or even just your home’s integrity. Organise a private investigator to check up on your staff, nannies, house sitters, dog walkers or anyone else that you’re allowing into your personal space every now and again, or for a designated period of time, and we’ll help you to determine whether they’re really trustworthy or if they’re just taking you for a ride.
For a more preventative measure, as opposed to a reactive one, to ensure things like this don’t happen in the future, you can minimise your risks by performing professional background checks on these people before you even hire them. A proper background check can give you information on previous criminal convictions, drug abuse, hidden truths such as fake names and addresses, fictitious work histories and even falsified qualifications and more. Precise Investigation can have professional background checks integrated into your recruitment processes at the office, or performed for you as once-off services when you’re looking to hire someone new for a particular job, or entrust someone with something valuable to you.
Christmas can be an incredibly warm, comforting and enjoyable time of the year, but if you’re running a small business or trusting someone to do something for you while your back’s turned, it sure would help to know you’ve chosen the right person for the job.
Call Precise Investigation today on 1300 856 011 for a professional, Private Investigation Service
We have specialist field operatives, backed by the Precise Investigation support team, stationed across the whole of Australia, with easy access to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Hobart, Brisbane and even the more remote areas of the country. If you’re in need, give us a call and we’ll work with you quickly, discretely and with the utmost integrity and skill to deliver the results you’re after.
Image credit – Thank you Wikipedia