Johnson & Abram is a long-standing Intellectual Property specialist based in Melbourne, assisting companies and individuals across Australia, as well as numerous foreign inventors to protect their ideas through professional IP solutions.
Taking their customer confidentiality very seriously, it is an integral part of the company’s policies that they systematically destroy any obsolete information every week; information that may still be of use to interested parties, given the nature of the documents that Johnson & Abram handles. As such, the businesses employs a number of world-class data encryption solutions as well as regularly shredding any hardcopies of the IP they receive, printed emails, banking information and other correspondence.
The company has been operating for close to eighteen years and, throughout that time, they have never encountered a serious issue with any of their clients nor have they ever suffered any breach to their security or had anyone unlawfully access their confidential information. However, just three months ago, something seemed to be horribly wrong.
James Abram, the son of original founder, Henry Abram and Director of Johnson & Abram came into work one morning to discover that the company’s waste paper bags, dumped in the wheelie bins behind the building, had been torn open with the vast majority of their contents missing. Taking into consideration that this had been the first incident of its kind for the firm, and knowing the difficulties in reassembling shredded documents, James and Bethany Johnson decided that no real harm would come of it, thereby ignoring the problem.
The following Friday one of the company’s key analysts was enjoying a cigarette in the alleyway before work began and, in so doing, he stumbled across the same scene; all five of the black bin bags had been torn open with little to no shredded paper remaining. Concerned, he immediately informed his managers, who then discussed the matter further with both James and Bethany during the morning meeting.
Given that the shredded documents had now been taken twice, the company decided to implement a higher level of security and went on to install two closed circuit television cameras in the area – one pointing towards the entrance of the alley that leads to the rear of the building and one more angled directly at the bins. The cameras were installed on that Wednesday, ready for the papers to be thrown out two days later.
That Friday morning, both James and Bethany went to inspect the bin area and found that nothing had been tampered with. It seemed that the CCTV was enough of a deterrent to keep the thieves at bay. Their plan had worked. Unfortunately, however, their peace of mind was short-lived; the very next week, James came into work earlier than usual and noticed that the camera at the alley’s entrance had been disturbed. It was no longer pointing at the alley’s entrance, but instead, straight up into the sky. Curious, he went in to investigate what had happened to the bins, only to find that the other CCTV camera had also been moved and all the bin bags ripped open and the papers stolen.
Highly bemused and growing genuinely worried about what had been happening, the Directors got together to decide on what they’re plan of action would be. Calling the Police was high on the list of options, however Bethany was concerned that any leaks with the Police reports or tips to the local press would bring in a great deal of negative press for the firm and, given the nature of the incidents and what was being stolen, the firm decided it was best to handle the issue themselves.
As such, that week they opted to have a third camera installed, this time in a location that wasn’t so easy to notice and the camera, itself, being more covert.
That week, James came up with an idea to shred a number of useless documents, discarded newspapers and the like as well as their standard obsolete information, filling a total of 9 rubbish bags. As Friday morning rolled in, the two original cameras were again pushed to different angles and this time, all nine bags were simply taken. None were opened at the scene.
James immediately rushed into the office and pulled up the footage from the third camera, revealing that two people, a man and a woman come into the alley and taken all of the bags. Baffled and unsure as to what the reasons for the theft were, he addressed the board just an hour later to address the issue once more.
In that meeting, one of the managers suggested the expertise of a private investigator – an old colleague of his from a previous job had employed their services before and he recalled how happy he was with the results. That afternoon, Bethany made a call to Precise Investigation and asked that we arrange a meeting the following Monday.
Our operative arrived at the scene and sat with both James and Bethany for an hour-long brief, reviewing the CCTV footage and taking notes from the staff. It was decided that Precise would run a simple surveillance exercise every Thursday night until the culprits were identified or, at least the whereabouts of the stolen rubbish bags became clear.
On Thursday night, our agent pulled up by the alley’s entrance in an unmarked car, with her digital SLR, night-vision camera and dashcam recording the evening’s activities. At exactly 11:38pm, the same two people that she’d seen on the company’s CCTV footage arrived.
The man proceeded to prop himself up against the wall underneath the first CCTV camera as the woman stood on his hands for a boost to nudge it in the wrong direction. From there, they proceed to enter the alley, our operative taking photographs and shooting a video of the entire incident. A few minutes later, both the man and the woman emerged holding two-to-three bags in each hand. As they walked down the alley, the agent at the scene was able to take crystal clear photographs of both his and her face, before discretely following them along the path.
Stopping at a small suburban house no more than 500m away and around the corner from the offices, the two disappeared inside. Our private investigator watched closely, continuing her recordings as she stepped out of the vehicle to resume a clearer point of view from the building’s perimeter. She noted that the front garden was littered with cheap, broken toys, bits of shredded paper and dog faeces. As she scoured the windows, she managed to take a number of pictures of the couple opening the bin bags in their living room and carrying the shredded paper into their kitchen. Unfortunately, the agent couldn’t get a good view of what was going on in there, and so decided to take up a new position at the house’s rear.
It all became clear: the operative managed to record images of fifteen cages standing at approximately 1-metre-high, stacked one on top of the other in rows along the back and side walls of the garden. In each cage were puppies, all of who were sleeping or quietly biting at their toys and each of whom were surrounded by shredded paper. The couple were stealing Johnson & Abram’s rubbish to use as bedding for their puppies.
The findings were documented and presented to James and Bethany the next day. Incredibly surprised and equally relieved, the directors decided simply to deliver a letter to the couple asking them to introduce themselves and simply ask for the shredded paper in the future – explaining that their theft had cost the firm a great deal in terms of time and resources.
As far as we are aware, an arrangement was made for the couple to collect certain types of shredded documents each week instead of stealing it and potentially gaining access to more sensitive information.
“Although nothing malicious was going on, we were really worried about it because we had no idea who was taking it or why. Without Precise Investigation’s help we’d probably have looked like fools if we’d reported the issue to the police… and luckily the situation was a lot easier to handle than we expected,” Bethany reports.
Precise Investigation has helped hundreds of clients across Australia to overcome their concerns and regain their peace of mind. Most cases that we’re called upon to investigate end up being far less serious than the clients suspect, but without our help those clients would continue to grow anxious about them due simply to misunderstandings and oversight. Precise Investigation aims to clarify, document and record any issues that our clients might face and deliver a set of results that ultimately helps them to better understand those issues and address them appropriately. If you could use the same level of expertise and professionalism to address your concerns:
Call Precise Investigation today on 1300 856 011 for a professional private investigation service.
Precise Investigation employs some of the finest investigative minds in the industry and we’ve continued on to deliver successful private investigations to businesses, government organisations and Australian individuals for close to thirty years. We have operatives stationed across the whole country to provide quick and easy access to some of the country’s most reputable investigation services. Clients in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart and even the more remote areas of Australia have all enjoyed the benefits of our work and, if you get in touch with us today, you’ll quickly understand why.
Please note: All names, locations and identifying features of the businesses and individuals described in this article have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
Image credit: Thank you Liz West from Flickr