Corrections or additions?
This article was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 24,
1999. All rights reserved.
A Spy in the House of Dot.Com: Pankau
by Melinda Sherwood
Smoking guns aren’t what this detective is looking for.
Ed Pankau, private eye, is looking for the burning paper trail
that white collar crooks leave behind when they try to hide bank
or assets. Thanks to the Internet, Pankau barely has to leave home.
"Today the courthouses are online," he says. "Whereas
it took me an average of 10 hours to find somebody years ago, today
it takes 15 minutes."
Security and investigation are the fastest growing fields today, says
Pankau, who teaches "How to Make $100,000 a Year as a Private
Investigator," on Saturday, December 4, at the Learning Studio
in Langhorne at 1 p.m. Call 215-752-5657. Fee: $42. The reason is
simple: "Police don’t take care of personal problems," says
Pankau from his office in Houston, Texas. "For any kind of
matter private investigators are better than the police."
Attorneys are Pankau’s bread and butter, handing off research where
big money is at stake. In the early 1980s, for example, when the first
big banks failed in Houston, a lawyer telephoned Pankau and asked
him to locate 300 people in 90 days to find out if they had enough
assets to go after.
Ever since Pankau has been traveling around the country giving
on private investigation (one of his favorite stories is how he had
a student who might have married a serial killer had it not been for
his class) and wrote two best-selling books: "Check It Out:
Guide to Investigation" and "Hide Your Assets and
a book on privacy (http://www.pankau.com and
Crooked businessmen are Pankau’s specialty; he has had a life of
His father, a nightclub and bar owner in Florida, routinely bribed
the police and eventually was thrown in jail. Pankau recalls,
I graduated from high school he said `son, some day this will be all
yours,’ and I said `Dad, I’ll burn it to the ground.’"
Instead, Pankau joined the army, attended Florida State University,
(BA in criminology, Class of 1972) and worked for the local police
department before becoming a special agent in the IRS — the very
same department that had put his father in jail. "I became the
white sheep of the family," he says.
Blood is thicker than bars, however, so when his father was diagnosed
with cancer in 1972, and his brother was in a motorcycle accident,
Pankau returned home. When his father died, Pankau packed up and
west, and he has been in Texas ever since.
He became a private eye who specialized in business and financial
investigation. "No other investigator specialized in that, finding
people with money and people who fled with money," he says. He
also trained a unique staff — paralegals or accountants looking
for a more adventurous career. "It’s a lot easier to teach an
accountant investigating than it is to teach an investigator
he says. "Other people hired ex-policeman, but I hired paralegals.
We could find twice as much as anybody else because the paralegals
were computer literate and understood the law. I made them records
analysts. They could go to the courthouse and knew where to use that
Today Pankau’s cases involve Internet scams, crooked investors,
person, and on occasion, divorce settlements. With everything online,
he no longer needs those old tools of the trade — surveillance
cameras and tape recorders. "In the 21st century, the criminal
and perpetrator never see each other," he says. All that an
needs to find them is a good business sense, computer skills, and
There’s a lot you can learn about your business competition online
(or, for that matter, they can learn about you), by tapping into some
of Pankau’s "recommended" resources (these are listed on his
annual report, and public relations material sent to a rented post
that list company officers, stockholders, and provides financial
on a yearly basis, as well as assumed name county record filings that
indicate unincorporated businesses set up as joint ventures or
and all those people involved, uniformed commercial codes where state
filings indicate creditors that sold or leased to your company, and
the collateral used for the transaction.
The public records at the county tax assessor’s office also has
of what equipment is owned by a company and property in a person’s
name, plus deeds and financial terms.
information, but newspapers and other periodicals are useful.
Also helpful: Dun & Bradstreet reports, TRW Business Credit, trade
association reports, Chamber of Commerce information, and Better
of highly confidential and valuable information. If your company is
involved in litigation of any sort — whether it’s over wrongful
termination, sexual harassment, contract violations, etc. — a
lot of potentially embarrassing information is made public and it’s
Snoops can learn a lot here about a company’s sales, operations, and
employees. If a company officer is involved in divorce litigation,
their financial information — stock shares, for example —
will be valued and made public.
addresses of employees, social security numbers, and telephone
are the real big brother," says Pankau about privacy in the
Age. Use it before your competition does.
— Melinda Sherwood
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.