A private eye’s reality: local sleuths snoop to protect clients

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A world away from 221B Baker St. Dave Abdo and Erik Bauer spend their days handling real-life detective cases, from uncovering infidelity and abuse to deterring would-be stalkers. 
    
The difference between the duo working out of a nondescript blue house in Old Town and Sherlock Holmes and his veritable rogues gallery? 
    
Reality is less glamorous.
    
Its probably not as exciting as the movies make it to be, Abdo said. Sometimes what I find is reality is sad. Folks really treat people poorly and people, unfortunately, when they come to us [its because] theyve been wronged somehow. Its nice when we can help, but its sad what people do to each other.
    
Abdo got into private detective work when he founded Phyleo, a private investigative agency, in 2006. After serving in the military and working in and around law enforcement for much of his life, Abdo became a private eye after uncovering a case of elderly abuse within his family. 
    
Having entrusted his mother in the care of his sister, Abdo later discovered his sibling had mistreated the elderly woman and stolen her money. Assisting people who had been duped like him became the central reason for founding the agency. 
    
Thats what put me over the line and step in and see if we can help people, Abdo said.     
    
Uncovering abuse, whether of the elderly or of children, is now just one type of case Abdo and Bauer take on. Their range of services includes digging up hidden assets, catching cheating spouses, surveillance, criminal background checks, computer forensics as well as loss and theft. 
    
Its not exactly The Hound of Baskervilles, but it is exciting, Bauer said. 
    
I enjoy most of it, just the wide array of things you hear, the different cases you hear about, he said. Its private citizens coming to you. No two cases are alike.
    
Abdo and Bauer meet with their potential clients personally before deciding whether to take on a case. Some they turn down, particularly if the individual comes touting a conspiracy theory, Bauer said.
    
They decline other cases if the outcome could prove shady.
    
We have to be very careful that were getting a proposed client information that theyre not going [to misuse], he said. I dont want to tell you how to find somebody if when you find them youre going to kill them. We have to be very careful and check out who were going to work for.
    
The next step is collecting as much information about the individual their investigating as possible. That includes new techniques like GPS tracking and tactics straight from a dime store novel, like stakeouts and shadowing suspects. 
    
But the biggest boon to private detectives may be social media.
    
Facebook is our best friend, Bauer said. Or you can just Google someones name, especially if they have Twitter With their Twitter accounts they tell you what they eat for lunch everyday.
    
For Bauer, the biggest challenge is letting people know private eyes exist outside film noire. When he tells people what he does as a living, many are surprised. 
    
They say, like the movies? Bauer said. 
    
The job requires flexible, out-of-the-box thinking. Having a background in law helps, according to Bauer, who holds a bachelors degree in administration of justice from George Mason University. There are times when youre forced to make a split-second decision without taking the time to call up an attorney, he said.
    
The underlying goal, though, is to help their clients and theres no better feeling than doing just that, Abdo said. 
    
It is upsetting that we have to [investigate] in the first place, but thats not going to take away the reality [of the situation], he said.

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