No case is too small for private investigator Jennifer Tawil of Synergy Investigations—just don't ask her to photograph your husband and his mistress.
Photo by John Rizzo
What’s the proper term: private detective or private investigator?
The license for our company is a private investigation license. But I hesitate to call us private investigators, because when people hear that they tend to think we’re the ones in the cars watching cheating spouses, but that’s not the focus of our business. My partner and I, both with a law-enforcement and corporate security background, focus on corporate investigations.
What motivated you to leave law enforcement?
The difference between my life now and seven years ago is that I’m a mother with two children. Our childcare costs were over thirty thousand dollars a year.
Did you have any concern about investigation being such a male-dominated profession?
I wouldn’t say concern, but I’ve spoken to other women who are looking to get into the business. I tell them that you have to have a thick skin. There have been many times when I’ve been the only woman in the room.
Have you ever gone undercover?
Yes. When I was working for the Department of Investigations, we had gotten information that there was going to be some activity with members of organized crime during some parties at a catering hall. So they issued me, under a different name, a driver’s license, a Social Security card, and other documents so I could apply for a job at the catering hall. My job was to observe who was in attendance and who was speaking to whom.
What do you use to conduct your work?
We use various databases that are available only to professional firms engaged in this line of work. But the most effective tool is knowing how to treat people respectfully in order to get the most information out of them. People hold the most useful information.
What’s your favorite kind of case?
I get motivated when I need to conduct a background investigation and the individual comes up squeaky clean—that’s almost irksome to me. That motivates me to dig deeper.
What’s your least favorite type of case?
The whole cheating spouse thing. When someone approaches me for that, I warn them that they really need to be at a place emotionally where they’re willing to accept the information that comes out of the investigation, because they’re truly opening a Pandora’s box.
Do you think everyone has a skeleton in his or her closet?
Everyone usually has something—like a credit card delinquency—even if it’s just a misunderstanding. But when someone is of a certain age, and there’s no public record on them at all, you have to wonder how this person has lived his or her life without any issues. I think there is something to be found on everybody.