With a concealed button camera recording every move, husband and wife private investigators Scott and Valerie Fulmer look to document the truth.
On this specific case, the Fulmers have been hired by a man to follow his wife on a girls’ night out. The client believes she may be cheating on him. Stalking her while she hangs out with friends on the River Walk, the Fulmers blend into their surroundings. It’s a tough part of the job, they say, which requires quick reactions and an eye for deceptive behavior.
“You gotta get close enough so you don’t lose them, but far enough so the person you’re following doesn’t think, ‘I keep seeing this couple everywhere I go,’” Scott, 44, says. “Some people think it’s just as easy as just holding up a camera, but it’s not.”
As a P.I. for the last 10 years, Scott has seen his fair share of crimes committed right in front of him. He became interested in the field as a kid reading The Hardy Boys mysteries and later when he read 1976’s Investigator: The World’s Most Successful Private Eye by Jay J. Armes, a P.I. from El Paso, Texas, who made national headlines by discovering the whereabouts of actor Marlon Brando’s kidnapped son.
With a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from UTSA, Scott went on to land a P.I. job as a federal contractor for the government, which included performing national security background checks for potential employees of the U.S. Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration.
In October 2007, Scott and his wife decided to go into business on their own and opened Fulmer Investigations in San Antonio. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are approximately 43,000 private investigators working across the nation, and one out of every four private investigators is self-employed.
“`Scott` got to a point where he needed a female investigator — someone that could go into women’s bathrooms and do certain things that he couldn’t do,” said Valerie, 38, who was a stay-at-home mom before joining her husband in the field. “Plus, as a private investigator you want to be as invisible as possible. When you’re out somewhere at a social event and you’re by yourself it draws attention. With me tagging along, it makes both of us go more unnoticed. People think we are just out on a date.”
Despite what people who watch TV shows like Cheaters may think, there is a lot more to private investigating than unfaithful spouses. Scott says about 75 percent of their work comprises fraud cases, from insurance to worker’s compensation and everything in between.
“Say someone slips and falls in your store and sues you,” Scott explains. “Well, we’ll go out and investigate and see if they are legitimately hurt. I had a case where a guy got hurt on the job and was getting a check every week to stay home. The client hires me to investigate his injury and I catch the guy on the roof putting an addition to his house.”
“On that same day they can have a doctor’s appointment and they’ll start limping and they’re in a sling,” Valerie added. “Later, they’ll take their neck brace off and they’re like, ‘I’m healed!’”
In addition to fraud cases, Fulmer Investigations specializes in missing persons, background checks, and serving subpoenas and citations. It’s a combination of services, the Fulmers say, that is both stressful and rewarding.
“It’s sad sometimes because in custody cases I’ll be hired to follow a mother around to see if she is unfit,” Scott says. “I’ve watched a mother smoke up a storm around her baby, drive the child around without a car seat, and leave him in the car and go into a store. Yes, `private investigating` is a business and this is the way we make our living, but we are also doing something good for that child and providing the evidence that is going to remove him from that harmful environment.”
No matter how heartbreaking some cases can get, Valerie has learned in the last three months that P.I.s have to be as objective as possible, whether it is beneficial for the client or not.
“Of course you want your client to be happy, but you have to report what you see,” Valerie says. “You don’t speculate. We can’t draw our own
“It’s circumstantial,” Scott adds. “You see two people who shouldn’t be together go into the same hotel, but that’s all we tell the client. In the old days, P.I.s used to kick doors down at cheap hotels and take pictures of the couple in bed and run away. We really can’t do that