Shadow, sleuth, P.I., gumshoe. Hollywood has Sam Spade, Columbo, Adrian Monk, and the dozens of their screen brethren (along with a few sisters). And San Juan Capistrano has its own Walter Stewart, not made up but a real local private investigator whose business, WS Investigations, Inc., is devoted to the real-life pursuit of truth and, frequently, justice.
Sometimes in the drama of everyday life, a spouse cheats or the hot investment turns out to be a scam. Maybe we’re falsely accused, or we suspect our employees are stealing or we’re frustrated with the limitations of a police investigation. It’s situations like these that Walter Stewart thrives on. His business is an asset to the public, helping clients in a way no one else can.
Using the latest detective tools in the industry, Stewart and his team do everything from running background checks and investigating business proposals to helping clients who are divorcing or who aren’t satisfied with a police investigation. “Our main goal is to get at the truth,” said Stewart, also a retired police detective lieutenant with more than 20 years of experience in the investigative field. “We gather all of the facts, and after everything is over, we determine what the real story is.”
Stewart’s firm often works with citizens on civil court cases. “A lot of police departments are trying to adhere to budgetary constraints. They are busy, undermanned and cannot investigate as thoroughly as we can,” Stewart said. WS Investigations, Inc. is also retained by defense attorneys for criminal cases, interviewing witnesses to mount the defense to which every suspect is entitled. “Private investigators are a very necessary fact in this litigious society because I don’t see how you can win any case without the information we gather. Attorneys know very little about investigative work.”
A member of the Certified Fraud Examiners, Stewart finds great satisfaction in investigating fraud. Along with investigations from a variety of agencies, Stewart’s work recently helped convict a husband and wife in June this year for bilking an elderly San Juan widow out of her retirement money—more than $500,000. The couple conned the widow into investing in a bankrupt company and were allegedly running ads in both the North County Times and the San Diego Union in an attempt to solicit additional victims. The woman received a sentence of 15 years in prison, and her husband, 12 years.
In addition to Stewart’s work as a police detective, he also spent time in the military police and as a production manager for McDonnell-Douglas and Boeing. His 14 years in the aerospace industry gave him the business acumen to run his own firm. (WS Investigations, Inc. began in 2001 and incorporated about two years ago.) It’s also made him a stronger detective with a good sense for investigating business proposals. Stewart has many clients who come to him to check out various money making proposals. It usually takes him an hour or two to figure out if it’s a legitimate deal or not. Stewart said it’s “unbelievable” how many con artists there are, especially in Orange County. “If someone offers you something that seems too good to be true, as far as I’m concerned, it probably is.”
Once in a while there is no foul play. “There’s a time to fight and there’s a time not to fight,” Stewart said after an injury investigation that involved an allegedly faulty bike. After recreating the scene and interviewing witnesses, the accident turned out to be just that—an accident. Stewart has actually been sued by a client who didn’t like the results of his investigation. “The client hired me to find dirt on a guy, and after an intensive search, he came up clean. They didn’t like that answer.”
Stewart’s detective tools start with sophisticated licensed search engines. The Internet, he said, is “the mother lode when it comes to obtaining information.” He also utilizes G.P.S. tracking devices and night vision scopes. Stewart reminisced on his early days as a police officer when he didn’t even have a radio, and all he had was a key to the police box telephone. That doesn’t mean that Stewart doesn’t pound the pavement. He still knocks on doors and goes to the courthouse to search files, methods that continue to serve him well. “Years of experience in gumshoe techniques combined with new technology have led me to understand the investigative process better,” he said.
Stewart’s line of work most often involves cheaters, perps and cons, as well as accidents, divorces, and disagreements by clients who come to him emotionally distraught or at the end of their rope. However, sometimes the narrative turns from cop show to love story. Stewart is often asked to find people, and he is always wary at first since he never wants to be used. But in one particular case, it was clear that the man who wanted to find his old crush from high school had honorable intentions. As it turned out, the woman was available and had reciprocal feelings. When they married, they invited Stewart to the wedding. “It was a real happy ending,” said Stewart.
Walt Stewart, President/CEO
Stewart Investigations, Inc.
949.489.7758 | 800.504.1284
23232 Peralta Dr. Ste #103
Laguna Hills, CA 92653