about Walt Stewart in "South Coast Magazine"
Written by Andrea Wallace
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, Stewart Investigations, Inc., is devoted to the real-life pursuit of truth
and, frequently, justice.
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.
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."
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. Stewart 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. (Stewart 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."
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.
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.
here to visit South Coast Magazione
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