Editor's Note: As a special feature for February,
offers a five-part series on Valentine's Day designed to help you find the perfect gift.
Cigar smoke encircles the rugged face of a world-weary man as he reclines in his worn leather chair, his shoes on the desk.
Through the frosted glass of his door the quintessential hourglass figure approaches, grabs a tissue and sobs, "I think there's another woman."
As you snuggle up to your beloved this Valentine's Day, maybe reveling in the romanticism of a similar film noir theme, you doubt you would ever be that silhouette seeking help.
But can you be certain? Real-life private investigators can help you find out.
The Truth Starts Here
Cheaters never prosper, but New Jersey-based private investigator Tony DeLorenzo does.
According to this private detective and infidelity expert, 65% of his cases reveal that a spouse is cheating, so it doesn't hurt to err on the side of suspicion.
"Go to a major hotel lounge any day of the week, and I guarantee
the couples there are not married," says DeLorenzo.
Since he took over
All State Investigations from his father in 1983, DeLorenzo's workload has grown 25% every year, which he attributes to the rise in Internet dating and the fact that most women are out of homes and in the workforce. One of his All State offices receives up to 300 calls per week.
The days leading up to Feb. 14 are particularly busy for DeLorenzo because "the
cheater has to see his wife and girlfriend that same week," he explains. This activity often tips off a questioning spouse.
"If the wife wants to go out Wednesday night, I can guarantee that Monday or Tuesday the husband is having dinner with his girlfriend."
DeLorenzo also recommends looking for unexplained credit-card purchases during that week. He related the story of one sorry fellow who found hidden lingerie and thought his wife was planning a surprise for Valentine's. When the racy items never surfaced, he knew something was amiss.
Most affairs last six to nine months before people hire an investigator, but many are just in denial, says DeLorenzo. "A lot of people will ... cancel because they are afraid of the results," he says. "Half a spouse is better than no spouse
DeLorenzo and Dawn Ricci's best-selling book,
The 28 Tell-Tale Signs of a Cheating Spouse
, identifies some top infidelity indicators:
- Working a lot of overtime
- Hanging out with new friends
- Lack of intimacy
- Interested in new style of clothes and exercise
- Taking business trips alone
So if your couch-potato hubby is suddenly hitting the gym twice a week, beware -- it may not be out of concern for his cholesterol.
To Catch a Cheater
Ninety percent of the time, All State catches the suspect in the act. "It's like going to the dentist," says DeLorenzo. "You know you have a cavity;
the dentist is just fixing the problem."
DeLorenzo utilizes all the tools of the trade, including video and surveillance vans.
He manages 14 investigators in the New York tri-state area, and maintains contracts with 375 detectives around the country and in Europe.
All State will go anywhere -- one high-profile job required seven weeks in Paris.
DeLorenzo charges an initial $650 fee for the first five hours of surveillance, then $125 an hour after depending on how deep the client wants to dig. (He'll definitely find out what goes on at those after-work business meetings every Tuesday.)
Despite his gloomy line of work, DeLorenzo is not without humor. When one angry husband accused him of ruining his marriage, DeLorenzo pointed out, "No, you ruined your marriage -- by dating a 23-year-old."
Everything is legal as long as the detectives don't trespass on private property. This is easily avoided with high-quality zoom lenses, and the fact that many people cheat in public places like hotels and restaurants.
Just the Facts
As De Lorenzo points out, if you suspect you're the victim of a cheating partner, don't get angry -- get evidence.
Most people who hire his team want their marriages to work, but if divorce is in the cards, providing proof of infidelity can help a client get a more positive divorce settlement. Getting angry can blow an otherwise solid case.
DeLorenzo's team provides clients with verbal reports, 8" x 10" photographs and video -- all suitable for hard evidence in court.
What happens after the courtroom is why his new service
Infidelity.com was opened in January 2007. The Web site, which got 15,000 hits the first week, offers a cyber support group through chat rooms, online therapy and virtual diaries.
The site helps them to start living again," says DeLorenzo of his clients, whom he encourages to email in their stories.
"We get the evidence and he's cooked," says celebrity P.I. Vinny Parco, owner of
Intercontinental Investigations. This company includes unusual investigators -- a Charlie's Angels group of intelligent and beautiful women -- who conduct surveillance and collect evidence.
His female investigators have backgrounds as models, actresses and even firefighters, but always serve as perfect snares for the unfaithful.
One investigator, whom Parco affectionately calls a computer geek, did particularly well due to the growing popularity of online liaisons.
Infidelity investigations are just one branch of his business, but sadly one of the most lucrative and dependable. "Cheating goes on and on, no matter if it's 1777 or 2007," Parco says.
Parco sends out his attractive investigators to chat up one of his male suspects. "He'll lie and say he's divorced," says Parco. "We always get the same stories."
He says the most common and convenient places for extramarital affairs are the gym and the workplace. Intercontinental's services start at $150 an hour, per investigator. Depending on the case, as many as three investigators might be used.
Parco gets many high-profile cases that sometimes hit the front page, but he can't say he was involved. "You just wink
to yourself," he says. "People hire us to be discreet."
In his own marriage, Parco says he is a rather trusting, even gullible person; he reserves the cynicism for his work. "Most people are good people. You just have to be careful," he cautions.
Caution is always wise, but if you're lucky enough to have one of the good ones -- and don't need Parco or DeLorenzo to prove it -- then you'll have plenty to celebrate this Valentine's Day.
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