Some Youthful Revelations

Opening the Eyes of a Twelve-Year-Old

During the years that my two kids were growing up and I was enjoying being a dad, I was able to share some pretty interesting parts of my career with my son and daughter. I have already mentioned Duncan’s assistance with some undercover assignments. His sister, Heather, also experienced an eye-opener.

My bright and sensitive daughter came to me when she was about ten or eleven and said, “Dad, I’m worried about your sending people to jail who have sold fake art. I know you do it to stop them from stealing money from more people, but some of those men might have little girls like me, and you’re sending their daddies to jail.” I told her how important her empathy was but also explained why I had to do what only I could do.

When Heather was twelve, I took her to New York for a week of exploring the City and a day of working on a professional assignment for a couple of government agencies. On the appointed day, we were at Grand Central Station at eight o’clock and met an FTC attorney and an FBI agent. The four of us boarded a northbound train and got off at Mount Vernon in Westchester County. We walked to a warehouse owned by Collectors Guild, a print-of-the-month art distributor.

We were greeted by the president of the company (son of the founder), an attorney or two, and several of the warehousemen. While I examined a four-foot-high stack of prints with federal-court orders plastered on it, the warehousemen stood around us in a circle to be sure we didn’t get curious about the fifty or sixty other stacks of prints on pallets in the immediate area. Those I examined were fakes with forged Dalí signatures that had been marketed through American Express to its cardholders.

When Heather, who was doing school work at a nearby table, asked if she could go to the bathroom, one of the men growled at her to follow him, but keep her eyes to herself. Later, on the return train, Heather said, “Boy, Dad, those guys were really creepy. They were just like the Mafia.” The FBI agent said, “That was the Mafia, Heather.” She, now with eyes as big as mill wheels, asked, “Are those the sorts of guys you’re sending to jail, Dad?” I told her some of them were like that, and she said I’d better get them because they were creepy. She had met the enemy and knew who it was.

Opening the Eyes of a Fourteen-Year-Old

Heather’s younger brother, Duncan, had a similar revelation a few years later when he flew with me to Salt Lake City for a day. Our client picked us up at the airport in a large, black SUV with heavily tinted windows. He drove us to an apartment to examine several dozen decorative limited-edition, hand-signed prints that he said he had received in payment of a debt.

After a couple of hours of examining and photographing the prints in the totally unfurnished and apparently unoccupied apartment, I presented an invoice for my fees and expenses. The client walked into the kitchen, opened a cupboard over the stove and took out a very large stack of hundred-dollar bills. After counting out several thousand dollars’ worth, he replaced what was left in the cupboard and tossed me the keys to the car saying, “Why don’t you guys use this until you fly out this evening? Leave it on the third level of the airport garage and put the keys under the floor mat.”

As we drove away in search of lunch, Duncan said, “Well, Dad, is there any question what he does for a living?” I agreed that it looked as if I had a pocketful of drug money and expressed concern about the possibility that the car would be picked up later by a hit man who flew in to do a contract. We wiped down the interior to remove our fingerprints before heading for our flight home.