Can Prosecutors Indict DNA Profiles?

Apparently, the answer is yes.

From the NY Post (August 6, 2019):

The DNA profile of an unknown woman has been indicted in the death of an infant found inside a backpack in Illinois three years ago, prosecutors said.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted the unknown female DNA profile on a felony charge of failure to report the death or disappearance of a child in connection to an infant known as “Baby Hope,” a full-term newborn girl who was found dead by landscapers in Wheaton, IL in August 2016. (More.)

The above images were developed through phenotyping <fee-no-type-ing>, the process of predicting a human’s phenotype (the composite of a person’s observable characteristics, including its physical form and structure; its developmental processes; its biochemical and physiological properties; its behavior, and the products of behavior, for example,a person’s self-built home), using only genetic information collected from DNA sequencing. This term is primarily used to refer to the prediction of a person’s physical appearance and/or biogeographic ancestry for forensic purposes.

It will be interesting to see the legal challenges that will undoubtedly be forthcoming should arrests be made based on suspect’s phenotyped profiles.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always,

Stay safe.

 

International Driver’s Permit – Do Not Leave Home Without It

Continuing our July travel tips series, this week we take a look at the sensibility and particulars of obtaining an international driver’s permit (IDP). Note: It’s a permit, not an international driver’s license.  You must have a valid driver’s license from your state to qualify for the IDP.

When accompanied by your valid US driver’s license (and always have your passport with you when driving overseas), your IDP will allow you to drive legally in many countries that recognize its validity. It may also be required or recommended by many rental car agencies.

Basic IDP information:

Basics of an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • You must be a permanent US resident at least 18 years of age and have a US driver’s license that will remain valid for the next six months.
  • Your IDP lets you drive legally in foreign countries when accompanied by your valid US driver’s license.
  • It is recognized in 174 countries.
  • Only two organizations in the US issue IDPs: Automobile Association of America (AAA) and American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).
  • The fee for an IDP is $20. (as of July 2019)
  • An IDP can be issued immediately at an AAA branch or may take 10-15 business days by mail from AAA or AATA.
  • An IDP is valid for one year.
Requirements for Getting an International Driving Permit
From AAA

  • Can apply in person or by mail
  • Completed AAA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Driver’s license (either in person or photocopies by mail)
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Accepts check, money order, or (in person only) major credit cards
From AATA

  • Can apply only by mail
  • Completed AATA IDP application
  • Two passport-sized photos
  • Signed photocopies of front and back of driver’s license
  • $20 IDP fee
  • Shipping and handling fee: domestic ($10 or $35) or international ($85)
  • Accepts check or money order

If you are a foreign driver coming to the U.S. and wish to drive, can you obtain an IDP here? No.  You must have a valid foreign driver’s license and you must obtain an IDP from the same country in which your license was issued.

The U.S. Government does not require you to have an IDP to drive in the US but some individual states may require you to have an IDP to drive on their public roads,. However, many other states do not. California, Massachusetts, and Arizona are among the states that require only a valid foreign driver’s license, not an IDP. Still, it is recommended that you get an IDP because it will be written in English and facilitate communication if you need assistance while driving or are involved in an auto accident.

Countries that recognize IDPshttp://www.drivers.com/article/937/

And again, we recommend that you check with the U.S. State Department to obtain the latest travel advisory for your foreign destination immediately before departure.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.  Head on a swivel when traveling.

Dying To Get Away? You Just Might If You Travel To Certain Countries.

The Dominican Republic has been all over the news these past several months as an unusually high number of American tourists have died there under mysterious circumstances.  (From our perspective, the culprit appears to be tainted alcohol that was consumed from the hotel mini-bars.)  This anomaly aside, the first step in planning any trip abroad should be to check our State Department’s Travel Advisory map.   This color-coded guide to our world is  fluid and continually updated as conditions around the globe change rapidly in any country at any time.

From the U.S. Department of State:

Travel Advisory Levels 1-4

The Travel Advisory appears at the top of each country page, with a color corresponding to each level:  Most Travel Advisories are at Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions – or Level 2 – Exercise Increased Caution. Travel Advisories at Levels 2 – 4 provide clear reasons for the advice, use common risk indicators, and state specific actions U.S. citizens should take if they decide to travel to or reside in that country. The new format highlights areas within a country that are of particular concern and provides specific advice for U.S. citizens who decide to travel to those areas.

We consider many factors to determine the Travel Advisory level for each country, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. The information used to formulate Travel Advisories is collected from a range of sources, such as crime statistics and other information that is publicly available, information gathered from U.S. government sources, as well as assessments by our embassies and consulates. Travel Advisories also take into account decisions made to protect the security of U.S. government personnel overseas and ensure that U.S. citizens receive appropriate security information. This analysis is undertaken without regard to bilateral political or economic considerations. Travel Advisories represent our commitment to protect U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad by providing them important safety and security information.
We work directly with experts to consider many factors to determine Travel Advisories, including crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health, natural disaster/weather, and current events. We clearly explain the reason for the Travel Advisory level and describe the safety and security concerns. We consult closely with personnel in embassies and consulates throughout the world, security and intelligence experts, and with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control.
After a careful review of the security situation, we advise U.S. citizens not to travel to a country as U.S. citizens face a greater likelihood of life-threatening risks in that country. In some countries with a Level 4 Travel Advisory, we have no U.S. embassy or have a very limited diplomatic presence, so our ability to help U.S. citizens is limited. We advise U.S. citizens who decide to travel to a country with a Level 4 Travel Advisory to write a will, have custody arrangements for children, prepare security contingency plans, and have plans if taken hostage or detained.

Travel Advisory Sample (currently in effect)

Advisory

Level

Date Updated

North Macedonia Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 26, 2018
Nauru Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 2, 2019
Palau Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions December 17, 2018
Burma (Myanmar) Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution June 18, 2019
Worldwide Caution Caution January 15, 2019
Afghanistan Travel Advisory Level 4: Do Not Travel April 9, 2019
Albania Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions July 10, 2019
Algeria Travel Advisory Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution April 9, 2019
Andorra Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions August 28, 2018
Angola Travel Advisory Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions April 9, 2019

Also, if you would like to receive alerts, choose the method that works best for you here:  travel.state.gov/stayingconnected

So, enjoy your travels abroad but stay informed.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Top 5 Reasons Why Cell Phone Signals Suddenly Go Bad

1. Heavier than usual cellular traffic. There’s really nothing you can do about a saturated cell tower but wait out the phone traffic.  It’s a numbers game- the more phone traffic that fights for that same spot, the weaker your signal becomes.

2. Building material.  The primary reason for a weak cell signal is the materials that surround you.  Whether you are home, at work, in a shopping center, your cell phone is struggling for signal access.  Metal and tinted, low-E glass are the two main materials most responsible for a degraded cell phone signal.  You’ll notice when waling around that if your signal improves, you are usually by a door or window rather than metal construction materials that blocks your phone’s signal.

3. Low Battery.  Your phone needs actual energy to maintain a connection.  The higher the charge, the better the connection.  Keep your phones battery at optimal charge.

4. Bad weather, geography, cosmic events.  Cell phones operate via electromagnetic waves which can easily be affected by weather (thunder, lightening, wind, rain, snow, etc.), natural obstructions (hills and mountains commonly impact cell phone reception) and cosmic occurrences (such as sunflares).

5. Blocking your own antenna.  The bulky, shoebox-sized cell phones of the early days of mobile communication were surprisingly better at connectivity than today’s sleeker models. The early phones had exterior antennas- making the reception fairly consistent.  Today’s cell phone antennas are embedded inside the phone.  You can effortlessly and unknowingly block the antenna and lose your signal.  You can easily search online for the exact location of your phone’s antenna and once known, inadvertent blocking should be significantly reduced.

The best solution for all of the above is a good mobile phone booster: https://www.lifewire.com/best-cell-phone-signal-boosters-4154516

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

RING – The New Law Enforcement Surveillance Tool

remote access

For years now, privacy rights activists have been calling for the restriction of government security cameras in residential neighborhoods.

That scenario has been overtaken by the proliferation of private surveillance cameras in the form of smart doorbells, like Amazon’s Ring.  Given Ring’s explosive popularity, their usage in so many homes has now essentially created a private surveillance network across the country.

According to cnet:

Aware of this network, police departments across the country have offered free or discounted Ring doorbells to citizens, sometimes using taxpayer funds to pay for Amazon’s products. While Ring owners are supposed to have a choice on providing police footage, in some giveaways, police require recipients to turn over footage when requested.

Ring said that it would start cracking down on those strings attached.

“Ring customers are in control of their videos, when they decide to share them and whether or not they want to purchase a recording plan. Ring has donated devices to Neighbor’s Law Enforcement partners for them to provide to members of their communities,” Ring said in a statement. “Ring does not support programs that require recipients to subscribe to a recording plan or that footage from Ring devices be shared as a condition for receiving a donated device. We are actively working with partners to ensure this is reflected in their programs.”

While more surveillance footage in neighborhoods could help police investigate crimes, the sheer number of cameras run by Amazon’s Ring business raises questions about privacy involving both law enforcement and tech giants.

Police can gather more video footage, while Amazon can charge new Ring owners up to $3 a month for subscription fees on the smart doorbells. Residents, meanwhile, get some peace of mind, particularly with the Neighbors app, essentially a social network sharing camera feeds.

More than 50 local police departments across the US have partnered with Ring over the last two years, lauding how the Amazon-owned product allows them to access security footage in areas that typically don’t have cameras — on suburban doorsteps.

We ask, security at what price?

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

 

Top Three Remote Access Software

No one has time these days to go back and forth between locations to access files or wait for an IT specialist to physically present to the office.  The time-saving solution is obvious – remote digital access.  Our top three remote desktop access programs are:

 

Teamviewer supports Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS, and is free for personal use. It’s probably the most obvious alternative to LogMeIn. Not only does Teamviewer offer remote support and remote management—as in you don’t necessarily have to have the remote side set up before you need to connect—it also comes with useful features like wake-on-LAN to wake up a sleeping computer and put it back to sleep when you’re finished, file transfer capabilities, clipboard passthrough and support for connecting from mobile devices like phones or tablets.  Teamviewer even supports online meetings and collaboration, so multiple people can connect to one host or share a session if they need to.

Splashtop supports Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS, and is free for personal use (up to five computers, and depending on how you use it). It’s perhaps most notable as a tool that allows you to stream audio and video across computers with minimal latency, so if you love watching movies on your tablet that are stored on your desktop but don’t want to deal with apps or compatibility issues, Splashtop is a great tool. It’s not limited to that though—You can use the applications on your remote device like you were sitting right there, manage files without transferring them first in their own native applications.

VNC, or Virtual Network Computing, is less of a specific product and more of a platform. It uses existing protocols to send keyboard and mouse actions to a remote computer, and in turn it sends the screen from that remote system back to your viewer. Depending on the VNC client and server software you use, you get more features, like clipboard syncing, file sync and transfer, and more. That’s the catch though—there’s a VNC client and server that supports every operating system, mobile and desktop, and as long as you know what you’re doing and set it up properly, you’ll be able to connect to any system you control, anywhere you have internet access, completely for free. The “Official” VNC software is RealVNC, which offers its client and server apps for Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, and even Chrome for free (but will happily add features and support if you’re willing to pay for them).

Regardless of which program you decide to go with, just make sure your security protocols are up-to-date.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Which Will You Need By 2020: Standard, Enhanced Or Real I.D.?

 

Enhanced, REAL ID and Standard Licenses

Currently, there are three types of I.D.s available. (For the purposes of this article, we will refer to a) drivers licenses and b) New York State.):

Standard driver’s licenses will not be valid for federal purposes, such as flying commercially or accessing federal buildings and military bases.

Enhanced drivers licenses will require also require a U.S. Passport for boarding domestic and international flights and entering federal buildings and installations.

Real I.D. will allow immediate access to commercial domestic and foreign flights and all federal buildings and installations.

Getting a REAL ID is not mandatory but is encouraged

A REAL ID is optional and is not needed for the following:

  • Being licensed to drive
  • Voting or registering to vote
  • Entering Federal facilities that do not require a person to present identification
  • Applying for or receiving Federal benefits
  • Accessing health or life preserving services (including hospitals and health clinics), law enforcement, or constitutionally protected activities (including a defendant’s access to court proceedings)
  • Participating in law enforcement proceedings or investigations

However, by October 1, 2020, all citizens, legal residents and all other persons working or studying in the U.S. and its territories, and in situations requiring a government i.d., will be required to have a validated enhanced state I.D. or, a fed-state”Real ID”.  Below are the specifics.

What:   The REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub.L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 302, enacted May 11, 2005, is an Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver’s licenses and identification (ID) cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism.

Data requirements

A Real ID-compliant form of identification requires, at a minimum, the following pieces of data:

  • Full legal name
  • Signature
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Unique, identifying number
  • Principal residence address
  • Resident status
  • Front-facing photograph of the applicant

Real I.D.s must also feature specific security features intended to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication of the document for fraudulent purposes. These cards must also present data in a common, machine-readable format (bar codes, Smart card technology, etc.).

The law set forth certain requirements for state driver’s licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for “official purposes”, as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The Secretary of Homeland Security has currently defined “official purposes” as presenting state driver’s licenses and identification cards for boarding commercially operated airline flights and entering federal buildings and nuclear power plants.

Each state must agree to share its motor vehicle database with all other states. This database must include, at a minimum, all the data printed on the state drivers’ licenses and ID cards, plus drivers’ histories (including motor vehicle violations, suspensions, and points on licenses) and include resident status.

When: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security postponed the effective date of the Real ID Act implementation deadline until October 1, 2020.

After this final implementation deadline, some non-Real-ID-compliant licenses will continue to be accepted for federal purposes, provided DHS judges that the state which issued such a license is in full compliance with the Real ID Act by the final implementation deadline. However, in order for their licenses to be accepted for federal purposes, all people born after December 1, 1964 will be required to have Real-ID-compliant cards by December 1, 2014. Additionally, in order to be accepted for federal purposes, people born before December 1, 1964 will be required to have Real-ID-compliant cards by December 1, 2017.

Please visit www.dhs.gov for more REAL ID info.

Why: Doesn’t matter.  It’s federal law.

The above are facts.  My opinion:

The above very brief summary in no way reflects all of the conditions and definitions set forth in that actual law.  I foresee a ton of litigation, especially related to state-sharing agreements, insurance company interaction and immigration status.

Our Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.

Asset Searches: Defined By Matter Type and Scope

(Contact Beacon Network Investigations)

Generally, an asset search investigation is requested to determine a subject’s tangible assets-  quite often, ordered by a guardian ad litem to satisfy the court that there are no other recoverable assets when injuries exceed insurance policy limits, and just as often to determine financial stability of a prospective partner or employee, (the latter in a position of fiduciary trust).

 

A basic checklist for the legal professional is to:

1. Relay the need-to-know reason to your investigative specialist. A business partnership dissolution v. a medmal case requires a very different focus.

2. Obtain as much lead information from your client as possible. The more information the investigative specialist is given, quite often, the more she can return and, in a more cost-effective manner.

3. Local hard records are often more reliable than those compiled into generalized databases. The first step in recording any asset begins at a local level. Many information companies provide “nationwide” database information. The drawbacks to commencing an asset search on a “dumping ground” database basis first, however, are

a) records update lag (delays up to 18 months),

b) incorrect data collection errors (many nationwide databases can return results only with exact names – misspellings will often register “no hit” status) and

c) incomplete information.

Another aspect of an asset search is a true analysis of the date factors. For e.g., a real estate asset search may return with a negative hit for current property ownership but check the sale dates of the subject’s latest residences.  All too often we’ve come across a recent home sale, leaving the subject with a large sum of money.  Always pay attention to timelines.

So now you, the attorney,  have the subject’s tangible assets information. The subject owns a CPW pied-a-terre, a home in the Kensington section of Great Neck and a boat docked at the Huguenot Marina. The next step, from an investigative standpoint should be to determine if the subject has any liens, judgments, bankruptcies and other pending litigation, and from there, conduct a full criminal background check.

So how far is far enough with an asset search? Assess the potential settlement/judgment. For a large settlement/judgment, request a full background and asset search (certain convictions can prohibit a person from holding officer position in a business); medium settlement/judgment: basic background and asset search and for a small judgment: a basic asset search.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, be safe.

Favorite Tools Of The Professional P.I. – And Others Who Work For A Living

pi-tools

I’m often asked which tools simplify my life as a private investigator. The top three on my list are:

  1. Truthful witnesses
  2. Forthcoming clients
  3. PayPal for Business

Aside from that:

Evernote – I scan and save important documents and things I may want to refer to later when browsing the web.

Bitly – I share links on social media, in emails and when writing reports dozens of times daily. Bitly helps me shorten those long, ugly links. I also have a cool branded link for my business if that is interesting for you.

Zapier – This helps me automate tasks between web apps. So if I put a new client into QuickBooks, Zapier automatically adds their contact details into my client newsletter in MailChimp or WordPress. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Social Media and Content Marketing

Constant Contact – With Constant Contact, you can schedule, publish and analyze all your social media posts in one place.

Canva – I use Canva to create images for social media, blog posts and just about anything else. It can instantly turn you into an amateur graphic designer.

Feedly – Add your favorite blogs and websites to start filling up your feed with content that rocks.

Google Analytics – Easily track site traffic and visitor behavior to see how your content is performing.

File Sharing

Dropbox – Dropbox has become synonymous with online file sharing, and for a good reason.

Business

QuickBooks Online – We switched from QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online about four years ago, and have not looked back. It’s become better and better every year.

Google Docs – I use Google Apps for Work and Google Docs to collaborate with other investigators on documents. It’s the best collaborator that I have worked with for things like word processing documents and spreadsheets.

Microsoft Office 365 – Even though I am huge fan of Google Docs, I still use Microsoft Office to write reports. In part, because Google Docs does not have all of the advanced formatting options that Microsoft Word does.

Security

LastPass – With access to hundreds of databases and websites, it’s not easy keeping track of passwords. But LastPass stores difficult-to-crack, encrypted passwords in the cloud that can be used on multiple platforms.

Google Authenticator – I am a huge proponent of two-factor authentication, which protects your accounts with a second form of authentication by adding an extra layer of security to your account. Google Authenticator protects your account with both your password and your phone, by providing a “secret” code so that nobody can get in.

StrongVPN – A VPN secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes. I have been using StrongVPN for several years without a glitch, primarily because it allows me to have a static IP, but there are a number of great services out there.

Website Hosting / WordPress Theme

Synthesis – I used a number of different web hosts for the first few years until I came across Synthesis. It’s probably not the cheapest service out there, but it’s reliable and fast, and the support is great.

StudioPress Themes for WordPress – If you like the way this website looks, then you need to have a WordPress site from StudioPress. These are the best WordPress themes out there.

Editing

ProofreadNOW.com – I can write like the wind, but I am no grammarian. I leave that up to ProofreadNOW.com. For a nominal fee, they will have professional proofreaders make sure that every blog post I write has every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted.

BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.

As always, stay safe.