What to do when a lie has the ring of truth to it.

What do you do when the lie you’re being told has a ring of truth to it?

The bottom line is when you have a statement that seems very credible, you’re going to have to dig to get additional information. That’s the key point there, get additional information.

Let me share with you two real-world case studies…

Background Check (Case Study #1)

The first case was a pre-employment screening. The employer had a candidate they liked and had even interviewed!

It was a good interview. He was very upfront with them and said, “When you run a background check, it’s going to come back with a conviction for assault. I’ve been a convicted of assault – that’s going to show up.”

He went on to explain… He was in a bar and a couple of guys begin to pick on a gay man in the bar. The job applicant said he stood up, got between the two guys and the gay man and ended up defending the gay man but getting into a physical fight.

The police arrived and he ended up getting charged with assault.

So here’s the situation you have, you’re going to have a conviction come up with the assault. Is the subject telling the truth or is he telling a lie? If he’s telling the truth, then he’s a victim of bad circumstance.

His story does have a ring of truth to it. To be honest with you, either you or I could find ourselves in the very same circumstance if we’re the type of people who step-up and protect victims. (And if you’re reading this, you probably are that type of person!)

So this guy is either a hero or…

You’ve got someone with something else going on. That means, this is either exactly the type of person you want to hire or you’ve got a guy you need to avoid like the plague.

Your job as a private investigator is to find out what the truth is.

My client, who used me regularly for pre-employment screenings, gave me a heads-up on this. I did charge a little extra than I did for my normal pre-employment screening packages and I did the extra investigative work to find out what the truth was. It was very, very simple work and this is something you should take to heart…

If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve heard me say, “You gotta’ go down to the courthouse and pull the files.” And that’s exactly what I did. I went down. I pulled the files for this case and read it all.

Not just the standard stuff you find online. I also pulled and read the complaint against him (which was for assault) and pulled the police officers’ narratives. (Those narratives were on what we call in our area an “arrest information sheet” – which was in the file as well.)

Can you guess which way this went?

Come to find out, the guy was lying.

The problem was it seemed so credible because what he said had happened is exactly what did happen. The problem was – he was not the guy defending the victim, he was one of the guys who was hassling the gay man! The story had the ring of truth because it was 100% true except for the role the subject played in the assault!

Clearly, this is not somebody that you want to bring into your work organization. He has this conviction for assault. Arguably, nowadays, it would be called a “hate crime”.

Not only was this applicant lying to the interviewer, I suspect he must have some sort of temper or other problem – maybe even a drinking problem. Who knows what the problem is with this guy. And it’s not my place as a P.I. to suggest to the client my opinions, but I did report the documented facts of the case.

Of course, you know me… I’m all about giving people a second chance. I’m about helping out ex-convicts as best you can.

There’s a lot of people, who get a raw deal in the court system. (I don’t even call it the “Criminal Justice System”. I don’t know how much justice is really coming out of it. I call it the “Court System”. So I’m sympathetic on both sides of this.)

But the point of this case study is that the client hired me to find the truth. And that’s what your job is as an investigator. And doing a little bit of deep-digging, not sitting behind a computer, but going out and actually doing the work, is how you come up with the documented truth.

Criminal Defense (Case Study #2)

The second case study I have for you was a case where a person was accused of a Gross Sexual Imposition on a minor, a 15-year-old girl.

The accused was a client of one of the attorneys I regularly worked for so I end up taking the case.

We sit down – me, him and the attorney – and I read the indictment and listen to the guy’s side of the story.

Here’s his side… he explains that he’s dating the girl’s mom. The girl, he says, is a real wild-child and goes out all hours of the night, won’t follow the rules, won’t mind her teachers or her mother. He says the girl is just heading down the wrong road.

He said “I’ve come into the picture and I’m the first guy who’s laid down the law. I’m the first guy who’s come along and said, ‘Look, there is a curfew. Look, you have to attend school. You have to do your homework’. So she’s rebelling and she wants me out of the picture because I stand in the way of her doing what she wants to do.” And, he adds, she’s made these accusations before!

He said (and this is absolutely true) her mom’s last boyfriend had been sexually abusing her. The girl went to the police and they found her credible (because it was happening). The police charged the guy, he was found guilty and he went to prison.

And since it did happen the last time, the accused man said she now knows she can get rid of him simply because he’s not letting her party and run wild! He explained, “She’s found that this is the way to deal with a guy in her life that she doesn’t want around. Someone who’s trying to lay down the law and she’s making these accusations against me.”

When you read the criminal indictment, it reads very credible – it rings true. When you look at the victim’s statements and the police reports, they’re all very believable. The problem I have as an investigator is this…

Is this accusation so credible because it’s really happening? Or is it credible because she truly suffered through it before and she knows exactly what to say?

Again, with circumstances like this, both sides have a real ring of truth and sound plausible. So how do you find the truth?!? Well… you dig in and you do more investigating!

In this case, it ended up being interview (rather than court documents) that eventually led me to the truth.

Interestingly, when you do this, when you go out and you’re talking to people (even if you’re just doing phone interviews), you’re going to hear all kinds of crazy things. Some things you may think should have fallen away back in the dark ages.

One person I interviewed told me how wonderful this man was adding, “He doesn’t need to rape people. He’s good-looking.” Of course, that’s not even close to what rape is about.

Rape is about power and there’s all sorts of other factors. It doesn’t matter how good-looking the guy is. But this person I was interviewing was still stuck with this almost caveman mentality. Her logic was: He looks good. He could get sex for free. Why would he rape her?

I couldn’t even believe people still think like that.

During the course of the many interviews I conducted, I did manage to get a telephone interview with the victim herself and she wisely told me that the prosecutor told her she shouldn’t talk to anyone about the case.

So here I am (the defense’s investigator!) and I need to get a statement from a victim who’s been coached by a prosecuting attorney.

She shouldn’t be talking to me at all. There’s nothing illegal or unethical about it, but we all know you simply don’t talk to the opposition!

So what do you do as a private investigator? Really stop and think for a moment before reading further, what would you do?

I used one of the moves I teach in my book, “51 Dirty Tricks Bad Guys Really Hate”. I used a line in there to get people talking after they say their attorney told them not to talk to anyone about the case and a few seconds later she opened up to me. I asked her some questions; including some I could tell she hadn’t been asked before!

From those questions I was able to determine that she was telling the truth.

In addition to the interview, I also found other evidence as well, all of which I brought back to the attorney.

As I’ve talked about before, when you work criminal defense cases, you lay out the facts you uncover for the defense attorney and he or she takes it from there. The attorney goes to the defendant and says, “If the prosecution knows everything that our investigator knows, you’re doomed.”

In this case, the guy took a plea and ended up doing four years in prison. And that’s been my experience for all criminal defense cases I’ve worked.

So, what do you do when a lie has the ring of truth to it? How do you determine what the truth is? You dig deeper.


In both of these cases my clients were very happy. And that means repeat business! It’s not even a question when you satisfy a client like that. They’re just going to keep coming back to you over and over again.

If I had gone to either client in these cases and said, “You know, I really don’t do that. I can recommend another investigator to you.” – that’s not going to be good. First of all, I’m the guy with the skill set to learn the truth and secondly, I am more than happy to cash the checks that cases like these generate!

For me, a repeat client who uses me over and over again every month (think pre-employment screening) is a client I want to keep happy – not a client I want to sent to another detective agency! So here I was able to make both clients happy and at the same time make more money!

Do you see how wonderful that is? That’s good business! They’re happy to pay the money and find out the truth and I’m happy to find out the truth and get paid the money.

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