We did some crop fraud investigations in Mississippi as well as other states, for a large seed/chemical company. Very large.
There was a farmer that this company knew was stealing its Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), they were having a tough time making a case against him. The first year they sent a local Private Investigator to Lee County and told him what they needed as far as evidence was needed to make an IPR case. This fellow worked diligently all year and did not find anything except hundreds of hours billed to the company.
Next year they decided to go with a reputable firm, like Pinkerton, to build a case. Mr. Pinkerton stayed all summer and did not have any video to show for it, except a monthly bill.
That same year, the year Pinkerton was in Tupelo, I was hired by the same company and was making cases in West and South Texas, as well as Idabel, Oklahoma. Good cases. The fellow who was running the IPR section asked if I could give him some tips as to what to do in Mississippi. Well, sure I will take a look at it. I met him in Memphis in early April and we drove the hour and a half to Tupelo. He explained the operation of the farmer, more than a farmer, he also had a seed and fertilizer selling farm store. He was also farming over 15,000 acres of row crops.
I gave my assessment to the IPR guy and he asked if I could run such an operation. Well, yes but not from Oklahoma.
I boxed Wil and I up and we headed to a hotel in New Albany, just up the road from Tupelo. During this time, I had investigators Erick Jarvis, Brandy Wofford, and Brian Dye in Town doing most of the grunt work. They were good too.
It did not take our target long to figure out we were on to him. I would guess since a local guy, then Pinkerton the next year, that someone, he would assume, would be there. He really did not care. He even hired the same PI the company had hired to watch him, to watch us. We picked him up the first day. We would meet at the hotel on the edge of town and plan our day. We saw the guy was following us and decided to run him around a little. Whomever he followed would drive around two or three counties away and not do anything, except burn gas. The other two would go to work. We did this a couple of days and they got tired of paying his bill and he quit.
The brother of the owner of the operation was called Eddie. He had a reputation of being hot-headed and even violent. Violent to the point of, “Don’t mess with Eddie.” We did not have an option. If we plan to do our job, we got to ‘mess’ with Eddie a little.
What we needed was video. Video of them planting. Video of them filling the planter with whatever product they were using. If using our seeds, whey would be in a pretty bag that was labeled and had all sorts of information on them. If they were using their ‘cleaned’ beans they would be in a generic brown bag with no markings. They could also use a seed buggy and filled from a grain bin it would also be likely ‘cleaned’ beans. Cleaned, meaning they were saved from last year’s crop, then ran through a cleaner and become suitable for planting. We needed video. US highway 78 runs through Lee and Union County and is a nice four-lane divided highway road, with a 12-foot shoulder.
One morning we followed their operation, tractors with planters, support vehicles full of brown bags, to an area on the county line, and between the old highway and the new four-lane. When they pulled into the field, I knew right away where I could get the best video. From the new road. I pulled to the side of the four-lane where a grove of trees blocked their view of the road. I got all the video I needed and was headed back to my rented Jeep Cherokee.
Just as I turned to head to the Jeep, a white Dodge pickup stopped behind it and Eddie got out. He walked to the Jeep and looked into every window. I had walked up behind him unseen and just as he was about to open the door, I asked. “Can, I help you.” It startled him and he came walking to me and asked, “I want to know who you are and what are you doing on my property?” I said, “You own a US highway, I am impressed.” “Who are you” he demanded. I just stuck out my hand and said, “I’m Blackford, who are you?” He stepped back, failed to shake hands, and pulled out a cell phone and called the sheriff. He then got into his pickup, and while talking on the phone, pounded the steering wheel several times.
He must have told the Sheriff, Harold Ray Presley, Elvis’ cousin, where we were and Harold Ray told him he has no jurisdiction in Union County, Eddie got mad. He left spinning his wheels and tossing gravel all over my rent-a-jeep.
Eddie and I went nose-to-nose a couple of more times. I think that when you call the bluff of a bully, it throws them off, as Eddie did not have any really good comebacks.
Don’t get the idea this was easy. These Mississippi people, were serious about not getting caught. They took shots at the airplane I hired and once at Erick and Brandy, while doing a drive and video operation.
All in all, we were quite successful in our operation. I was very proud of all the investigators that stayed with us through the entire operation. April to October. It was a good gig.