Victorea Florea alleged in a civil complaint in Puerto Rico that two private investigators illegally obtained offshore bank records. As reported on Fred L. Abrams’ Asset Search Blog, private investigator Nicole Bocra and Terry L. Gilbeau, a Certified Fraud Examiner and California attorney, allegedly conspired to access offshore bank records in Puerto Rico.
According to the complaint, the bank accounts that Bocra and Gilbeau reportedly found could not be substantiated by the banks. The “evidence” that Bocra and Gilbeau provided allegedly did “not exist and was ‘created’ to tum a profit.” See the case summary below for additional information.
Gilbeau Linked to Convicted Fraudster
This is not the first time it has been alleged that Terry Gilbeau has obtained bank records illegally. According to a recent Forbes article, two-time fraudster Barry Minkow used Gilbeau’s services to obtain confidential information about alleged bank accounts in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland. Minkow used this information when he accused two officers of Lennar Corp. of illegally diverting funds into these “secret bank accounts.” Gilbeau reportedly testified that he got the information orally from another investigator, whose name he (conveniently) could not recall.
Minkow is now serving a five-year jail term after pleading guilty to spreading false allegations about Lennar.
Bank Records Are Protected by Graham-Leach-Bliley Act
As Abrams points out, bank record information is protected in the U.S. by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (“GLB Act”), which restricts access to “nonpublic personal information” like bank account numbers and account balances.
Simply put, obtaining banking or financial details without specific authority is against federal and state statutes.
Apparently, Nicole Bocra failed to read the GLB Act (it’s only been around since 1999) before she signed a sworn affidavit going into detail about all the bank accounts that she searched. (Note: If you are going to break the law, don’t put it in writing and certainly don’t sign a sworn affidavit.)
“Secret” Sources Are Unreliable
We have seen several instances of investigators—including Bocra and Gilbeau, who were paid $14,000 for the bank records, and this Toronto private investigator who was paid $60,000— faking evidence of bank records. In both these cases, the investigators were alleged to have “secret” sources able to obtain the desired information. Secret sources create problems. As Richard McEachin so eloquently points out:
“Secret sources always introduce reliability problems into an investigation … Is the secret source doing something illegal to obtain the information? Is the data fabricated? … Open sources, on the other hand, can be fact-checked in real time through multiple sources.”
Let this be a lesson for anybody who is considering hiring a private investigator to obtain bank records. An ethical, professional private investigator will be able to guide you through the process to gain the information you require without violating the law and will recommend a different path to the same goal.
Victorea Florea v. Nicole Bocra, Terry Gilbeau, et al., Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Court of First Instance, Case No. KDP11-1257-805, filed on October 17, 2011.
Victoria Florea of Massachusetts separated from her husband, Francis Driscoll, in October 2007. Pursuant to the separation agreement, both Ms. Florea and Mr. Driscoll were to disclose all their assets for distribution. Florea hired a private investigator, Nicole Bocra, and her firm, Infinity Investigative Services, to identify assets held by Driscoll but not disclosed. At the time of the lawsuit, Florea had paid Bocra and Infinity approximately $14,000 to uncover these allegedly hidden assets. In addition, the attorney, CFE and investigator Terry L. Gilbeau of Checkmate Investigative Services, Inc., also took part in the investigation.
Nicole Bocra stated to Florea that she would conduct a search in banks in Puerto Rico and St. John. Upon allegedly conducting this search, Bocra made statements that led Florea to believe that her ex-husband had hidden assets in Puerto Rico, among other jurisdictions. In addition, Bocra stated that she would attempt to get account-opening documents, such as the signature card, from a local bank.
In April of 2009, Bocra communicated to Florea that she had attempted through an inside source to access Driscoll’s records at Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, where Driscoll allegedly had an account. However, the records were allegedly difficult to get, and Bocra further stated that the bank management was “watching the file like a hawk.”
During the course of the investigation, Florea was led to believe that the investigation was being conducted legally. This impression was created because Nicole Bocra made statements that she could obtain a credit report only as authorized by law and that she had spoken to the officials of the Banco Popular de Puerto Rico regarding the account-opening documents of Florea’s ex-husband. These statements created the impression to Florea that the investigation was being conducted in a legal manner.
Upon receiving what Florea believed was evidence of her ex-husband’s hidden assets, Florea filed suit against Driscoll, stating that the hidden assets were evidence that he was in violation of the separation agreement.
Driscoll denied hiding assets. Banco Popular de Puerto Rico and Western Bank denied that Driscoll had any deposits or assets. Florea had brought the suit based upon the “evidence” that Bocra and Gilbeau provided, which did “not exist and was ‘created’ to tum a profit.” Florea sued to recover fees paid, costs of the suits and damages.