Two former law enforcement officers have traded in their badges, guns and late night surveillance habits to peruse paper trails left behind among the millions of pieces of information filed in county courthouses across the nation.
The information, while part of the public record, can be difficult to uncover but very valuable to bankers, attorneys and others, says Rob L. Kimmons, president of Kimmons Investigative Services, Inc.
Searches of public records have turned up individuals with 15 to 20 corporate identities they had not revealed and assisted banks and lawyers in locating assets to recover.
One man was about to default on a large loan to a local bank until his banker reminded him of certain assets the man owned that were uncovered by a Kimmons Security Services report.
Instead of signing default papers, the borrower pulled out a checkbook from another institution and paid off his loan, Kimmons said.
Kimmons, a former Houston police officer and now president of AARInvestigations, got into the research business by purchasing the assets of a local firm last year and renaming it Kimmons Investigative Services, Inc.
For a fee, banks, attorneys and others can obtain a rundown of information available from 355 public record sources.
The staff of seven will cull records in Harris County, nearby counties or anywhere in the country to provide information on individuals from bankruptcy courts, civil and criminal court records, federal tax liens, corporate status listings, Uniform Commercial Code filings, tax rolls, and many other public documents.
The service can save time, money and complications, Kimmons claimed. The company offers two reports. A $500 report is suitable for use as a screening tool, Kimmons said, while a $1,500 report can offer comprehensive information on an individual from a two-county area. Searches in additional counties are extra.
Kimmons Investigative Services works with a number of commercial banks that have ordered their reports either before making a large loan, or after a loan has soured, to help track down missing assets which they can recover to pay off the loan.
“When the oil and gas business was booming, so many banks were making loans to beat out other banks,” Kimmons said. “We’re finding that they have very little information on some of their customers. Sometimes just a name.”
The company compiled a pre-loan check for one financial institution and found that the applicant had defaulted on nine previous loans.
Attorneys also find the information valuable to track assets and to help wives in divorce cases. “If an attorney has a judgment, it doesn’t do him any good if he doesn’t know where the assets are,” Kimmons explained.
“Many people still have all the assets they acquired when energy was booming, but they have diversified and moved them to other companies. This leaves a paper trail,” said Michael A. Guidry, a former state trooper who now is executive Vice-President of Kimmons Investigative Services and runs the day-to-day operation. “If you can show where the assets were moved, you have a better chance of recovering them.”
In some divorce cases, wives will have no idea of the assets their husbands have acquired over the years, Guidry noted. The firm’s reports have been used by divorce lawyers in a number of cases. The reports can also be useful to investors who plan to hand over large sums of money to individuals they may not know well.
Kimmons said his two companies, the investigation firm and the research firm, can often handle cases together when both services are needed.
The staff not only has access to records in Harris County, but also subscribes to a number of public documents from the county and the secretary of state’s office.
Although Kimmons spends much of his time on investigations, he finds the research business more interesting than police work:
“It’s more diversified and more challenging, The biggest difference is in dealing with corporations.”
Guidry added that the firm not only researches public records, but also helps “fit the pieces together.”
Kimmons has found the market for the service expanding since he took over the company late last year. He knew bankers and attorneys would pay for his reports, but he has also found credit managers and investors will pay for the service as well since it provides more extensive information than a credit report or a Dun & Bradstreet file.
“Every day we are finding new people,” Kimmons said.
By Eileen O’Grady, Post Business Writer