Private Matters

Roseville investigator has been on the case for 30 years
By: Jason Probst, The Press-Tribune
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he client always lies. This is the edict of Joe Tadlock, a veteran of 30 years in the business of investigating what his clients want known, but so rarely entail the full scope of. The object lesson, however grizzled it may appear, arrives while the Roseville private detective is discussing the theory. The phone rings and the voice on the other end asks for directions to Golden State Investigating, located off Sunrise Avenue in a plain-looking cache of office suites off the main drag. Tadlock asks why the gentleman is calling. For a job. "A job? OK," Tadlock says. He gives the man directions and does a slight shrug as he hangs up the receiver. He's back into another story - the likes of which he has an endless supply of - when receptionist Mary Coulter tells him the caller has arrived. "I need you to find out where a lady friend of mine works," says the man, materializing in the doorway of Tadlock's office. The man is old, perhaps in his 80s. "I want to send her flowers," the man says. "I can't get 'em to her. The son keeps intercepting them." "How long have you known her?" Tadlock says. "About 10 or 12 years," says the man. You can see Tadlock trying to piece together the disconnect here. He tells the man it doesn't add up. The man admits there's been a bit of trouble between he and the son, a recent development. He wants Tadlock's services to find out where the lady works so he can get his delivery through. Tadlock is about to start questioning the man, but the gentleman grasps some sense he will not win the argument. "I don't want to talk about it here," he says, and spins around, bursting out of his office. "You see what I'm talking about?" Tadlock says, with a part-chuckle, part-smirk. "The guy lied to me about coming in to interview for a job." The client always lies. In some form, some shape, some fashion, Tadlock says there are always details left out, to fit their own perception of the facts. It is seeing these in advance that's made Tadlock, 60, a respected investigator - he takes 65 percent of the cases he's offered. Clients are a combination of things that stray into the gray areas, like a rebuffed suitor, or simply not cost effective. "People will want to hire you to track down someone who owes them $500," he said. "I tell them it'll cost them twice that to hire me and track the person down. "But the one case I'll always take is pedophiles. I'll work extra hours, waive hours, and track those people down. It just makes me sick to think of somebody doing that to a kid." The pedophile issue is understandable. Tadlock is a father of four with nine grandchildren who is in no hurry to retire. He expects to keep working another five to 10 years. Golden State Investigating currently employs approximately 20 people full time with another 10 to 15 in reserve. They do everything from investigating missing persons, tracking down debtors, to debugging offices. The establishment of "no fault" divorce laws in California put half of the state's investigators out of business, he said. Tadlock says the toughest cases are narcotics, which destroy people. Requirements to become a licensed P.I. in California require 4,000 hours of work in the field under a licensed investigator, the equivalent of two years' employment. Dusty Harrison, owner of SCS Security in Roseville, has known Tadlock for 18 years and says he's a pro. "He's a straight shooter," Harrison said. "He'll tell it like it is, and he has absolute integrity." Sometimes in spite of himself, Tadlock does run across a client whose predicament combines the shocking with the absurd. Such was the case when a woman in her 80s insisted Tadlock's firm give her a lie detector test to prove to her husband of 50 years she hadn't been unfaithful. The husband owned five cars, but was so bitter at her alleged betrayals that she wasn't permitted to drive. "She borrowed a car to make the appointment with me," he said. Tadlock procured a polygraph technician, and the results were not in her favor. "The needle was going off the charts," he said. "I'd never seen anything like it. She had been, let's say, quite active in her youth." Trying his best to get out of a delicate situation, and with the husband wanting test results, he mailed the husband a letter steeped in his best bureaucratese. He didn't want to ruin a marriage of 50 years, but he had to say something acknowledging the results. The husband burst into his office after getting the letter and was incensed. "He asks, 'What the heck is this?' " Tadlock said. "I said, sit down or I'll arrest you." Tadlock asked the wife which of the cars was her favorite, and instructed the husband to give her the keys to it, and sent them home. "And I told the husband if he laid a hand on the vehicle he'd send him to jail. For better or for worse, they'd been together for five decades and there was no reason to split over things that happened long ago. "The next day she called and said, 'I can't believe how much you've helped,' " he mused. Tadlock says today's clients are more sophisticated than ever, with an understanding of technology and surveillance. But sometimes a little hard-nosed talking-to will do just as well.