MH: Hello, I'm Mike Hackard. I'm the chair of Hackard Law, a law firm focusing on estate, trust and elder financial abuse litigation in California's major urban areas. This is Hackard Law's podcast, It Starts Here. This is an August 2017 podcast featuring Jim Carden, one of California's most respected computer forensics experts in both civil and criminal matters. We're going to discuss the use of computer forensics in identifying and prosecuting wrongdoing. Jim is very well qualified to speak to this. So, Jim, welcome.
JC: Thank you, I'm glad to be here.
MH: Yeah, sure glad that you're here, you have such interesting things to say. And now let's start with what's your background? Where were you born?
JC: Norn and raised here in California, actually Southern California to start out with, but went to high school out here in the Northern California area. Until I left at 18 or 19 for the military.
MH: Okay and where did you go on the military?
JC: I joined the Air Force, I became a pararescue man specializing in the bringing home of down pilots and other people stranded behind enemy lines. I did that for about 15 years and then transferred into their investigative branch with the Office of Special Investigations.
MH: Wow, so tell us what's the Office of Special Investigations, what's that all about?
JC: Well, it's the Air Force's investigative body, very similar to the FBI. In fact, the history of the OSI came from the FBI back in the 40's when there was a fraud investigation concerning very high-ranking military officials, therefore they felt that they had to bring in the FBI to do the investigation. After that successful investigation, that made the Air Force want to have an investigative arm of its own to start investigations for the office of to do these types of investigations. Therefore the Office of Special Investigations was born.
MH: And what kind of training did that involve?
JC: It's a standard training for all special agents in the federal government; you start off going through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. Then you get trained in law enforcement and investigations.
MH: Okay, and how many years did you do that?
JC: I have been doing law enforcement since 2000.
MH: Okay, and so after you left the Air Force, where did you go?
JC: Well, after I left the air force I went to the Police Department and started working as a police officer here in the Bay Area city.
MH: Okay, and did you start off in patrol?
JC: Yeah, pretty much similar to just every other police officer out there after, you know, the academy and the FTO program. I worked the streets for about 5 or 6 years before I felt comfortable enough to start testing out for specialty positions.
MH: Yeah, and I know that you became a detective.
MH: Okay, and then you became a detective; you increased certain specialties that you training, I guess, tell us about that?
JC: Yeah, I started out in financial crimes and did a lot of financial elder abuse cases as well. And with the financial crimes, you know, of course computers are involved. And when we started seeing the amounts of computers coming in, to even the lower-level types of financial crimes; you know the street level crimes, the identity theft, the check frauds and stuff like that. The suspects were using computers to conduct their criminal acts, I was seizing computers, but I was not allowed as a detective to look at the computers, which seemed silly, right?
JC: So, I would seize these computers, I do a search warrant to their homes or wherever they are operating, seize all the evidence, and seize the computers. Every time I seized the computers, the people pled out and pled guilty immediately. They did not want to go to court; they did not want to fight the charges because normally it was single-victim charge and a single act. This, of course, bothered me, so I went to my sergeant, my lieutenant, then I requested that, you know, we do something so we can look at the computer evidence. There is a lot of laws that safeguard digital evidence and the way you have to handle them and the way you have to you know analyze with the standard tools and processes used. So, it takes a lot of specialized training to do so, and with no one in our department having ever been through that training, our hands were tied as an agency, and we just could not look at the computers.
MH: So did you go get training in that?
JC: Well, they agreed with me and sent me off to the Department of Justice to go through computer forensic training. And I'll say once I got back from that training and I started looking at those computers, the amount of evidence that we found, the single crime, single-victim cases easily grew to dozens of victims and dozens of counts.
JC: And so it was well worth the time and the effort of all of that training.
MH: Well, I know you have been involved in a lot of noteworthy cases, but can you tell me one about elder financial abuse case, can you share that with our audience?
JC: Yes, I can. That's actually one of my favorite cases that I worked. As a detective, we sit back in our offices and we get all the reports taken by patrol the night before. And I was going through the financial crime reports, and one caught my eye because it wasn't a crime report, it was an information report. And that was unusual because most of our officers all just take crime reports, but this one was about an elderly woman that felt that she had been scammed, didn't know what to do about it so she called the police. The police showed up, but the patrol officer, you know, this is not a usual area of criminal activity for a patrol man. So, he didn't know what to call it, but he knew something was wrong, something in his gut told him there is something here, even though I don't understand it. So, he decided instead of not taking a report, which happens a lot because they say, "Well, this is civil, you know, call a civil attorney and use those remedies". He decided to take an information report, and so when I read that report being more trained in financial crimes and investigations of those crimes, I immediately recognized several felony crimes, especially in California Corporations Code, which is not an area of law that most police officers you know enforce.
JC: But in financial crimes, there is a lot of tools out there at our disposal and different types of criminal codes that we can use. So, I called out the Corporations Code office, spoke to one of their attorneys, they agreed with the felony-level crime. I reclassified the information report to a criminal report and started the investigation of this individual.
MH: Interesting, and take us along a little further in the investigation.
JC: Okay. So this individual had a history of doing a lot of scams, mostly in real estate. He preyed on people that couldn't afford to buy homes, and this was around the 2006, 2005 era. Couldn't afford to buy homes, so he would set up the deals that of course were too good to be true, but people trusted him and he was a very charismatic person. And he told this elderly lady that he can get her out of a condominium and into a home for her and her family, which she had her family members living with her in that small condominium. And so she trusted him and he would ask for down payments which she would give him and several thousand dollars later, she finally realized that she wasn't getting the house. So she called the police and made a report, and that's when we got involved.
MH: And she is so fortunate that you picked it up the next day. And I understand that person was ultimately prosecuted and went to prison.
JC: Yes he did. We did a, you know, the investigation on him, it was clearly criminal. We set up a time where we can, we had a warrant for his arrest, we arrested him and brought him back for the interrogation and then after several hours of interviewing this individual he confessed. But with a lot of supporting evidence too, so it wasn't only his confession that got him convicted. But it definitely helped.
MH: Alright. Okay so tell me about the company that you know are in.
JC: So I started a company after leaving law enforcement with my partner Ben Rose, the company is called Carden Rose. And what I did for the police department or the Office of Special Investigations, assisting agents in doing thorough, detailed investigations into electronic data and electronic evidence is something that we now provide to any law firm or corporation that needs those types of services. My partner Ben Rose did forensics in the corporate area and he worked for Kaiser for several years, he did forensics and investigations for them. So, with my government experience and his corporate experience, we thought we'd make a good team to go out and provide services to attorneys and corporations that need our services.
MH: Can you tell me about any that you have done with regard to estates and trust, wrongdoing associated with estates and trust?
JC: Yes, actually we recently did a very interesting one where there was an elderly gentleman that was pretty reclusive, lived out by himself in a remote area and didn't get a lot of visitors. So, and he didn't have a lot of friends. But he passed away, and I think it was about 30 days at least until someone found him and finally one of his friends did come by, saw that he was deceased and ended up reporting it and then a month after that incident, that same individual handed his attorney the updated will that the deceased failed to give anybody else but his best friend who also found him, leaving everything to him. What was interesting about that case and what was at the center of it is the deceased actually was intrigued with Bit Coin, when Bit Coin first came out and he made a lot of purchases in Bit Coin. And as you know, recently with the rise in Bit Coin, those thousands of dollars were worth probably hundreds of thousands if not the millions. And so there was definitely a reason why people wanted to be the beneficiary of the will.
MH: Okay, and as I understand, this fellow was able to do a little self-help and put himself in.
JC: Yeah, so he did and of course the family fought it and the family hired us because the deceased had a computer in his home. And so we analyzed the computer and we also worked with the coroner's office to establish the date of death and we found that there was no activity on his computer from the date of death until the date he was located by his friend. And so the will was updated and changed at that time after the friend located the body.
MH: As far as you knew the resurrection hadn't occurred?
JC: Correct no evidence of that at all.
JC: But it was pretty obvious what happened, but the computer evidence painted a picture of what occurred and that was pretty clear.
MH: Yeah. You know the more we are involved in the cases, the more we are always almost amused, but also outraged by activities like that. But I can say is you confirm these types of things just happen all the time?
JC: They do.
MH: And that's why Hackard Law looks to you and your company for assisting us in ferreting out forensic evidence. So I know I'm gonna ask you back in the future to tell stories, and you have fabulous stories, people should listen to you and the stories that mean something as to how to go about seeking justice. So I thank you today, and I thank our viewers who are going to enjoy you and now I need to do a promotion for my book. The book The Wolf at the Door, Undue Influence and Elder Financial Abuse, it's gonna come out in early autumn. And for any of the viewers that would like to have a free copy of the book, they just need to email us at [email protected] When the book comes out, I will send them a copy. Thank you.
JC: Thank you very much.