Private Eye Gary DeFinis Investigates Insurance Fraud, Cheaters and Custody Battles

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 8 | Posted Aug. 29, 2012

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Photo by karrisa olsen

There she is. Get ready,” says Gary DeFinis, grabbing his Sony camcorder and pointing it out the windshield of his minivan, which is parked on a quiet street in Northeast Philly on a recent Wednesday morning. About halfway up the block, his subject—a late-30-something woman—walks out of her house and toward a sedan that pulled up a few minutes earlier.

“She’s moving pretty well,” DeFinis murmurs. The driver of the sedan slides over to the passenger seat and the woman opens the front door and gets behind the wheel. “She’s not supposed to be able to drive.” She pulls out into the street.

“OK, here we go,” he says, pulling out and slowly following her, camcorder still trained on her car.

For the previous two hours, DeFinis has been explaining the deal: The woman, a hospitality worker, has been claiming extreme injuries due to a slip-and-fall at work. She insists she can barely move, can’t operate a car. The insurance company that’s been sending her disability checks is skeptical, and that’s where DeFinis comes in.

He’s a licensed private investigator, proprietor of the Philadelphia Surveillance Company—his one-man operation—and, as the name implies, surveillance is his expertise. He’s been staking out the woman’s house for about five days without so much as a glimpse of her. Today, finally, some action.

After the woman returns home from running errands up and down Cottman Avenue, DeFinis parks his minivan up the block again and dials the insurance company on his cell, telling them what he’s seen and what he’s got on video.

DeFinis, 42, has been a P.I. for 22 years. Insurance fraud’s his bread-and-butter. He also investigates cheaters and takes on clients involved in child-custody battles. “They want to know if the person the parent’s dating is a felon, or if the parent is smoking around the kids, or who’s picking up the kid after school while the parent’s working—I’ll do a surveillance near the bus stop and sometimes it’s Cracky the Crackhead coming to get the kid. That stuff makes a difference in court.”

The reality of P.I. work is pretty far removed from the romantic notions we’ve all learned from TV and the movies, says DeFinis. Most of the time, he’s in the back of his minivan, and not much of anything happens.

It’s worth it, though: DeFinis bills his clients $85 an hour, and work is steady because he’s known for ultimately getting results, for being in the right place at the right time when something does happen.

But the downsides are many. DeFinis has observed so much crappy behavior that he has a hard time trusting people and doesn’t think too highly of humanity. He’s had confrontations with subjects, but he’s managed to talk his way out of it or get the hell out of there before things turned violent. And being the bearer of bad news to clients, particularly in cheating cases, takes its toll.

“At first it was really exciting, and when I caught somebody in the act it was like, ‘Yeah, I gotcha!’ But then I realized that this is people’s lives. When I turn to that husband or wife and give them the evidence that they didn’t really want to see, that’s their whole world crumbling. I have adults crying in front of me. It’s hard.”

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Comments 1 - 8 of 8
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1. Pablo said... on Aug 29, 2012 at 02:07PM

“I m going to hire him think my wife has been kicking the bobo.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Aug 30, 2012 at 11:35AM

“Gary always provides top notch service and I am amazed at some of the information he can get his hands on. No hesitations on recommending him for any P.I. job.”

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3. TomG said... on Aug 30, 2012 at 02:03PM

“I've known Gary both professionally and as a friend for years. One thing I can attest to is: If it's evidence you're looking for, whether Good, Bad or Ugly "He's your Man!"”

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4. crackie da crackhead said... on Sep 6, 2012 at 08:53PM

“ims jus wants ta say ..dat hims not such a good persons ..he dun lies atmmy custidy heerins witm my babys moms”

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5. connie S. said... on Oct 19, 2012 at 06:20PM

“Gary, Owner of Philadelphia Surveillance Co. is not just another private investigator charging by the hour for meaningless information. He is professional and does an objective assessment and collects appropriate evidence in order to provide a report with tangible evidence, for his clients to make educated decisions and take appropriate action to in each, unique situation. He has been written up in Philadelphia
lphia newspapers to ne”

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6. Connie s. said... on Oct 19, 2012 at 06:39PM

“Gary has been recognized, by Philadelp
hia newspapers to have been one of the youngest people to start in his field. He continues to use his many years of experience and education to help others to find the truth in situations and in people that they have trusted. Corporations use Gary to to investigate criminal employment related compensation claims and to be sure that their companies employees are honest and without criminal influence as it relates to the company.”

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7. Amanda Zarnoskivic said... on Apr 23, 2013 at 01:00PM

“He did an amazing investigation for our company. Thank you for this write up about him. Totally professional!”

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8. Jenna said... on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:13PM

“"Fat Guy PI" is the most professional private investigator that you will ever meet. He is a serious, trustworthy private investigator who will not waste your time. If it is evidence that you need, he is the guy to call. He will put 100 percent effort into your investigation and will provide honest, objective results. He has a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and years of experience. I know him personally and know that you will truly be satisfied. Sometimes getting your evidence is better than hiring an attorney. You won't be billed for nonsense phone calls and fluffed up jobs. Half of the time, the attorney's review their cases while their waiting to be called into a hearing. I can assure you that Gary will provide you with the information and evidence that you need and will be prepared if it is necessary for him to appear in court.”


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