Intermountain PI Podcast
Private Investigator Scott Fulmer and the Great Tortilla Caper
THE INTERMOUNTAIN PI | EP. 6 | JULY 16, 2019 | PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR SCOTT FULMER AND THE GREAT TORTILLA CAPER
I had worked for these guys before when they had a similar employee theft issue. Unfortunately, they didn’t do anything about it after the first time. And so, like the round shape of a
tortilla, things had come full circle. Anyway, I found myself landing at Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas where I rented a car and then headed to Caliente Sabroso Foods.* They’re one of the largest distributors of Mexican Food products in the southwestern United States. As it happened, they were dealing with an apparent inventory shortage; somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars. They suspected it was an employee or two on their warehouse closing crew but they needed proof of the employee theft. I was there to meet with Rocky Sepulveda,* the senior manager of their facility in southeast Houston. By the way you can read the full story of Private Investigator Scott Fulmer and the Great Tortilla Caper in my book, Confessions of a Private Eye.
To begin with, the Caliente Sabroso warehouse was at the lonely end of large commercial business park. In fact, it faced a similar warehouse with a large parking area between the two. A few employee vehicles and some empty tractor trailers were scattered throughout the parking lot. Unfortunately, there was no suitable vantage point to conduct surveillance. I would need some help on this caper. I phoned Stu Hall, a former business partner of mine and a Texas private investigator. Stu agreed to help me with the surveillance and we got down to business. But proving employee theft isn’t always easy.
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR SCOTT FULMER AND THE GREAT TORTILLA CAPER
In the first place, the closing crew was keenly aware of any and all vehicles that belonged in the parking lot in front of the warehouse. For this reason, sitting in a surveillance vehicle to document employee theft was out of the question. I had Rocky rent a van and park it near the warehouse. He then let the employees know a Caliente Sabroso sales manager was flying in from the Dallas office to use it in the next few days. Later that night, I snuck into the van under the shroud of darkness. I stayed on surveillance until midnight hoping I would observe members of the warehouse crew engage in employee theft. However, no one on the closing crew ever made a move that would explain the inventory shortage. Speaking of surveillance, check out one of my earlier podcasts. After a week of this Rocky grew impatient. We needed another plan if we were going to prove employee theft. In this case, it was Stu that finally hit upon a solution.
To clarify, Stu would scale the roof of the adjoining warehouse and shoot video of the employee theft from above. The warehouse crew always kept their eyes on the parking lot. But they never bothered to look up on the roof of the adjacent warehouse. As we use to say in the Army: if it’s stupid but it works…it isn’t stupid. A week later we hit pay dirt.
PROVING EMPLOYEE THEFT FROM A NEARBY ROOF
I think it was about 10:00 PM on an unusually cold clear Fall night when Stu and I arrived to begin surveillance. A biting wind was blowing in from the north. We parked our cars at a small commercial bakery around the corner from the warehouse and then quietly made our way on foot to the back of the bordering warehouse. A permanent iron ladder descended from the roof of the warehouse but for safety reasons ended about seven feet from the ground. Stu had brought a yellow tow rope with a hook on the end and, after several attempts,