PRIVATE EYES OF TEXAS

October of 2010 Edition

A Message from J.J.,

gradoni-jan-13This is our 3rd Newsletter for 2010. It is the first time we have ever had three in one year. Since 60% of our business is related to Criminal Defense, we are constantly preparing for Trials, some of which never occur. One thing is for sure, the thorough preparation has lead in many instances to positive results for our clients.

Every month we receive referrals from our clients. Thanks again to David Adler, Rob Fickman, Joe Salinas, Wes Hocker, Leonard Meyer, Stanley Schneider, Chad Johnson, Bob Loper, James Stafford and Daphne Pattison.

Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. As we reflect, we are grateful to all our clients for their support and want to give special thanks from myself, Carey Wellmaker and the staff wishing all of our clients and their families a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Spear Phishing Emails

The Fall issue of The Texas Investigator distributed by the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators had a great article on Spear Phishing emails that I wanted to pass on to our clients. These emails are designed to appear to be from a legitimate company in an attempt to obtain your personal identity information or to install malware onto your computer. Examples of these type of deceiving emails are titled “IRS Refund” and “DHS Shipment Problem”. The Phishing emails are manipulated to appear from someone with whom you normally correspond. To further the deception, these emails are crafted to appear to be from a trusted source and often have subject lines and attachments relevant to your business.

Receiving a Spear Phishing email is relatively harmless until the email is clicked, which initiates the malicious software, known as malware. The software allows the hacker to monitor actions, access files, programs, download files and manipulate the computer without your knowledge.

Tips to reduce your exposure:

  • Encrypt sensitive information files.
  • Keep current any anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewalls on your network.
  • Install programs that track access to sensitive files and monitor downloading.
  • Change passwords after an employee resigns or is terminated.
  • Limit remote access to the computer.
  • Never share passwords or write down passwords.

Cindy Klein – New Addition To Staff

cindy-kleinI am happy to announce that Cindy Klein is the newest addition to our staff. Cindy is a graduate of California State University with a Major in Criminal Justice.

Cindy was a Special Agent with the FBI working ten years in the Houston Field Office. During her tenure in Houston, Cindy gained extensive experience in Bank Robbery, Kidnapping, Civil Rights and Domestic Terrorism Investigations.

Cindy has extensive training in Advance Profiling, Domestic and International Terrorism, Sexual Abuse of Children, and Interviewing and Interrogation techniques.

Cindy has already displayed an ability to obtain information from the most reluctant witnesses. Cindy had great people skills and the ability to document her interviews in a very thorough manner. Cindy is a welcomed addition to our very diversified staff of competent Investigators.

Criminal Defense Investigation Training Council

carey-wellmakerCarey Wellmaker has recently completed the necessary course work for accreditation and is now a Certified Criminal Investigator. The Council was established to encourage a dialogue among professionals and scholars involved in various aspects of criminal defense investigation.

The Board promotes as its foundation, recognizing the need, accepting the responsibility, and standing watch as defenders of the constitution and the right of the accused to a fair trial. The council encourages the philosophical and methodical approach to the investigative process. An objective and impartial investigation is its primary strength.

Criminal Defense investigation is a specialized discipline and demands to be recognized as such. Criminal Defense investigation is not a subordinate to law enforcement criminal investigation.

With this in mind, the council seeks to standardize basic methodology, procedure, and training devoted solely to the discipline of criminal defense investigation. Carey is one of seven board certified members in the State of Texas.

Death Penalty College

In August I accompanied attorneys Katherine Scardino and James Rivera to the Santa Clara University School of Law, Brian Schechmeister Death Penalty College.

Attending by invitation were sixty-eight Criminal Defense Attorneys, nineteen Mitigation Specialists and fourteen Fact Investigators who are involved in Death Penalty cases throughout the United States.

Our Sponsor was the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program funded by the Mexican Government to oversee the representation of Mexican Nationals charged with Death Penalty cases in the United States. My team is involved in the defense of Noel Cerna, charged in the Murder of a Houston area Physician at his ranch in Bellville, Texas.

I can honestly say the program was one of the finest that I have ever had the opportunity to attend. In addition to featured speakers, there was a great deal of participation in break out groups where each team was able to discuss their cases and develop ideas for defending their clients.

The emphasis was on complete teamwork on all phases of the defense amongst the Attorneys, Fact Investigators and Mitigation Specialists. I had the opportunity to interface with professionals from all over the country and learn about their methods of obtaining information, interviewing witnesses and organizing their cases.

I left the conference with a number of new tools and techniques which will certainly enhance the quality of our work product.

Gradoni & Associates Mitigation Team

Our firm has been involved in over 250 Capital Murder cases over the years. Many of those cases involved the Death Penalty. I gained a great deal of insight about what a Mitigation Specialist did for the Defendant as a result of attending the Death Penalty College.

The Mitigation Specialist’s responsibility is to build the Defendant’s social and family history for three generations, interview relatives, associates, teachers, employers and obtain records that can be utilized by the selected experts, in order to Mitigate for the Defendant receiving a Life Sentence rather than the Death Penalty. What I also learned, is that in the majority of the Jurisdictions, especially in the Public Defender Offices, the Mitigation Specialists and Fact Investigators work side by side, which makes perfect sense. Fact Witnesses are often Mitigation Witnesses. Fact Investigators develop the identity of Mitigation Witnesses during their investigations. Mitigation Experts rely on the Fact Investigators to locate records and relatives.

It has been my experience here in Harris County, that the Mitigation Experts and Fact Investigators usually work separately and do not share a lot of information. There is also a shortage of qualified and competent Mitigation Experts in Harris County forcing Capital Defense attorneys to obtain these services from individuals outside of Houston and even Texas.

It dawned on me during this process that we have a great Mitigation staff already assembled. Carey Wellmaker, the Vice President of Gradoni & Associates, who is a graduate of Texas A&M and has over 20 years of investigative experience. Our firm also has Benito Segura, our best Fact Investigator, who is also bi-lingual. The third member of the mitigation team is Cindy Klein. Although new, Cindy has great interviewing skills and the ability to garner information from anyone she talks to.

I am proud to announce we are in the development stages of setting our procedures and program to conduct mitigation work. It is my hope in the very near future we will be able to provide both fact investigations and mitigation investigations for our clients simultaneously on the same cases. I have been given a verbal commitment from three of my Capital Defense clients that they will be willing to have us assigned as fact and mitigation experts on their next Capital Murder case.

Since our inception in 1989, we have earned a reputation for being the providers of a high quality fact investigation for Criminal Defense attorneys. I believe that within the next few years we will be able to also have the identical reputation as a provider of quality mitigation services for our clients.

Texas Association of Licensed Investigators – Houston

The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI) had its Fall Conference at the Omni Hotel this year at the end of August. Wayne Dolcefino and Harris County District Attorney, Pat Lykos, were featured speakers.

Jeffrey Addicott, an expert in Terrorism and National Security also gave a great presentation.

During the three day seminar, there were a number of break-out groups. I was very proud to be selected along with Criminal Defense Attorney, Chris Tritico to do a two hour teaching segment on Criminal Defense. Our session had the biggest attendance of any session at the conference.

During the last ten years, TALI has done a great deal to improve the professionalism of our industry and be a key voice in legislation that affects all of us.

  • Mom Charged w/Child Abuse over Spanking
    Attorney Gilbert Garcia represented a mother charged with the physical abuse of her three children. While the mother was at work, the Children had run away from the babysitter. When the mother finally found the children and brought them home, she disciplined them to impress upon
  • Officer Honesty is 9 Tenths of the Law
    Attorney Yalila “Lee” Guerrero represented an individual charged with Possession of Controlled Substance as a result of a traffic stop. The Officer claimed when he ran the Plate of the vehicle prior to the traffic stop, it was not registered. After the vehicle was
  • Convenient Criminal Charges By HPD Rejected
    Attorney Joe Salinas represented a Defendant who was taken out of vehicle at a motel and told by Houston Police Department officers that he had an Outstanding Warrant. When the officers arrived in downtown Houston with the Defendant they found that the Warrant was no longer
  • A Hit & Run Mystery, Solved
    One for the Books Attorney Kenneth McCoy represented a lady charged with Failure to Stop and Render Aid and Negligent Homicide. The only witness to the accident that resulted in the death of the victim saw a female driver flee the scene. The witness was able to obtain a License
  • The Guns & Newlyweds Investigation
    Attorney Gilbert Garcia represented a newlywed charged with pulling a gun on his wife and assaulting her while she was moving out. Gradoni & Associates Investigate Carey Wellmaker obtained a 911 Tape for a prior incident, when the bride had been arrested for breaking out
  • Deadly Weapon Case Reduced to Misdemeanor
    Attorney Robert Fickman represented an individual charged with Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Gradoni Detectives Investigate Our background investigation of the Complainant indicated that he was a Gang Member. Interviews with witnesses indicated that the Complainant
  • Investigation Spurs Felony Drug Charge Dismissal
    Attorney Carmen Roe represented a Defendant charged with Possession of Crack Cocaine. The defendant was arrested as a result of a Search Warrant officers executed at his residence. The police officers claimed in their Affidavit that they had an Informant purchase Crack in the
  • From 25 to Life to Misdemeanor, Girlfriend Costly
    Attorney Joe Salinas represented a Defendant charged with Felony Assault on his girlfriend at his mother’s house. After the Warrant was issued the girlfriend moved to Abilene. The Defendant made up with her and began living with her Abilene. When the girlfriend found out that
  • The “She Had a Knife” Investigation
    Attorney Gary Polland represented a female charged with Aggravated Assault as a result of an altercation with a neighbor. The neighbor claimed that she was threatened by the Defendant with a knife. Gradoni & Associates Investigates George Wellmaker canvassed the area and
  • The Father-Son Combat Investigation
    Houston criminal-defense Attorney Mark W. Bennett represented a man who was charged with assaulting his teenage son in the front yard of their residence. Gradoni & Associates Investigates George Wellmaker was able to establish through witness interviews that the son was the
  • Aggravated Bar Fighting Charges Dismissed
    Attorney Jeffery Greco and Attorney Daniel Greaser represented two individuals charged with Aggravated Assault as a result of fight that occurred outside of a bar at closing time. The Police were actually able to obtain a video of the fight. Team Gradoni Investigates Benito
  • Gang-Banging Capital Murder Charges Dismissed
    Attorney Bob Loper and Attorney Casey Kiernan represented 2 males charged with a gang related shooting death. Gradoni Detectives Investigate the Murder Benito Segura conducted a number of interviews with Spanish speaking witnesses with knowledge of the Players and circumstances
  • Investigation Valued in Federal Cocaine Case
    Attorney Daphne Pattison represented an individual charged as a Co-Defendant with a number of other individuals with a Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine in Federal Court. Our assignment was to review the wire tapped conversations in order to determine if the State’s allegation
  • The “You’re Awesome” Child Injury Investigation
    Attorney Dena Fisher represented an individual charged in Galveston County with Injury to a Child. Gradoni Investigations Pursue Case Benito Segura interviewed a number of the individuals associated with the case, who all expressed their unwillingness to cooperate with the State
  • Weaponized Beer Bottles, Deadly Conduct, & Baby Mamas
    Attorney Patricia “Patti” Sedita represented a lady charged with attempting to attack her boyfriend’s “Baby Mama” with a beer bottle. Investigator Segura Takes Action Benito Segura interviewed the Complainant and a number of witnesses all who had conflicting
  • Robbery Confession Worthless, Case Dismissed
    Attorney Paul St. John represented an individual charged with the Aggravated Robbery of a male walking down the street. The Defendant was arrested after the robbery occurred riding in a truck with his friend. Gradoni Detectives Look Into Matters The Defendant claimed he had
  • Freed After Twenty Years
    Attorney Robert Loper was appointed to by Judge Joan Campbell as a Special Prosecutor to look into the case of Allen Porter, who had already served 20 years of a Life Sentence for a Home Invasion/Rape in which he appeared to be innocent. The 3 Complainants in the case were
  • Machinist “Abused” by Police, Charges Reduced
    Attorney Gary Polland represented a Houston Machinist, who Police claim ran from them after they tried to stop him for a traffic violation. The Officers stated that during the “chase”, which ended up in the Defendant’s parents’ driveway, he threw something out of the

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