CUSTOMS CORRUPTION                       Established 1998    | Return Home |

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

P.I. John Carman out of La Mesa — ex-Secret Service, ex-SDPD, ex-Customs, licensed since '81 — is working a homicide case at the moment, for the defense. It's a job most moonlighting cops don't want to take, he says, the wrong side of the law, you know, a place he frankly hates.

"Normally, you can get $75 to $150 an hour working a defense case on special capital cases," Carman says. "(But) the court system here in this particular area will only let you charge $20 an hour — which is not only an insult, but it's way below certain standards that you can't even pay your bills."


Photo by Calvin Milam

P.I. John Carman

Hell, 25 years ago, Carman was working White House Secret Service — freakin' presidential security!  Before that he guarded bullion for Treasury in San Francisco. A judo expert and more, he's not someone you'd want to mess around with much.

But a man's gotta work, especially when he isn't being suckled on the government teat. Carman's experience in Customs wasn't always sweet, he says during an interview in a church parking lot of I-8. Carman was a high-scoring seek-and-seizer during his days sucking fumes at the San Ysidro border crossing. It's obvious from the way he talks that he liked the work. But his higher-ups didn't necessarily like agents with eyes to see and ears to hear.

He's a whistleblower and runs a website for exposing corruption within government. His particular lawsuits are based on allegations of everything from him being officially silenced, to military C-130s being used to run cocaine, to border muckety-mucks turning a blind eye for a shiny payday. Carman's main case is now on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court and he hasn't a clue if the robed ones will even hear it.

Anyway, that's how he ended up hanging out his own shingle.Ư

"The meat of an investigator's cases is usually surveillance, domestic cases, research, locating missing persons, that sort of thing." Carman handles skip tracing, all manner of crime investigations, civil or criminal, including drug probes, undercover work, background checks, personal injury, smuggling, food poisoning, accident investigations andƯ process-serving and forensic photography, among other things.

He specializes in "Customs-related work, border-related issues, government seizures, defense work against the government, that sort of thing, because I worked for the government."

In government work, he says, it's all about damage control and protecting your ass, not what's right and wrong.

"I also coach and instruct government employees as to how to file complaints, follow through on their own defenses or own complaints against the system," he says.  Carman has a love-hate relationship with the government.

But then, don't we all?