A peek into the life of a private investigator
By John L. Byrwa
The moment Ron Levesque tells someone what he does for a living, he’s 99-percent sure of the first image that pops into their mind.
“Cheaters, the TV show Cheaters,” Levesque said with a chuckle. “They assume all I do is follow cheating spouses, sit in cars, do surveillance through tinted windows with long-lens cameras. The stuff that you see on TV.”
Levesque (pronounced la-VECK) is a licensed private investigator, and make no mistake, the unique demands of his livelihood involve so much more than trying to catch someone in the act of being unfaithful to his or her significant other. Granted, Levesque does handle those types of cases, but says he’d much rather use his unique skills trying to catch someone committing insurance fraud, finding someone who doesn’t want to be found, providing protection for high-profile athletes or executives, proving (or disproving) a wrongful-death claim or working a crime scene investigation.
“We just don’t work for husbands and wives,” said Levesque, who owns and operates Patriot Investigations in Snellville, one of approximately 510 licensed private investigator agencies in Georgia. “We work for attorneys, insurance companies, individuals, businesses, groups, churches. People don’t realize how much they need a PI until they need one.”
A native of Fall River, Mass., who’s lived in more locations around the world than most people visit in a lifetime – 17 before he turned 19, including Italy and Germany -- Levesque was, for all intents and purposes, practically destined to end up in an occupation that revolves around covert operations, undercover work and, well, sneaking around without being seen or known.
His father, Ron Sr., was involved in counter-espionage and military intelligence for the United States Army. Which is a fancy way of saying that Levesque’s dad worked in the world of spies.
“That kind of put me in the mindset that this is the kind of stuff I enjoy,” Levesque said. “I don’t know that I ever set out to be a PI. In fact, I wanted to be a police officer at one point. But I’m glad I never did.
“But when I was growing up, there were always guys around our house with guns under their jackets and holsters on their ankles. People in that world stick together, you know, because they really trust each other. I was a kid, I didn’t know. I just figured every kid’s dad carried around a gun on his ankle. I spent my whole formative years around spies and didn’t know it.”
That experience helped prepare Levesque for a life that most people only read about in novels or see on television.
As you can imagine, being a private investigator is not your average 9-to-5 job. There’s no dress code, he’s rarely without a gun strapped somewhere on his person, he’s on a first-name basis with policemen, detectives and confidential informants alike, and he owns a lot of really cool toys that James Bond would envy.
Left: Ron and his wife Adrienne Britt Lavesque
“He really does,” laughs Levesque’s wife, Adrienne Britt Levesque, who, when she is not helping run Summit Chase Country Club in Snellville, which is owned by her family, helps manage her husband’s agency. “Stuff the kids and grandkids have stolen from him, like night vision pieces of equipment that went into the woods and never made it out.”
And some of Levesque’s cases are as cool and interesting as the tools of his trade. Some of them involve what is called “pre-text,” or the use of deceptive scenarios to gather targeted information, and all of them require an ability to see through the haze of subterfuge or put together pieces of an intricate puzzle.
Levesque is especially good at all of them.
“This is one of those things where either you have the innate ability, or you don’t,” Levesque, 48, said. “Anybody can follow a book. Anybody can follow a check list. But to think by instinct is critical.
“When you knock on a door and somebody answers the door, you’ve got to be able size them up in the first 15 seconds and know how you’re going to talk to them. There’s an ability you have to have to see things before they happen.”
Take, for instance, if Levesque is trying to serve a lawsuit or a subpoena to a person who is trying to avoid the service. First, Levesque will find out where the person lives. Then he’ll use his gift of conversation, his acting talents and his ability to convince someone to tell him what he wants to know.
“I’ll run data bases on you before I work your case to see who’s around you, and I’m going to approach them when you’re not home,” Levesque said. “If I know the family who lives next to you is the Johnsons, I’m going to approach them and say, ‘You know, Mrs. Johnson, I’m an old friend of John’s from school. Is he around?’ And she’ll say, ‘Oh no, he works until six.’ ‘Great. Is he still driving that white car?’ Now, I don’t know if he drives a white car or not. And she’ll say, ‘Oh no, he has a blue Monte Carlo.’
“Then I’ll say, ‘Oh great. You know, don’t tell him I was here because I want to surprise him.’ Now I know what time he comes home from work and I know what kind of car he drives.
“If you’re comfortable with what you’re saying, people will buy it,” he adds. “It’s playing a part. You have to do your job and you have to be ethical. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be sneaky.”
Thanks to the Internet, private investigators now have another valuable tool in their vast arsenal. It also helps confirm what most law-abiding people already know – criminals are criminals for a reason.
“It’s a blessing in the amount of information that’s out there, but at the same time there is so much information out there that you really have to weed through it to make sure it’s accurate,” Levesque said. “Then again, I’ve had people I’ve been looking for take pictures, post them on Facebook and tag them with where they’re at.”
How Levesque ended up in Gwinnett County, though, was the result of a mystery neither he nor anyone else in history has ever been able to solve. It was the mystery of love.
A longtime bachelor who was living in Marietta, Levesque, then 41, attended a Bon Jovi concert with some friends at Philips Arena in Atlanta in 2008. Sitting in the same row as Levesque was a pretty, recently divorced blonde who was also enjoying a night out with some friends. She caught his eye, they chatted, business cards were exchanged and a romance soon blossomed.
Once things got serious, the 40-plus-mile one-way commute from Marietta to Snellville was beginning to grind on both of them. And since there was zero chance that Adrienne was moving to Cobb County – the Britts are one of the oldest and most prominent families in Gwinnett; her three grandchildren are the 10th generation of Gwinnett County Britts – you-know-who was moving to Snellville. (The couple, who married in 2010, has since moved to Grayson.)
“I knew she wasn’t going to leave,” Levesque said. “They’re entrenched here.”
Now, so is Levesque. Never mind that some of our more nefarious citizens would prefer he didn’t.
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