Restaurant Theft and What You Can Do About It

restaurant theft investigationsAny restaurateur, manager, bartender, or server who works in the food and beverage industry long enough has a wild story to tell about restaurant theft. From employees stealing big-ticket items (alcohol, steaks, seafood, kitchen equipment) to patrons pocketing everything from silverware, to free bread, to the lamps on the tables, the restaurant business comes with plenty of security risks.

Fortunately for restaurants in Orange County, Systematic Inquiry Group is here to help with our Food Cost Program! Tailored specifically to address the security needs of the food and beverage industry, our restaurant loss prevention program can help you dramatically decrease your loss due to employee theft, patron theft, and food waste.

Restaurant loss prevention: How it works

The Food Cost Program is an effective means of taking control of your restaurant or bar’s security, and you can rest easy knowing that you’re in experienced hands. Our team of California private investigators and security experts is led by Michael Wojtanowicz, J.D., a veteran private detective and former National Security Director of a 400-unit nationwide restaurant chain.

When you sign up for the Food Cost Program, you will receive the following services all rolled into one affordable package:

  • Consultation to identify your main areas of concern
  • One hour company-wide meeting
  • Individual interviews with each employee
  • Audit of current cash-handling and security procedures

After completing our investigation, we will provide you with an in-depth report detailing each staff member, a list of security issues that need improvement, recommendations for addressing those areas, and a report for the owner and/or unit managers describing long-term solutions to improve security… and your bottom line.

Our corporate investigations and security firm is proud to serve the cities of Orange, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Riverside, Buena Park, Yorba Linda, and other areas of the Inland Empire. Call us today at 714-406-4618 to discuss your restaurant security needs.

Photo by David Castillo Dominici via

Surveillance Basics: How We Can Help

Orange County surveillance securityThink surveillance in Orange County, and you probably think about the stakeout scene from your favorite television police procedural. In real life, however, surveillance is as different as the reasons people choose to hire a private investigator.

Who’s Watching Out for You?

There are different methodologies to conducting surveillance, and their proper execution relies heavily on what services your business provides. One of the biggest motivators is protecting your bottom line, which can take many forms. Some of the main ways businesses are victimized include:

Surveillance is the best way to obtain evidence, either of a crime that has already been committed, or that is in process.

Why Hire a Professional?

You might think the person most qualified to keep an eye on your business is you, but our professional investigators have the tools and the expertise to deploy the correct surveillance strategy for your investigation.

We’ll also go about our investigation in a way that doesn’t put you at risk legally. Conducting the surveillance by yourself or hiring an amateur can quickly put you on the wrong side of the law. We have the specialized legal, ethical, and industry-specific knowledge necessary to put together an effective surveillance strategy, so you can rest easy knowing that your case is in capable hands.

Strategies of Surveillance

When Systematic Inquiary Group conducts surveillance in Orange County, we take the time to get to know your case, and the desired outcome you seek. Whether we employ human or mechanical surveillance, mobile or stationary, SIG will get you the information you need to know, and do it discretely!

Photo by nipitphand via

3 Ways Your “Best” Employee Could Be Robbing You Blind

employee theft investigatorsAs a business owner, executive, or manager, you place trust in your employees. That trust is serious, and the fate of the company- and all of your other employees- can hang in the balance. This is why hiring is so important, and why our background check services are vital to creating a culture of integrity in your business. But no matter how carefully you select your team, there’s always a possibility that someone already inside your company could be violating your trust.

In fact, in decades of private investigations and corporate security work, we have seen time and time again that it is often the most trusted employees who commit the worst betrayals. After all, they have the leeway to get away with it. One must have trust in order to abuse it. Read on to learn some of the ways trusted figures cover up employee theft, fraud, and embezzlement, and give us a call today at 714-406-4618 to discuss your Orange County corporate security needs.

  • Offering to expand their duties- If someone in a financial position in your company is trying to get their hands on more of the financial pie, be suspicious. Allowing one person to take over all steps of the financial process- invoicing, deposits, cash collection, etc.- does not provide enough oversight. The employee can then create record of fraudulent transactions, steal the money, and get rid of the evidence. Without anyone else involved, the perpetrator is free to get rid of the evidence before you even know what happened.
  • Working late regularly- You know that one employee who is always the first to arrive or the last to leave? What an admirable work ethic, you might think. Unfortunately, this behavior is often masking nefarious intent. Employee theft often happens when no one is around to question or witness it, so it’s best to have all employees arrive and leave around the same time, denying them the privacy needed to set up a theft or fraud.
  • Getting cozy with your vendors- Fostering relationships with your vendors can be a positive, but unfortunately some employees use the opportunity to collude with vendors in order to rip you off. For example, your employee and vendor may inflate prices and then split the extra money, or arrange a “kickback” system with which to rob you.


Photo by franky242 via

It’s Coming From Inside the House: Internal Theft and Your Business

internal security threats- Orange investigationsEven if you haven’t seen the old 1970s horror films Black Christmas or When a Stranger Calls, you’re probably familiar with the trope: A string of menacing phone calls leads the victim to call the police, who trace the call… Only to find that the call is coming from inside the house!

This longstanding horror movie trope is effective for a reason. The real terror hits not when a stranger calls, but when one realizes that they are not safe, even at home. It’s an unsettling thought, but unfortunately it is relevant to business security!

In our many years of conducting corporate investigations in Orange County and Los Angeles, as well as providing security services and consulting to businesses in a wide variety of industries, we’ve seen over and over again that the biggest threat to a business’s security is not from outsiders, but from the very people who work there.

“Shrinkage”- the retail industry term for employee theft, fraud, shoplifting, and other types of loss- costs U.S. retailers $42 billion per year. Employee theft alone accounts for 43% of that loss, about $18 billion per year when it’s all said and done! That’s $18 billion that companies are losing from their bottom line, negatively impacting profits and taking away money that might otherwise be reinvested in the company and its employees.

It’s especially frustrating and hard to believe when a business owner thinks they have a trustworthy team, only to find out that losses are due not to an outside influence, but to a trusted employee. That betrayal can be hard to take. At Systematic Inquiry Group, we can help you get to the bottom of employee theft, fraud, embezzlement, or worker’s compensation fraud, as well as acting as a liaison with law enforcement. Our services include private investigations, interviewing staff, interrogating suspects, providing reports and evidence, and even procuring restitution. In fact, in many cases we are able to get the perpetrator to pay our fees for you!

If you suspect that you are one of the many American businesses being victimized by employee theft, don’t wait; contact us immediately to discuss your case and any of your corporate security needs.

Photo by Claira Ross via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Basic Types of Occupational Fraud

occupational fraud investigationWe help Orange County businesses investigate and prosecute fraud, embezzlement, employee theft, and other internal crimes. Business owners and managers often aren’t familiar with the many ways a trusted employee can use their position in order to take advantage of security vulnerabilities, exploit organizational oversights, or simply abuse the trust placed in them for the sake of personal gain.

Occupational fraud is a crime in which a manager, officer, employee, or even the owner commits fraud which is detrimental to the organization.

With a team of private investigators and decades of experience in corporate security, Systematic Inquiry Group can help you get to the bottom of your fraud case. Give us a call today at 714-406-4618 to learn more, and read on to learn about the three main types of occupational fraud that could affect your business:

  • Asset Misappropriation
  • Fraudulent Statements
  • Corruption

Asset Misappropriation

This can include a variety of types of theft perpetrated by someone entrusted with the management of a company or organization’s assets. For instance, theft of cash, skimming, falsifying receipts, creating shell companies, using funds for personal purchases, false sales, check tampering, falsifying expense reimbursement, creating “ghost employees,” etc.

Fraudulent Statements

Financial statement fraud is usually committed by someone in a position of authority or trust in regard to an organization’s finances, be it an accountant, controller, V.P. of Finance, or C.F.O. In this type of fraud, the perpetrator attempts to mislead those reading the financial statements, misrepresenting the fiscal health of the organization or covering up evidence of their embezzlement or theft.


Corruption fraud can range from conflicts of interest to bribery. Common examples include purchasing or sales schemes, rigging bids, giving kickbacks/bribes, extortion of vendors, or accepting illegal gratuities.

No matter what type of fraud or internal theft you suspect, our team of Orange County private investigators is here to help. To learn more about our corporate security services, contact us using the form at right.

Photo by ponsulak via

Orange County Restaurant Security from SIG

Orange County restaurant consultantsAt Systematic Inquiry Group, we provide security services and private investigations in Orange County and the Los Angeles metro area, including but not limited to the cities of Orange, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Irvine, Tustin, Garden Grove, Fullerton, Riverside, Buena Park, and Yorba Linda.

With over 25 years of experience and a background as the National Security Director for a nationwide restaurant chain, our Senior Director Mike Wojtanowicz, J.D. is Orange County’s resident expert on restaurant security and loss prevention geared toward the food service industry.

Our comprehensive services include both preventative and responsive assistance to improve the security of your restaurant or bar and save you money. We assist Orange County restaurants in several ways, including:

  • Interviewing employees/assessing security threats on staff
  • Assessing the physical security of the building (i.e. locks, alarm systems, silent alarms, floor plans, merchandising, etc.)
  • Monitoring food costs
  • Presenting an annual food cost meeting to the company
  • Auditing CCTV
  • Investigating theft, worker’s compensation cases, harassment allegations, and more
  • Providing expert consultation on restaurant security systems and how to improve them
  • And much more

Usually loss prevention is focused outward in restaurants and retail businesses; however the biggest threat is actually internal. 80% or more of all losses in restaurants are the result of employees, not outside parties. We can help you identify the internal threats that are harder to see without an outside security expert’s insight.

Don’t leave your restaurant’s fate to chance; call us today at 714-406-4618 to discuss your Orange County security needs and get started with the service that fits your company best.

Photo by newhouse via Pixabay


What Can You Learn from a Background Check?

Orange County background checksSavvy employers across the country are using background checks as a valuable tool in the hiring process. These checks help companies weed out poor job candidates quickly and easily, improving company security and decreasing the risk of internal theft or fraud. While many of the records used in background checks are available to the public, it is important to work with an agency that knows how to obtain the latest and most accurate results possible in order to get the most “bang for your buck.” Read on to learn more about background checks in Orange County from the Orange, CA private investigators of Systematic Inquiry Group.

Basic Background Checks

Basic background checks may simply include the verification of the applicant’s identity and the completion of a statewide criminal background check, state sex offender registry check, and possibly a state motor vehicle check. This limited type of report may not detect all the unacceptable candidates on your list, and it will not flag those applicants with criminal records or poor driving records in another state.

Comprehensive Background Checks

Security-smart companies hire private investigators that specialize in employee background checks. Our more in-depth checks will not only verify personal identity, but can also include a national criminal record check, credit report, education verification, reference check, employment history check, national motor vehicle check, and a national sex offender registry check.

Obeying State Laws

State and federal laws regulate employee background checks in Orange County, and it is important that your company remain in compliance with these rules. California has laws restricting the use of credit reports in particular when it comes to hiring decisions. In most cases, you will need to obtain the applicant’s permission to perform anything other than a basic check. Most employers make a request for such permission as part of their hiring practices.

Working with a professional private investigative agency that knows the laws and regulations can ensure that your company stays in compliance. This can avoid a potential lawsuit by an angry job candidate, and help you get the accurate results you need.

Contact us today to discuss your background check needs and learn how our Orange County private investigators can help you build a better team and a safer company.

Photo by Ambro via

Vetting a Business Partner? You Need a Private Investigator

background check investigations in Orange CAIf you’re considering going into business with someone, it’s vital to know as much as possible about the person. You’re trusting them with important matters that can impact you financially, legally, and personally. A private investigator can conduct background checks and utilize other tools to help reduce the chances that you’ll face unpleasant surprises later on.

Following these tips can help you know what you’re getting into if you decide to take on a business partner:

Check their references

Make sure to ask for and check references. It’s important to know what questions to ask and what to listen for, which is why many savvy business people hire us- as private investigators, we know how to ferret out information. For example, asking about the relationship the reference had with your potential partner, can provide insight into what their actual job responsibilities were and how they were viewed in their previous organization. It can also help to ask if they know of any reason you shouldn’t go into business with your potential partner.

Spend time getting to know them

Taking on a business partner is an important decision that shouldn’t be rushed. Talk to them about their ideas for the business, and listen out for any unrealistic goals or tales about their past successes. Watch them with other people, and look at their online activity for a couple of months. Their comments, blog posts, tweets, and Facebook activity should let you make an informed judgment about their reputation and personality, according to Gigaom Research.

Utilize our professional help

Systematic Inquiry Group can conduct background checks and investigations to help you gain a true picture of your potential partner. People can ask family or friends to lie on their behalf, and they can falsify information on resumes. We can help you learn if they’ve had failed business, legal issues, or other concerns that would make you not want to go into business with them.

Contact our Orange County private investigation team today to discuss your case.

Photo by stockimages via

Corporate Security Basics: Understanding The Fraud Triangle

Orange County fraud investigationsIt is an established fact that employee fraud and theft cost businesses billions each year, and that’s easy to believe considering the huge financial losses we have seen companies suffer over the years as fraud investigators. But what makes some people decide to actually take the plunge and steal from their employers? To understand employee fraud, it’s helpful to understand the “fraud triangle.”

The concept of the fraud triangle was created by Donald R. Cressey in his 1973 book Other People’s Money. Basically, it establishes the 3 situational criteria that often lead to fraud and embezzlement. The 3 parts of the triangle are:

Pressure– This is the fraudster’s motivation to commit the crime, often a financial hardship (or perceived financial hardship) that the perpetrator thinks they cannot remedy through legal means.

Opportunity- The second part of the triangle is opportunity, usually resulting from the person’s position in the company. Having the access/ability to steal from the company or clients is one aspect of opportunity, and it is usually a function of their position as an accountant, bookkeeper, office manager, billing manager, or some other trusted position with access to financial information.

However, there’s another crucial component of opportunity that you need to know as a business owner, and that is the belief that they will not be caught. Most people would never commit a crime if they thought they’d be caught, but if your company lacks oversight, detailed processes, and a strong culture of security and integrity, an employee will be more likely to think they’ll get away with fraud.

Rationalization- And finally, in order for someone to follow through and steal from their employer, they must rationalize it to themselves. Most people who embezzle or defraud their employer are not career criminals. In fact, they are often first-time criminals who are convinced that they are not “bad people.” It’s extremely common for fraudsters, when explaining why they did it, to express a sense of entitlement (“I worked myself to death for this company” or “I was the only one holding this operation together and I needed the money”) or resentment (“I was underpaid and my boss wouldn’t give me a raise” or “I was passed over for the promotion I knew I deserved”).

At Systematic Inquiry Group, we can help you investigate employee fraud and theft in order to bring the culprit to justice. Our Orange County private investigators are experienced in business investigations, so give us a call today at 714-406-4618.

Photo by Stuart Miles via

How Monthly Security Assurance Can Help You

business security in Orange CountyOne of the main goals we hope to accomplish with this blog and our day-to-day interactions with our clients is educating people about the importance of being proactive, not just reactive, when it comes to security. Planning ahead and taking steps to prevent internal theft in your business will always be more effective than simply responding after an incident has occurred.

One of the business investigation and security services we offer at Systematic Inquiry Group is our Monthly Security Assurance program. This program was specially designed by our team of Orange County business investigators to cater to the needs of companies who want to have security experts available for consulting and quick response in the event that an incident does arise.

This program helps businesses in a variety of ways, including:

  • Identifying security vulnerabilities from both a physical security and process/policy standpoint
  • Providing actionable knowledge to empower you and reduce your risk of victimization
  • Offering an objective, unbiased outside perspective on your company’s risks and problem areas
  • Responding promptly to security crisis events

The package includes 2 limited audits per year along with detailed reports, unlimited consultation, 24 hour or less crisis response, service, and other benefits like preferred service and discount rates on our other business investigation and consulting services.

Is the security of your business in good hands? Don’t wait for an emergency; give us a call at 714-406-4618 or contact us online to discuss your corporate security and investigation needs with our Orange County private investigations team.

Photo by Naypong via