GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - An accused fake private investigator is behind bars after a real private investigator wouldn't give up on shutting the illegal business down.
Channel 2’s Tony Thomas was with authorities on Tuesday when they took the man into custody.
Deputies arrested the alleged fake private investigator, Fernando Rodriguez, at a Stone Mountain Walmart store.
That's ironic because his victims say he had them send their payments to banks inside Walmarts just before he stopped answering their calls.
Investigators told Thomas that several other states are also looking at the suspect.
“The things he said, he offered, nobody else said they could do,” victim Jordan Character said.
Character said he soon discovered Rodriguez was not as advertised.
“Anytime you Google private investigator, his sites regularly pop to the top. He dominates the searches,” Character said.
But records show Rodriguez has no private investigator's license.
Character and another victim said they went to licensed private investigator Robin Martinelli for help after they each say they gave Rodriguez $2,500 and he didn't investigate anything.
Martinelli and her attorney took Rodriguez to court and got him charged with two misdemeanor counts.
“He's been convicted, or arrested for it in another state. He's under investigation for it in six other states,” attorney Don Geary told Thomas.
Thomas was with sheriff's deputies on Tuesday afternoon as they cornered Rodriguez at a local Walmart and made the arrest.
Police said they found a handgun in his van too, adding a felony charge.
“Oh no, he's not a convicted felon, no way,” Rodriguez’s wife told Thomas, not giving her name.
Martinelli said she only took the unusual step of getting warrants herself after the secretary of state’s office, which licenses private investigators, and Gwinnett police didn't immediately act on what she'd found.
“He has a history of doing it, so it's time for it to stop right now,” Character said.
Rodriguez is being held on $20,000 bond, charged with two counts of acting as a private investigator without a license and one count of possession of a firearm.
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