FACETIME- Inspector Gadget: Talking justice with Hague
Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean no one's watching you. That silly adage seems strangely apt along the bumpy gravel road that leads to the heavily wooded camp-like headquarters of Old Dominion Investigations, a private investigations firm located off Old Lynchburg Road extended. Cameras of various shapes and sizes peer down from several buildings and trees, and it seems likely there are more that can't be seen.
This watchfulness is par for the course for Old Dominion's founder, 58-year-old Harvey Hague. Hague spent years as an investor and owner of the now-defunct Sound Machine electronics store on Barracks Road before turning to his true passion, high tech investigation, in the early 1990s.
The switch made financial sense, Hague says.
"In business, you have a good or bad year– it's feast or famine," he says, "but crime flourishes no matter the state of the economy."
After taking several police science courses, "I found I was a natural for investigations," explains Hague, who now holds the required P.I. state license and guest lectures in P.I. courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College.
"He has a background in banking, finance, business, and he's very detailed and thorough. That makes him an excellent investigator," says Gene Rhodenizer, a retired Charlottesville police captain who taught private investigations at PVCC for 22 years and was Hague's instructor.
Rhodenizer remains proud of his star pupil.
"He probably has the best P.I. organization I've ever seen," he says, "and I've seen a lot of them."
Hague says his own educational background he was a psychology major in college comes in handy for his P.I. work, as does his experience with high-tech devices. And Hague has plenty of those.
A large building across the driveway from his one-story office holds an array of satellites, tiny cameras, GPS devices, and computer monitors. From this remote monitoring center, Hague and his team of 16 investigators and two techies download computer files, listen to phone calls, and even take live streaming video of their targets.
While the high-tech room is impressive, it's nothing compared to the Gray Ghost, Hague's new 25-foot mobile camper with expandable sides. Once parked, the Gray Ghost can open to the size of a small apartment– with a full bath, a queen-sized bed, and a living room that, like his home base, is equipped with a MacGyver-esque array of technology.
Hague says information gathering can be tricky in order to tap a phone or computer, he says, he must have permission from someone with legal access to the home, building, or computer he'll be monitoring.
Though he prefers to investigate white-collar crime, he admits the majority of his cases are "domestic," and involve a cheating spouse.
"It's not always fun and games," he says. "I don't like sitting in bushes, waiting for someone to come out of a room."
But while philanderers may provide Hague's bread and butter, he says he has a dream assignment: uncovering elder abuse.
"I'd love to get into a nursing home," he says. "I love bringing bad guys down."
Hague's mobile unit, dubbed the Gray Ghost, allows him to conduct investigations across the state.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO