It was soon after Steve Greenman graduated from college in the mid-seventies with a bachelor’s degree in business that he was skimming the want ads in an edition of The Washington Post.
The ad that he was reading was vague; however, his interest was piqued when he read about “investigative work.”
“You’ll have to remember: I was in my early twenties,” said Greenman, setting up the scene. “This was a private detective firm in the ‘70s.”
Greenman aced the interview and landed a job with American Detective Systems—a two-man operation.
“I remember the long-haired, hitshow type of guy who interviewed me,” he said. “He told me that I would be investigating insurance claims.”
Greenman chuckles when he remembers going into phone booths to make his work calls while trying to solve a case.
“I remember this one case where this band of gypsies was committing fraud,” he said. “They would be in a parking lot where they would hit you and then say that they had a back injury.”
The gypsies would orchestrate fake auto collisions just to scam insurance companies out of money. Greenman would help his boss stop these fraudulent claims, protecting innocent citizens.
“Insurance fraud is a multi, multi-billion-dollar industry. We all pay for it in our premiums,” he said.
Interesting enough, one of Greenman’s most famous cases came when he was called on to help a member of the Gerald Ford Administration who was being blackmailed for a very private and personal matter. It is not surprising today when scandals swirl around the presidency; however, remember, this was a different era.
“Our client couldn’t go to the FBI or the police. So, he came to us as private investigators (PI),” said Greenman. “Blackmail is very serious. We located and confronted the (perpetrator), told him to ‘pack up, and get out now.’ And he did just that; he left.”
From there, he moved on to child custody cases and those cases involving adultery. Greenman stuck with the private eye business for nearly two years before he realized— despite his triumphs and love for his exciting career—that he needed to do something more stable. That is when he decided to try the insurance business where he found success at Nationwide as a property and casualty agent for 35 years.
To aid friends, he later lent his expertise as a consultant and recruited former U.S. Armed Forces personnel for jobs in the insurance field. It was just three years ago when his phone rang with a tip to return to the private investigative world; on the
line was Mike Youlen of the Youlen Detective Agency. Greenman was persuaded to dust off his magnifying glass and return to doing real PI work once again.
“It keeps me active and supplements my retirement,” he said about his current part-time job. “The good thing about it is (that) it is flexible.”
Since 2016, Greenman has worked at Youlen based in Manassas, Virginia. The 67-year-old Greenman first lived in a Kentlands’ townhome, but upon retiring from the insurance business, he decided to downside into a condo; he has an office there where he does his PI work.
On one current assignment, Greenman traveled to area pawn shops to try to retrieve a very expensive heirloom—stolen by a contractor right out from under Greenman’s client’s nose.
“Just like in the movies, I go around and show photos of the jewelry and the name of the suspect,” he said.
The job with Youlen has led Greenman to work on many missing persons’ cases. Greenman’s colleagues come from all walks of life. For example, PIs can be retired Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency agents. His hours on the job vary from case to case, and he is open to going anywhere in the states or overseas to solve a mystery.
“I do witness people putting the screws into other people. I don’t like it. We are here to help people,” he said.
Such as when he was just hired to track down a swindler who conned a dying man to sign over his estate to her while the man was lying on his deathbed. “A son and daughter came to me and said that someone took their names out of their father’s will. They were livid,” Greenman said. “I needed to find this woman. Was she involved in other elements of fraud?”
When he isn’t working, Greenman enjoys walking, golfing, seeing plays and traveling. He is quick to point out that in his
line of work, he is not law enforcement nor does he apprehend culprits.
Client confidentially is of utmost importance and being discreet is a major attribute of any PI. “You really need to blend into your environment,” he said.
Greenman immerses himself in his covert operations. Through a non-threatening approach, his goal is to make observations without raising suspicions.
“We get information, we talk to witnesses, get leads and follow up. That is my job,” he said. “There’s a lot of surveillance. You need to be careful of your environment.”
Although he credits Hollywood for magnifying the glamour surrounding his profession— PIs are seen to be suave, sophisticated, and hip—he, too, admits the shows are quite entertaining. Greenman is a self-professed fan of popular PI television shows such as “Barnaby Jones” and “Magnum, P.I.”
“But, I am just a regular guy,” he said. “I am trustworthy. I’ve never left a case or given out client information. I am determined. Tough.”