Jennifer Frank, private detective

Jennifer Frank, private detective
Jennifer Frank '07 puts her research and interviewing skills to work as a private investigator.

Jennifer Frank ’07 has a job that makes for interesting dinner party conversation. She’s a private investigator for Confidential Security and Investigations in New York. While her job isn’t exactly like a made-for-TV drama, it does have elements of excitement and danger as she brings down the bad guys.

QUESTION: Why did you want to become a private investigator?

ANSWER: I always thought I was destined to be a defense attorney or FBI profiler. I fell into private investigations after graduating college, while studying for the LSAT. I knew the first week on the job that I had found my calling. I work with former leaders of INTERPOL, CIA, FBI, military, former prosecutors and homicide detectives on interesting and challenging cases that require creative thinking. We track down and investigate terrorism financiers, money launderers, fraudsters, con artists and killers, and we help protect companies and individuals from being victimized through proper due diligence, investigations, risks assessments and fraud detection. What’s not to love?

Q: What experiences at Binghamton helped prepare you for this career?

A: I think writing for Pipe Dream and hosting BU Blog on BTV were great experiences not only because they gave me a platform to espouse my personal and political philosophies, but they allowed me to develop my research, writing and interview skills outside the classroom — all essential skills in PI work. Also, the philosophy, politics and law classes I took that emphasized critical thinking, analysis, attention to detail, logic and writing skills were highly beneficial. 

Q: Is the job anything like TV?

A: PI work is somewhat of a fusion of Law and Order and The Good Wife (though Kalinda commits more than a few felonies per episode). Private investigators, unlike police detectives, cannot utilize subpoenas, search warrants or use the power of a badge to compel witness cooperation. To achieve a similar end, we rely on public information and sources, developing informants, doing field work and tapping law enforcement and media contacts. We have to do more with less.

Q: Have you ever been in danger?

A: Risk is an occupational hazard in investigations, particularly when you’re dealing with high-profile individuals and criminal organizations, and there’s lots of cash at stake. People in these positions typically have a lot to lose and extensive resources at their disposal. As I was taught early on, when crowns are at stake, nothing is sacred. So while you can never eliminate risk, you can mitigate it through a variety of countermeasures, proper intelligence gathering and working with the right people.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: On a personal level, I am proud to be a female in a position of power and influence in a male-dominated industry. I confronted a lot of resistance and pushback when I came in as young buck, barking orders and trying to lead by force, subconsciously trying to overcompensate for my youth, inexperience and gender. It took some time, but I learned that you catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Effective leadership is about mutual respect and trust, listening, motivating and collaborating. 

In terms of cases — one of the most satisfying involved working with a team, using newly discovered evidence to overturn the conviction of someone wrongfully convicted of murder. Another case involved tracking down hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen funds that were used to fund terrorist organizations and bribe individuals in the upper echelons of Syrian and Iranian governments and military.