– No Matter How Hard You Try to Hide, This Professional Skip Tracer Will Find You (Wired, Dec 17, 2013):
At 4’11” and just over 100 pounds, Michelle Gomez does not look like the sort of person you’d hire to retrieve earthmoving equipment stolen by a peruvian crime family. But in the summer of 2013, that’s exactly what she was doing. Gomez, the proprietor of a one-woman operation in Lockhart, Texas, called Unlimited Recoveries, is one of the best skip tracers in the world. A combination bill collector, bounty hunter, and private investigator, a skip tracer finds people and things that have disappeared on purpose. Gomez specializes in “hard-to-locate recoveries”—she prefers cases others can’t solve. To track down the fleet of Caterpillar wheel loaders taken by the Peruvians, Gomez reached out to the estranged wife of the family’s patriarch, telling the woman that she was pregnant with her husband’s child. The ruse worked: Eventually the wife told Gomez that the heavy equipment was on its way to a construction site in South America.
For Gomez, 43, skip tracing is as much about stalking and capturing elusive prey as it is about getting paid. Today much of that hunting is done digitally, and Gomez has made an art of combing through cyberspace and finding the status updates, financial records, and location blips that virtually everyone leaves behind in the modern age. Gomez’s digital background stretches back to childhood, when her parents, both IBM engineers, insisted that the 10-year-old Michelle build a computer from scratch. “I even had to do my own soldering,” she remembers. The experience laid a foundation for the skills that have made her so good at finding people. “Profiling a subject is a lot like constructing a motherboard,” Gomez says. “You have to see connections that are invisible to other people by filling the spaces between with information.”