Member Spotlight: 

Donna G. Bennett

 

 

Born in Nashville to a father who was an Army Sergeant Major and a mother who served as a school crossing guard Donna embraced the life lessons taught by her parents and learned from her brother, a retired Major (O-4). Based on these teachings Donna sought a higher purpose by becoming an FBI Special Agent. She worked Violent Crime to Public Corruption and all other criminal matters in between. A particular highlight in her career was her five-year assignment to the Central Intelligence Agency. Donna’s storied 24-year career helped her vision, plan and create DB Investigations after becoming a licensed private investigator.  Donna dedicated her life since she can remember to helping, mentoring and caring for people; a quality that serves her in every endeavor she tackles.

 

TTI:  You’re a wife and a mother of two beautiful children. How do you navigate the balance between work and family?

I tried to have it all career-wise, but in the end my family came first.   I don’t regret my decision because no matter how much you love your job, it will never love you back.   In the PI world, I control my time easier and the twins start college this Fall so I can work even more if I desire.  

TTI: What advice can you offer new Private Investigators?

In the real world, a “Title” may open a door or get you attention but making contacts, developing relationships and talking to other PIs in your area is your best strategy for success.  Don’t be a snob because you were this or that in your previous position and don’t think you know it all, because you don’t.  The local retired police officers/detectives, now PI’s, will have more contacts and knowledge in several jurisdictions, than many federal officers, so get to know and listen to the retired police officers/detectives, who are now PIs.  TALI members are a wealth of contacts and knowledge and don’t forget those awesome retired county court record employees, now PI’s who can maneuver the court record system with a blink of the eye and can be hired to assist with many of your cases.  

TTI: During the beginning of your PI career what were some of your challenges you confronted:

A challenge I encountered as a new PI was discussing rates with clients and obtaining a signed engagement letter and a retainer.  In the FBI, we were paid a salary, and I did not have to negotiate rates, but in the PI world rate discussion with the client is a must.  I encourage new PIs to obtain a signed engagement letter with your client and be specific in the engagement letter about your rates, and the required retainer to start the investigation.  Always confirm with the client, whether it is a private citizen or an attorney, the investigative goal, especially if the investigation is a complex case.   If a client gives you numerous records/documents to review, meet with the client to ensure your investigation’s focus is on the important records so you don’t waste the client’s money or your time. This is especially essential when working with clients on divorce cases where the client has limited funds.  In divorce or cheating spouse cases, I always discuss the client’s objective before I take a case.  If possible, I will provide suggestions to the client for work they can do, without hiring a PI.  If the client has limited funds, I don’t always encourage surveillance because it is costly and sometimes does not produce results.  I explain other investigative tools they can utilize to obtain their goal.  If the client still wants surveillance, then I do surveillance.  

 Goodwill will take you far in the PI business.  When I first started DB Investigations, I had to “eat” some of my time for clients because I inadvertently went over the client’s budget.    As a new PI, I got carried away in the investigation and would not enter my time until the investigation was complete.  Then when I entered my time, I discovered I surpassed the client’s budget.  I accidently went over the budget on two cases for different attorneys, and I had to “eat” the cost, however, these same attorneys continuously refer other attorneys and clients to me.  After three years of PI experience, I now can provide a client with a projected cost of an investigation and I keep up with my time as I go, so I can notify the client that we are close to their budgeted amount.  

TTI: What are some of your greatest achievements:

Having a wonderful family and two outstanding children. Solving and indicting carjacking subjects where a victim endured a gunshot wound in the face, and another victim was raped. Indicting 15 corrupt public officials in the FBI Chicago Field Office. Working with the CIA and International officials with the extradition of a Houston, TX Fugitive from Panama wanted for slave trafficking. Working with the CIA and assisting with different Middle East operations that involved United States citizens. The federal indictment of a North Texas doctor who was operating a pill mill and billing insurance companies for services not rendered.  Conducting PI defense work that assists attorneys defending innocent defendants from enduring false allegations and sometimes incarceration and assisting with Innocent Project investigations.

TTI: How has your membership with TALI helped your career:

The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators has been an excellent resource for me as a new PI.  I have met individuals through the monthly TALI meetings and the annual TALI conference who have exposed me to different open source databases, court records and retrieval, cybercrime and other PI tools and resources.   TALI members always can provide guidance on ways to obtain driver license information and other critical case information from TX as well as other states.  I have also met and made some great friends through being a member of TALI.  

TTI: You had a marvelous career with the FBI and now run a successful business. What do you enjoy doing during your time off?

When I am not working, I love to play tennis, attend my daughter’s golf and tennis tournaments, and work in my garden.   I love hanging out with my husband and enjoying life because before you know it, life passes you by.  If I had to do it all over again, I would still have chosen a life in law enforcement because I do not like bullies, I love to solve a mystery, and I am nosy!