How One Woman Caught a Criminal the FBI Couldn't

Skip tracer Michelle Gomez finds people for a living

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 22, 2013 6:26 AM CST

(Newser) – Finding Ryan Eugene Mullen was a tall order: Neither the FBI nor three private investigators could find the man wanted for stealing $2 million from federal agencies. But when a debt collection agency called Michelle Gomez—whose job, as a skip tracer, is to track down missing items and people in hiding—she got "that booting-up buzz" at the prospect of tracking down a man who had foiled the feds and three private investigators. Wired details her pursuit of Mullen, which began when the agency called about a 53-foot yacht he had taken. Gomez found some information about a Ryan Eugene Mullen on an online forum; more inconclusive data tied to his Social Security number was on a skip-tracing site, but mostly "for aka names," Gomez says.

She realized that Mullen's trick to evade capture was his frequent creation of new online identities. A search of FBI records led to the New Orleans area, and a call to the yacht's previous owner pointed to a broker who worked with Mullen. Gomez called the broker and told him she knew about his shady deal and that he might be able to make some money if he helped track Mullen down. After the broker stopped responding to her calls, she confronted him at his own home, and he finally told her that the yacht—and Mullen—were on a Louisiana plantation. Gomez headed there, found the fugitive, and cops collected him. Click for Wired's full report.

This Feb. 3, 2012 file photo shows Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington.
This Feb. 3, 2012 file photo shows Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
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