Undercover Down Under
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes silence really is golden.
By Jeffrey Mcgee
So there I was.
Up against the side of a car at 3 a.m. being patted down by two enormous Maori bodyguards before being thrown into the back of a drug kingpin’s car. I had no gun and no idea what was happening. I was supposed to be a private investigator. I was about to become fertilizer.
Who, what, where, how? It’s a long story.
In 1998, after 11 years in the infantry, I needed a break. It was all I had done from the age of 17. I’d never had a civilian job, so I figured I would be a bodyguard.
I’m not a big guy. I’m what you call a middleweight: just under 6 feet and about 190, 200 pounds. But I hit hard, and after 20 years of rugby, I could manhandle most guys much bigger than I am. I thought I would be perfect for the job.
The next thing I knew two massive guys had grabbed me and were dragging me out of the depot and toward a black car.
After my discharge, I found a reputable trainer with experience guarding Michael Jackson and Mötley Crüe and went to his training center in Sydney.
After spending thousands of dollars and about two months on three different courses, I was qualified in everything from advanced security driving to planning and logistics.
I was ready for employment. One problem, though: I wasn’t big enough or intimidating enough and I didn’t have a black belt in martial arts. Basically, there were other guys in line who were more qualified.
My trainer threw me a lifeline when he said that I would make a great private investigator if I was interested in the job. It paid $300 a day.
My fiancée was pregnant. I needed that job, so I took it.
I had grown up watching Magnum P.I., so the idea of working as Tom Selleck was a very cool Plan B. The guns, the girls, the fast cars.
The job was in western Sydney at a Wards Transport depot. Wards Transport is a parcel delivery company in Australia, similar to UPS in the States, that delivers high-value goods across the country. At this particular depot, goods were being stolen at an alarming rate, especially cellphones and laptops.
My job was to go undercover as a worker sorting packages and figure out who the thief was.
I know. Not very Magnum P.I.
I asked if I’d be armed. I felt like I needed a gun. In my head a PI carried a gun. Just in case.
But my boss told me that most of the time I’d be unarmed and rely instead on my communication skills. As an infantryman, though, I knew sometimes words failed.
My shift started at midnight and went until 4 a.m. Drivers would drop their packages onto the conveyor belt, and then a team of handlers and I would sort the packages. Another driver would load them up and head out.
The packages were scanned on pickup and a sensor bar on the conveyor belt read them the moment they hit the ramp on drop-off. It was a tight system.
But still, packages were missing.
So I did what investigators do. I started asking around and making friends with my co-workers. Within a week I had learned it was pretty much common knowledge that the delivery drivers were the thieves.
They would scan the parcels on pickup. Then they would bring the parcels to the depot and run them under the scanner on the conveyor belt. Then they would put packages back on their vans. They did this so slickly that no one noticed. The system recognized the scan at the depot, so management assumed the package must have been stolen from within the depot itself by a handler.
I solved the case in less than two weeks. I thought I was a genius.
I met with my boss, who also ran security for the depot, and showed him on the depot’s security cameras who was stealing and exactly how they were doing it. But he wasn’t as happy as I thought he would be.
Even though I was being paid $300 a day, he was being paid a lot more for having me there. So he wanted the job to take longer. The longer, the better.
So he gave me another job within the depot. He told me that the owners knew people were smoking marijuana during break time, which is illegal in Australia. The owners wanted to know who was doing it and which employees, if any, were selling it.
So I asked around.
The next thing I knew two massive guys had grabbed me and started dragging me out of the depot and toward a black car. They were high on meth. I had zero chance of escaping. They threw me into the back seat, sat on either side of me, and told me to shut up and listen.
A Chinese guy in the front passenger seat turned around and asked me why I had been asking about marijuana. I told him I wanted some to smoke with my buddies. He then opened a briefcase. Inside was every drug you can imagine. A brick of cocaine. Heroin. Ecstasy. Meth. Weed.
He said if I wanted drugs I should see him, and no one else. I told him I would, but that I had no money on me and I was afraid. They let me out of the car.
I went to the depot, grabbed my bag and ran.
When I got down the road, I called my boss and told him what had happened, that I had barely escaped with my life and I was not going back.
The next day, he called me and said that the drug squad had raided the depot. It was the biggest drug-dealing hub in Sydney and run by the 5T heroin gang in China.
The depot had been under surveillance for over a year.
If I had been armed I would never have made it out of that car. I still consider myself lucky to be alive.
Fuck Magnum P.I.
- Jeffrey Mcgee, OZY Author Contact Jeffrey Mcgee