Marketplace: Private investigator Michael Miller comes to Main Street
From when he was 8 years old, Michael Miller knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. After watching shows like “Mannix” and “Magnum, P.I.,” he was hooked. He was going to be a private investigator.
Miller, who recently opened a Park City office for his private investigation firm, has been living his dream since he figured out a way to turn his young “calling” into a legitimate career. He has run his own firm in California since 1995.
His firm, MILLERGROUP Intelligence Inc., specializes in investigating stalkers of public figures as well as applicants of reality TV programs, such as “Shark Tank” and “Project Runway.” Although most of his clients are still based in Los Angeles, he wanted to come to Utah for a change of scenery and the opportunity to tap into a new market.
Miller said he is still trying to understand how to best serve the Park City population. Since there are some wealthy homeowners and public figures in the area, he is hoping to keep using his specialty while adding new elements — perhaps investigating cheating spouses, missing persons or subpoenaed individuals. He got his start in the field after graduating from California State University, Sacramento in criminal justice. Miller returned to his home in New York to work as a fraud investigator for welfare fraud. There, he met a private investigator for the first time and learned the trade.
“It wasn’t what I thought the PI business was all cracked up to be,” he said. “All I did was follow people who claimed to be injured. … I was like, ‘This is not what those TV shows are about at all.’”
After a year, he left for the other coast and planned to leave his dream behind. But, he said he was soon hired as an outside investigator by Gavin de Becker, who founded a major protection firm for public figures, Gavin de Becker and Associates.
Miller said he jumped on the opportunity to take a case involving a woman claiming to be the wife of Michael Jackson.
“It brought the dream back to reality,” he said.
He was hired as the firm’s senior investigator until deciding to open his own firm in 1995, he said.
During his years in California, he had one of the craziest experiences in his career. He said a stalker stole the identity of a celebrity living in Malibu, taking their mail and eventually sending Miller and his team on a wild goose chase that involved fake pipe bombs, a poisoned dog and a suicide.
“Typically, it’s not a dangerous job if you do it right,” he said.
Usually the job involves a lot of watching and following, but every now and then there are moments when Miller said he feels like he is in one of the movies he watched as a kid.
What keeps him in the job is not the thrill though; it is the knowledge that he is able to help people. Since many of the stalkers he is investigating are mentally ill, the threat of injury or even death to the public figures they are stalking can get high.
“When people are scared and need peace of mind and you can provide that peace of mind, that is pretty much as good as it gets,” he said.
Miller hopes to bring that high level of security to Park City, since he said that there are few existing firms that serve the area. But, he is also excited to be located by the slopes he used to escape to on vacation.
Although he still manages employees who work in Los Angeles, he also wants to grow business in Park City and perhaps hire employees here down the road. He wants to be a mentor for those chasing their dreams of private investigative work, and show them the realities of a sometimes-dangerous, always-rewarding career.
Milller received his California P.I. license in 1991 and received his Utah P.I. license in September.
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