Meet Mollie Carman, a normal, 40-something woman living in a quiet southeast Boise neighborhood. She shares her life with one cat, two pug dogs, four kids and one husband, Bill. Nothing suspicious about that, you say? Did we mention that she also follows people, stakes out strangers' homes and rifles through garbage cans looking for people's secrets? Yes, she's a gumshoe. A sleuth. A spy mom.
Carman is one-half of Hanady Investigations, a Boise private investigation agency operated by two middle-age moms who have an appetite for adventure and a nose for truth, justice and the American Way. In between tailing people and conducting surveillance, Carman made time to talk with BW about what a nice girl like her is doing spying on others.
How did you and your partner get involved in the Private Investigation business?
Valerie Agosta started company eight years ago when she was battling breast cancer and her sister was also battling breast cancer. Val started the company because it was her dream. She loved Nancy Drew and solving mysteries, and she didn't want to be defined by her cancer. She wanted to live out her dreams. So instead of being roped in and held down by breast cancer she had the gumption to get out there and make her dream a reality.
How did you and Val meet?
I had read about Valerie and her sister in Good Housekeeping magazine, and what caught my eye was that they were in Boise, and it was like, "Get out! That is so cool!" So I thought I'd try to find her. I have four kids and I'm very tuned into people and love to help people and I needed to supplement my income, so I told my family, "this is what I'm going to do. I would be so good at that." It was about six years ago.
Well I tried to find her but I couldn't, and so I just put it aside. Then about three or four months later, I see this ad—I think it was in the Boise Weekly—about Death by Murder interactive mystery theatre, and how they needed actors. And I thought, "I'm, going to go do that." ... So I go to the audition and I'm sitting next to this woman and we're talking, and ... I asked her what she did, and she said, "I'm a P.I." and I said "Are you kidding! I read about you in Good Housekeeping. Are you the one?" And she said "yes," and I freaked out. She told me that the Today Show was coming out to interview her, but her sister who also had cancer didn't want to do the interview, so Val's like, "I need someone to be the other mom. Do you think you could do it?" And I said, "Heck yeah. But wait a minute, I'm not a P.I., so what would I say ... will you just coach me through it?" And she said, "No, just come to work for me and you'll learn it."
What makes you two different than other private eyes?
I have respect for most other P.I.s in Boise. They are really good. Most are men, and most fit the idea of what you think a P.I. is, so if you saw them in a crowded room you'd say, "Oh there's a P.I." What makes us different is we're two middle-aged women, and we're moms, and we're invisible. I always say we put on an invisibility cloak—our momness makes us unique. We don't have to put on disguises.
Do you ever feel like you're lying?
Well, of course we lie, but we lie for the greater good (laughs). We don't lie for evil, we lie for good. Especially for custody cases—we mostly do custody cases, and I will lie any time, day or night to help a child and I will not be sorry for it. I don't apologize for that. Besides, its not lying, it's pretexting.
Pretexting is just a way to not feel guilty about lying. It's a P.I. term (laughs).
What do your kids think about all this?
My kids love it! I don't lie to my kids. And my kids don't lie either—they omit, but they don't lie. They're great kids and we have a very open and honest relationship. You know, honesty and integrity are everything to me. Everything. That's the legacy I'm going to leave behind, how I lived my life. In my life, and in Val's life, we don't lie to our families, or loved ones or friends. People ask that question all the time, you know, "How do you feel about lying?" and what we're really doing is gathering information, and just kind of changing who we are and faking people out, but I wouldn't call that an out-and-out lie.
Do your kids ever think you're investigating them?
My kids know that I can find out things ... I'm kind of psychic in a way and I'm usually very in tune with the kids, I know what they're doing. If I don't know right when it's happening they always tell me anyway. They're not afraid because they don't have anything to hide.
Is there an investigator school that you go to learn this stuff?
Valerie was trained by an insurance company. She did insurance fraud investigation in another state, and she was licensed, when they had licensing in Idaho. I was trained under Val. The problem is that there is no longer licensing in Idaho. It's a real problem, because anyone can hang up a shingle and say they're an investigator. That opens the door to a lack of integrity. What Val and I are trying to bring to the table are integrity and honesty. We're all about helping people and especially helping children, and I swear to you, that's my whole mission in life is to help children, get in there and get these courts to where they care about kids.
How many custody cases are you handling right now?
I have four custody cases now, which doesn't seem like a lot, but they're very involved. There is a lot of work, a lot of surveillance, testifying and gathering information. We work for a lot of grandparents. We also have an infidelity case right now. All these cases are long and drawn out, so you have to be careful how many you take at one time.
Do you work nationwide?
We do work nationwide and will go wherever we need to go, but that gets really crazy, so we mostly stay in state. We'll have out-of-state clients who need us to do work within Idaho. We'll also refer out work if we can't do it ourselves. We're all about helping the client. Money is not our motivation.
Let's talk trash—do you go through people's garbage?
Yes, I love trash! We do trash snatches, and yes, we wear gloves. Trash snatches are a great way to gather information—love notes, addresses, return addresses. We've found a love note from a married man to his lover which was priceless! We find schedules, names of daycare centers where kids are going to be. A lot of moms are trying to retake custody, especially meth addicts, and they'll pull their kids out of daycare centers left and right and not pay the bill and not tell the dad where they have the kids, so it's a way to find where the kids are, by finding these little pieces of paper. They're puzzle pieces. Trash is a goldmine.
What about other garbage, like what people eat and drink?
No, we don't care about that stuff. The only time we can use that is when we are trying to establish a pattern of where they go if we want to follow them. One man would always go to Asiago's all the time and the receipt would show the time of day, so that would give us a pattern of where he's going. It was a custody case, and he was claiming that he had no money and he couldn't pay child support, and I found his checking balance on a banking receipt in the trash and he had $57,000 in his checking account, and he was saying he had no money for child support. So, stupid!
Do you carry weapons?
We don't believe in guns, because we're afraid we'll shoot ourselves or someone innocent (laughs). So, I got a stun baton because I don't want to be right next to the person, I want to just reach over and stun them (extends the stun baton and turns it on). This is like 400,000 volts. That can drop a person. So, I feel pretty safe with this. It looks just like a little umbrella and you can keep it in your bag. And Val has a little stun gun that you have to touch to the person. We've never had to use them, but we've had to show them. We try to stay away from dopers and dangerous situations so we really don't put ourselves in harm's way, but you never know.
What's the weirdest case you've been on?
There are so many weird ones. We didn't take this case, but one woman came to us because she thought that everyone that was employed at a particular local company were witches.
Have you ever had to dress up in disguise?
No, not really. We'll put on a hat, and we've worn glasses, or we'll pull our hair back. Val's worn a wig before. She had to go into a store that she goes into frequently and she had to get pictures of this guy, and she wore a wig in case she had to go back in there.
Do you ever follow people?
All the time.
Do they ever catch you following them?
Yes, once I had someone double back on me and unfortunately I was in a dead end. I had to be creative so they wouldn't look at my (license) plates. Now my plates don't link back to me. They link to a P.O. Box.
What was your most fun case?
We love what we do so they're all fun. Probably cheaters. I could follow a cheater all day long.
You've done interviews on the Today Show and MSNBC—how did you make national news?
There is a lot of interest. Investigative work is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. We are also associated with Vocation Vacations, where people can choose a vocation and sort of test it out. One of the vocations is private investigations, so they come out and spend a couple days with us. We've had people from Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida come out and actually do the job with us, so that gets some press.
What's the longest you've ever done surveillance?
We've done it all night long. We try to avoid it. We try to do as much research and as little surveillance as possible. Because I'm not gonna lie, surveillance is boring. It's waiting and waiting for something to happen. But, I have to say, when that something happens, it's a rush.
Tell me about Val?
Val is in her third bout of metastasizing breast cancer and I guess the thing that I want to do is to solicit prayers from people. Val has an incredible faith in God and prayer, and I'm kind of a prayer-monger. I would just ask that everyone pray for her, because she's the other Spy Mom, and my best friend.
Is Val still working?
She still works. She does research now and we meet to go over cases. But she's our founder and the heart of it, and she's just my motivation.
Can you talk about her illness?
Val has had two mastectomies. She had breast cancer, and then it came back four years later, and she had another separate breast cancer in the remaining breast and had a total mastectomy. So, no breasts. Then three years later in the very little, teeny, tiny, baby bit of breast tissue that was left she got it again, and it spread to her liver, lungs, bones. She was diagnosed in May ... She is such a great person. She gave me this opportunity and together, we kick ass.We love what we do. We love helping people. We love the sleuthing and the whole P.I. persona, the whole Nancy Drew thing. We love finding the truth and completing the puzzle. Love, love, love it.
What's your secret to making it all work?
Bill and I have four amazing kids—I love my kids so much—and Bill is always here for me. He's here every day for his family. That's the thing, we show up every day for our family, because we chose to have our kids. And Val and her husband show up for their kids. And that's what makes us unique. Val and I both have long, happy marriages and successful, happy kids. And people always ask us, "Oh are you doing this work because you've been through it before, has your husband cheated on you? Is that why you want to do this?" No, we just want people to have what we have. Everybody deserves to have a good, solid life. But you also have to choose it, and too many people aren't doing that.