Complex Case Management
An Introduction to CaseMap
By: Bill E. Branscum
Copyright 2006

My original title for this article was, "CaseMap, Nothing but the Same Old Thing," but after some reflection, I thought my point could be missed by those who might read nothing further as they are not interested in, "the same old thing." That would be unfortunate so, for the moment, let's just say that those of you "old school" Investigators, with experience handling very complex cases involving voluminous documents, and overwhelming information management issues, will appreciate CaseMap as a way to do what you have always done, but far more efficiently.

Although CSI fans may find this difficult to believe, Investigators are not the most "open minded" individuals, and it can be very difficult to persuade them to embrace new technology. For example, if you look at almost any law enforcement organization, you will find some Investigators armed with the latest polymer semi-automatic, hi-capacity handguns, while many of their veteran counterparts continue to carry snub nose revolvers, or semi-automatic pistols designed in 1911.

I am sure that some of you remember when the first PC's showed up at your offices, and the hullabaloo that created amongst those who were perfectly happy banging out reports on the venerable IBM Selectric II. I believe the entire transition would have gone far more smoothly and painlessly had those responsible laid an, "It's basically the same thing," foundation before touting all the technological advances; hence, my approach to CaseMap.

I also choose this approach because presenting CaseMap as "the same old thing" allows me to review the "old school" methods that many Investigators who have not had the benefit of that sort of training and/or experience may not be familiar with. Beginning with the basics, and fundamentals, seems to me to be a very good place to start.

Before we begin, I think you should ask yourself, "Do you like puzzles; can you sit at a table all day organizing puzzle pieces, and working out where they fit?" "Do you like fishing; can you sit quietly watching a cork float for hours, or launch cast, after cast, after cast in anticipation of the moment when something happens?" "Do you like to read; can you get immersed in what you're reading and remember what you've read? Are you diligent, methodical, organized and patient?"

In a way, albeit a very small way, working complex cases is a lot like surveillance, or underwater basket weaving - some people are well suited for this kind of work, and some people are not. The truth is, if you aspire to be Magnum PI, Jim Rockford, or one of Charlie's Angels, your grandmother may be a lot better suited to complex case work than you are.

Granny, or your sister the Librarian, would also be able to make more money in a few months than most of the TV investigator wannabes make in a year. Real money is there to be made in the investigation of complex cases because real money is usually at stake, and the likelihood that you will be hired to work these cases is directly related to the extent to which you can provide a service that your potential Client needs.

The facts are what they are, the evidence is what it is; having command of the information is the closest it is possible to become to having command of the case.

In some cases, documents may arrive in cardboard banker's boxes which, utilitarian though they may be, invariably wind up tattered and torn. I prefer to repackage them in plastic file boxes, with the most important docs filed in lockable, secure storage.

No matter how your documents are acquired, the question is, how do you manage them -- what do you do? For those looking for an easy way, some technological marvel that will do your investigative work for you, you're out of luck.

There is no "free lunch," let's bust that bubble at the outset - whether your approach is old school, or hi-tech, you must go thru them all, document by document, page by page.

Whether you are assigned to a case from it's inception, or brought into a case just prior to trial, at some point early on in your involvement, documents begin to arrive. Sometimes voluminous, often fairly well organized, but seldom complete, the first batch of documents is often produced by the Client - unless you have been brought in after the case is well underway. In that case, the documents you first encounter may be some sort of discovery submission. From the first information you are provided, thru the last minute provision of late-breaking discovery, the case investigator must read thru, process, and organize it all.

Now, I can almost hear someone saying, "I ain't interested in learning to do no paralegal's job! This stuff is the lawyer's problem." To those Neanderthal nitwit few, I can only say.

1. Paralegals are the unsung heroes of this business, and many of them make more money than you do; and

2. A first rate Paralegal makes more money than you do, largely because they are worth significantly more money than you are; and

3. It would be a lot easier to train a competent Paralegal, or a Librarian, to investigate complex financial cases than it would be to make any headway with you - don't go away mad.

For those of you who are interested in the investigation of complex cases, let's move on.

Let us suppose for a moment that it is 1955, General Motors has just produced a car that will be the rage of automotive enthusiasts for generations to come, and Mrs. Gates has just given birth to William, having no idea that "Billy Boy" is going to change the world, and own a big part of it. There is no such thing as a personal computer, appointments are not tracked on personal digital assistants, there is no Internet, but you, as the professional investigator of the day, still have; organized crime, international espionage, convoluted criminal conspiracies, the voluminous piles of paperwork seized pursuant to search warrants, and so forth to deal with.

As you might imagine, the task could be overwhelming, especially if improperly approached, but look at the bright side - the photocopier has been commercially available for about five years.

Information overload can be overwhelming, but by way of illustration, think about another overwhelming mess that we ar all too familiar with - the arduous task of cleaning out a cluttered garage. You know the type, one of those things that hasn't had a car in it for about ten years because it has become the dumping spot for every bit of family "stuff" that didn't belong somewhere else. Nothing else comes to mind that so closely parallels the Investigator's job in trying to find, sort, organize and evaluate overwhelming amounts of information.

Sure, you can get out in it, stumble around, and move stuff from here to there and back again (which is precisely the way information is often handled), but the best way to tackle this task is to take everything out, sort thru it piece-by-piece, clean everything up that you are going to keep, stow it in its proper place, and dispose of the rest. Once you have cleaned out a few hundred of these garages, you'll shake your head at the fool who thinks the job can be done any other way.

Otherwise, you will be forever saying, "I know I saw that somewhere in here."

You handle overwhelming amounts of information precisely the same way. In 1955, you would have used the ubiquitous index card to sort and organize your information. To put this in familiar perspective, let's say that your investigative assignment was to analyze the Bible, find all relevant information therein, sort it and organize it. In other words, for those familiar with the Bible, you need to produce a Concordance. For those who may not be familiar with that term, a Concordance is an alphabetical index of everything in the Bible.

While this may seem an impossible task, the first published Concordance was in the year 1470 AD; obviously, they managed it without a computer.

Aside from being familiar, there is another utility to this example - it should make the method intuitively obvious. Specifically, it would make no sense to start by making a file card named Moses, and then reading thru the Bible, dutifully recording each and every reference to Moses, and then making a card for Abraham, and re-reading the Book. Common sense should dictate that you would begin on page one, and read each page carefully, generating file cards for each subject as you go. That way, you are only required to read the entire Book one time.

A competent Investigator processes case information the same way.

As was the case with a Concordance, our system must be relational, in that it will provide us with information as to the who, what, when, where, why and how, but it must also be referential, which is to say that it must also allow us to refer back to the source of the information. A phone book, for example, is relational in that it tells us who lives where and with what phone number, but it is not referential in that it does not tell us where the information comes from - and there is no need since it all comes from one source.

To be referential, our system must provide a way to uniquely identify our source documents. This requirement was ordinarily met by means of a Bates Stamp device that automatically indexes to the next number with each stamp of the device, automatically inking the stamp too. Numeric adjustments were accomplished by means of a wooden (or plastic) stylus that would not damage the stamp.
Once a page was stamped for identification, it could be examined for relevant information. The information was then entered onto the relevant card and placed in the associated box. The boxes were typically segregated as to: Alpha - Persons/Corps, Numerics (such as addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts), Undeveloped Leads, Chronological Events, and a Document Index.
All case related Persons were entered into the appropriate file box, and a savvy Investigator soon found that it was wise to add Persons of general interest to a free standing Rolodex or Contact Book as well. For example, a witness might be relevant only to the instant case, but an expert witness might be useful in other cases as well.

Again, the most significant aspect to this system was referential. Whether you do your analysis by hand using index cards, or a specialized program like CaseMap, the objective is to thoroughly glean all relevant information, and do it in a referential way that allows you to return to the underlying document that provided the information.

No more, "I think I saw . . ., now where did it say that?"

For example, using the index card system, suppose our first stack of documents are bank statements for account number 1234567 at First National Bank/Miami, belonging to Jane Q. Blow. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk . . . using our Bates Stamp device, we number those bank statements 00001 thru 00359. Once they are all numbered, we review them page-by-page. The very first page provides:

Name of Subject to be Jane Quinn Blow - so we create an Alpha Person card

Address of JQB is 13425 Anystreet, Anywhere USA - so we create a Numeric card for the address

Phone Number of JQB is (555) 987-6543 - so we create a Numeric card for the phone number

On January 23, 2000, check #245 in the amount of $1545, made payable to Jane Q. Blow was debited from JQB's account number 1234567 at First National Bank/Miami.- so we create a Chronology card

Yes, this is a tedious, time consuming process, but there is no other way to master the information in a case file, and your diligence will be rewarded in the end. When you encounter a phone number, you will immediately recognize it if you ever saw it before. When a corporate entity's filings reflect an address you have seen before, you can identify it.

Each financial transaction, each phone call, each public record . . . everything, gets a chronological index card - by the time we are done, we have every event that we can identify documented on an individual card, and sorted in chronological order. With each event, all we need do is pull the card to see which piece of evidence we would need to refer back to in order to support our statement.

At the same time, we created subject cards for every person, organization, vehicle, etc., that we encountered along the way and each time we found something else related to these subjects in the records as we examined them, it was duly noted on their card, along with the reference number, so we know where we got the information.

Now, I can just see the modern day Thomas Magnum wannabe, with his photo capable cell phone, Blackberry, blue tooth ear piece, 3 Ghz Lap Top . . . not to mention that brand new, evil looking 9mm Glock he's just dying to wear out in public, laughing at the thought of grown men pouring over index cards in an effort to put cases together and crush crime.

In my humble opinion, all the hi-tech glitz and glitter in the world will never replace dedication and diligence. Just as the Texas Ranger of the 1860's armed with Colt's Single Action Army, or a Federal Agent of the 1960's relying upon Colt's 1911 handgun technology, could be every bit as effective as our hot shot hero with a Glock, yesterday's investigators could still put together a perfectly good case using index cards today.

Things that once worked well don't quit working just because there is a newer way.

Suppose Jane Blow testified that she and your Client traveled to his Malibu condo where they spent the next to last weekend in January celebrating her birthday, and further testified that, during that weekend, he admitted that he and her former boyfriend had visited Tijuana, MX the prior weekend, where they picked up some cocaine and child pornography. Being a federal criminal case (often referred to as trial by ambush), the first time you heard this allegation was as you sat at Counsel's table at trial.

How useful would it be to be able to identify the relevant dates as the 22nd and 23rd of January, review your files, and discover that her personal check cleared that weekend at FNB Miami, and an examination of the check confirms that she was physically present, as evidenced by her handwritten drivers license number and thumbprint, when she cashed her check.

These days, with all our modern technology, that won't be all you would expect to find. You can bet that her cell phone records will show that she was making and receiving calls in her home area, rather than roaming in Malibu, and her credit card records will show her buying gas, and dining at restaurants in Miami. Yet none of it will do you any good whatsoever if you have not done the work necessary to know what you can prove, and how you can prove it.

You simply cannot believe the inconsistencies that go unchallenged at trial because nobody had the command of the information that they should have had in preparation.

Whether you are dealing with file boxes stuffed with documents, or a 500 GB Lacie drive packed with half a Terabyte of information that a team of investigators could not completely review in a year, it is best to approach the job in a disciplined organized fashion.

In dealing with the tax scams promoted by Edward Bartolli and Michael Vallone, such as the Aegis, Heritage America and Athens Trust cases, as well as the Commonwealth Trust scam perpetrated by John Crim, Wayne Rebuck and John Brownlee, we are genuinely dealing with something in excess of ten million pages of information - picture 4000 cardboard file boxes creating a line a mile long if set end to end.


Now, we have CaseMap, and it is to the index card system as the new Porsche is to the Model A, a comparison I chose for a reason. But for all it's technological advancement, the Porsche does the exact same job, the exact same way, as the Model A did. If you understand the concept behind the index card system, you should find CaseMap to be intuitively easy to use.

Here are some examples of work-product that I produced with the assistance of the Lexis CaseMap program, and the associated TimeMap utility.

Declaration: Bill E. Branscum, Investigator

$818,000 International Senatorial Committee Scam - Graphic Cash Flow Analysis

$168,000 Fraud on Vance Cheek - Graphic Cash Flow Analysis

$100,000 Fraud on Kenneth Aranoff - Graphic Cash Flow Analysis

$61,000 Fraud on Vance Cheek - Graphic Cash Flow Analysis

$25,000 Fraud on Larry Farmer - Graphic Cash Flow Analysis

Although many of you know me personally, I should probably mention that I have no financial interest in, CaseMap, TimeMap, Adobe Acrobat, or any of the other software that I rely upon, and use on a daily basis. If this particular article was useful to you in developing your business, the effort was well worth my time.

Oracle International
Bill E. Branscum, Investigator
(239) 304-1639


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© Copyright 2002 - Bill E. Branscum. All Rights Reserved.