Sam Nassrouie took a call from a distraught mother. They're always distraught. Her daughter was in love and was planning to get married. But the mother was suspicious. The groom was from Germany, where he claimed he was a big-shot investor developing hotels.
Nassrouie knew the type. He's a Persian private eye. He agreed to take the case. Using a contact in Germany, he tracked down the suitor, whose story unraveled."I found out this guy is married with kids," Nassrouie says. "He's also getting governmental aid — he's on welfare." The girl sobbed when her mother broke the news. "She was very upset, very emotional," Nassrouie says. "But this is the thing — now you know who you're dealing with."
The marriage was off. Case closed.
Nassrouie, 60, has been snooping around L.A.'s Persian community for 13 years. He follows cheating spouses and hunts down hidden assets. A lot of business comes from protective parents who want to know more about who their kids are dating.
"In the Persian community, families are very close," Nassrouie says. "If the relationship is getting serious, they need to know confidential information, like criminal background. They want to know if this person is the one he claims to be."
Nassrouie has a muscular frame, dark hair and a taste for adventure. The job takes him into some tough neighborhoods. One late night, he was tailing a cheating husband down a narrow street in Compton. The man spotted him, got out of his car and started cursing aggressively. Nassrouie sped away.
Sometimes, if the client pays well enough, Nassrouie travels to Iran. He may be asked to learn if a suitor has a family there, or, in the case of divorce, if a spouse is hiding assets there. But surveillance on Tehran's crowded streets can be difficult. "There are a lot of curious, nosy people who want to know what you're doing," Nassrouie says. And, "Following people is very difficult. It's not possible by car. You have to use a motorcycle."
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Nassrouie grew up in Tehran and served four years in the military under the shah. After the revolution turned everything upside down, he came to Los Angeles and worked repossessing cars. That gave him experience tracking people, which led to his P.I. license. He's one of only a couple investigators who specialize in the Persian community, so there's more than enough trouble to keep him busy.
In one case, a defense lawyer represented a Persian client who had dated a woman only a few times when she ran screaming from his apartment one night, accusing him of rape. He was arrested. Nassrouie trailed the woman to bars, learning that her visa had expired and she was offering $20,000 to marry a U.S. citizen. He took her picture to passport photo shops along Westwood Boulevard, finding an owner who said that six months earlier the woman had spoken of obtaining a "victim visa" so she could stay here if she were the victim of a crime, such as rape. Busted.
With that, the lawyer got the charge reduced to a misdemeanor with no jail time. "It was a golden piece of evidence," Nassrouie says. "It's very rewarding when you solve a case."