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The University of Texas at San Antonio Online Magazine

Just Reality, Not Reality TV

SCOTT FULMER ’98



Scott Fulmer is a private investigator, and he wants you to know one thing: It’s not like TV.

It’s not like TV. "It’s exciting, but I don’t drive a Ferrari, I don’t look like Thomas Magnum and I don’t get beat up like Jim Rockford did," said Fulmer, seated in his office in a garage apartment at his San Antonio home.

Fulmer, 47, worked for several agencies and businesses as a private eye before starting his own firm, Scott B. Fulmer Investigations, in San Antonio in 2006.

"I do a little bit of everything," said Fulmer, who earned a B.A. in criminal justice. "It’s important in this business to have a niche. My niche is covert video surveillance. Workers’ comp fraud, insurance liability. If you know how to do surveillance it doesn’t really matter if it’s workers’ comp or domestic. It’s kind of the same thing. I do child custody cases, divorce, infidelity."

Regarding the latter, he said, "it’s not like the show on Fox, Cheaters," where the client tags along, leading to sensational, made-for-TV confrontations. "That’s unethical. It’s not like that at all."

Fulmer reels off some of the typical cases he’s been involved in.

There was the workers’ comp case where a woman was claiming a back injury. Fulmer went through her trash, found evidence she was going to Fiesta Texas, followed her there and did video surveillance. "The best video was her on one of the roller coasters. No back problem here."

There was the custody case where, Fulmer said, he needed a flow chart to keep track of who was who. "The grandmother/mother wanted custody of her son’s child from a girlfriend, a one-night stand. These things can get really, really crazy."

There was the Border Patrol agent found to be helping illegal immigrants into the U.S., and the Drug Enforcement Administration officer who absconded "with a ton of drug money."

There was the stripper who had been slightly injured in an auto accident with an 18-wheeler and wanted $1 million to settle. Fulmer videotaped her at her place of employment. "She was making moves that most healthy people couldn’t do, much less someone who had been involved in an automobile accident."

Regarding surveillance, Fulmer said, again, it’s not like television.

It can be extremely boring, with many hours of waiting for the right break. And "no one ever seems to sweat on surveillance on TV. … It’s not rocket science, it’s not splitting the atom, but there are nuances. I tell people when I hire them that we could train a monkey to hold a camera, but that’s not going to help us."

Fulmer, a San Antonio native, said he was inspired to be a private eye when, as a boy, he read the true story Jay J. Armes, Investigator: The World’s Most Successful Private Eye.

"He led a very exciting life," Fulmer said. "He had his hands blown off by dynamite when he was a kid, so he has hooks. His name is Armes and he has hooks. He intrigued me, and ever since then I wanted to be a private investigator."

After graduating from Marshall High School, Fulmer served a year as a Mormon missionary, then joined the Army, first with the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., then later with the 2nd Armored Division out of Fort Hood, Texas.

In 1990–91, the Army "invited me to go to the Gulf War. How could I say no?" he said, laughing.

When he left the military he enrolled at San Antonio College, then transferred to UTSA his junior year to gain the academic background needed to enhance his future career as a private eye.

As he talks about his work, it’s clear Fulmer enjoys the chase, the cat-and-mouse, the challenge of just discovering a bit of hidden truth.

"I’m a licensed private investigator, licensed by the state of Texas," he said. "But I don’t arrest people. I could carry a gun but I don’t. Private investigators in reality don’t have a lot more authority than just your regular citizen. But we’re aware of how to find information."

And, best of all, it’s not like TV.

—Joe Michael Feist

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