BALDWIN, N.Y. (CBS 2) — When people think of private investigators, they probably imagine a mysterious person in a trenchcoat, lurking in the shadows, and that person is usually a man.
Sometimes, though, it’s the person you’d least expect. CBS 2’s Chris Wragge recently met two Long Island women who look like soccer moms, but act more like Sherlock Holmes.
“People have gut instincts,” Joanne Brass said. “If you have a feeling, you have to go with your feeling.”
“You suspect they’re involved in something,” Maryellen Schook added. “I think women are more in-tune to that feeling. I don’t think men look for it as much as women do.”
Sisters Brass and Schook trust their gut for a living. In fact, it’s the family business. They own and operate Brass Private Investigations.
“We’re nosey people – you have to be nosy to do this for a living,” Brass said. “I’m the last person they’re going to expect. Who expects me on the back of a motorcycle videotaping them?”
For more than 20 years, Brass has worked to expose fraud. She got her start investigating cases for her late husband, who was also a private investigator.
“He kept saying to me, ‘you know, you need to get your P.I. license. There are no female private investigators out there,’” Brass said.
Schook worked as a bank fraud investigator before joining her sister’s firm. Together, they catch cheaters and solve cases with a woman’s touch.
“The gut – knowing that there’s something more there, there’s just a little bit more, and if I get that piece, we can get this person,” Schook said.
Super-sleuth Brass is the face of the firm. The 52-year-old is the one who hits the streets knocking on doors and following up leads.
She’ll go to any length to get the information her clients need.
“If you Google search a property, and it’s on the water, and you want to see what’s going on, you’re going by boat,” Brass said.
Schook, 47, is the tech expert. She works behind the scenes, combing databases and hiding cameras where you’d least expect.
“There’s a pinhole camera, very tiny – this is my favorite keychain,” Schook said.
Schook demonstrated how using the keychain camera makes it easy to observe and follow a subject in broad daylight.
“The ease and the clarity of it, nobody would ever expect,” Schook said. “You’re holding your keys.”
The duo cracks many cases by computer, but other cases are more typical affairs of the heart.
“Matrimonial cases – they suspect that their husband or wife is cheating on them,” Schook said.
One man wanted a female investigator to confirm his suspicions about his wife.
“It was hiring a woman to look after a woman,” the client, who asked to not be identified, said. “A hard-bitten ex-cop, male, probably doesn’t think like a suburban housewife.”
“He said, ‘I want you because you think like a woman, and I suspect something is going on with my wife,’” Brass said.
Brass tailed the man’s wife to uncover the truth.
“It was pictures, it was documentation, it was receipts,” the man said. “I was absolutely devastated.”
Being that nosey can sometimes get the sisters into some tricky situations.
“If it’s my time, then it’s my time – that’s the way I look at it,” Schook said. “You’re always thinking of what your ‘out’ is if you’re in that situation, if your back is against the wall.”
Brass credits her late husband and mentor for teaching her street smarts.
“I will kick it to my death to keep this going because of what he gave me,” Brass said. “He gave me the opportunity, he taught me what I know, and I know he’d be very proud.”
The P.I. moms say just about everyone in their families has helped out with their investigations.