J.T. Mullen Private Detective Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Private Detective
J.T. Mullen Private Detective Website Background Image
J. T. Mullen Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Website Background Image
J. T. Mullen Website Background Image
J.T. Mullen Website Background Image


Article about J. T. Mullen in the Miami Herald

Legendary Gumshoe Relocates from Manhattan to Pursue Cheaters, Liars and the Absolute Truth

Miami Herald

It's a stale rum Miami afternoon, malevolent as malaria, when suddenly the phone jangles like a startled rattlesnake.

"Hey, Joe Mullen here," says the caller, syllables dripping Bronx Irish like hot wax. "I'm just sittin' around, cleanin' my gun. That's private detective humor. Ha! Hey, I got a call from New York, and I'm lookin' for Castro's granddaughter. No Excuses Jeans wants to talk to her, and...

J.T. Mullen is on the case in Miami.

The $200 an hour private eye from New York -- the guy who tailed Ivana Trump for The Donald, the one who author Bryan Burrough called "The Love Dick" (a nickname Mullen hates) in his 1992 corporate skulduggery work called Vendetta, the one guarding Macaulay Culkin's mama -- has just put up his shingle out on Key Biscayne.

This detective does, in fact, keep a piece close by -- a loaded Rossi .38 revolver, which he hides in a hollowed out book on industrial pesticides. He's never had to use it on a slimebag, or been shot at. But Joe Mullen, 63 now, a pro at this since he was 16, doesn't want to be caught unprepared.

Mullen has run his own gumshoe business in Manhattan for over 30 years. And in high Manhattan style. This is no down and out flatfoot. He's big and brawny, but he runs four miles a day and his closet is filled with tailored suits and Italian shoes. Doesn't even own a trench coat. Brain Dennnehy was once mentioned to play Mullen in a TV movie, but Mullen and his wife, Suzanne, said no. "They wanted to portray him like a fat, out of shape Irishman," says Suzanne. "Joe has more style than that."

Mullen has just gotten his Florida license and operates out of a beachfront Key Biscayne townhouse that has a Peter Max on the wall. He's the son of a private detective, and his own boy Tom and his daughter Bonnie both work for him. He has an operative in Miami, named Shane -- Shane Williams. No, this is not a movie.

The name Mullen pops up in a lot of celebrity gossip columns -- most recently when Maculay Culkin's mother, Patricia Brentrup, hired him to protect her during her much-publicized custody battles with Mac's daddy, Kit Culkin.

But you'd figure the guy for some kind of sleuth even before knowing that David Brinkley once labeled him "the private eye refined," and even before you knew that he's tailed wives for Johnny Carson and Bruce Springsteen, and husbands for actresses Glenn Close and Linda Lavin. You'd know it even before you see the life-size cardboard cutout the guy keeps of Sam Spade.

It's the eyes. They could bore through steel.

"I don't have a bleak view of life, but I'm suspicious," Mullen says. "I use common sense, I step back from a situation, I see something's wrong."

Some years ago, Mullen did some work for Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr., son of FDR. FDR Jr. had been offered a $250,000 racehorse for the bargain price of $150,000. He asked Mullen to take a ride over to New Jersey to look this gift horse in the mouth.

"I found a guy who used to work at the stable," says Mullen. "The horse has cancer."


Nearly half of his work these days is divorces. He won't talk specifically about his famous clients, but says generally that divorce is where he usually finds the biggest liars.

The typical scenario: "Your wife hires me, she tells me you made 200 grand last year, but this year you made only 112 thousand. Then I follow you, and I find your girlfriend has a new apartment and a new car."

Which brings up a truism in Mullen's line of work: In most divorces, husbands want to know who the boyfriend is, but wives want to know where the money went. "Forget where he's sleeping. That's not important. For every dollar he gives his girlfriend, that's 50 cents he's taken from his wife."

Mullen has been living part-time in Key Biscayne for over 15 years. He and Suzanne come down for the running weather -- he's a former marathoner. He finally decided to get his private investigator's license here because many of his clients winter in South Florida, too.

But he's already discovering that Miami is a different kind of sleuthing territory. Being sneaky isn't always easy here, although many work hard at it.

There's a language barrier for one thing -- Mullen doesn't speak Spanish. "If I'm pretending to be a deliveryman, and I call and you don't speak English, that's a problem," he says. He plans to hire a Spanish-speaking assistant.

There's also the heat factor: Private eyes spend a lot of time in their cars, staking out hotels, tailing suspects. You sweat bullets in a car in Miami.

And then there are the legal peculiarities: Some municipalities have laws against rummaging through people's trash cans. Secretly recording phone conversations is illegal in Florida.

But the diciest thing about doing private eye work in South Florida, Mullen says is the prevalence of drug trafficking.

"I'm not interested in the drug business," he says. "I've got 13 grandchildren and I don't want to start in that type of thing. But it's hard to avoid if you do any kind of corporate work."


What makes Mullen confident he can do the job in Miami, he says, is that he understands human nature -- especially the dark side.

"You know what I inherited from him?" says his daughter, Bonnie, who, beside being a part-time operative for J.T. Mullen Co. in New York, is also a mother and youth soccer coach. "I inherited the ability to figure people out. My intuition is so sharp, it's scary. I'm always on the mark."

So strong are the Mullen sleuthing genes that Bonnie's 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, actually found a mystery woman the Mullens were seeking while on the case featured in Burrough's book Vendetta -- a tale of corporate espionage involving a campaign by American Express to discredit a rival, international banker, Edmond Safra.

According to Bonnie, Elizabeth, on stakeout with her and grandpa Joe, cried out, "Poppy! There is the lady!"

She was right. When Elizabeth turns 18, she'll be getting fingerprinted for her private eye license, just like all the other Mullen kids have done.

Joe Mullen will confess to being surprised by one little ruse that went on right under his nose for years in New York. Mullen has an apartment right across the street from Macaulay Culkin's family. There were seven kids. Mom and Dad were prominent churchgoers. Just another very conventional married couple.

He knew them well.

He thought.

Only after their split-up did Mullen learn: The Culkins were never married.

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