Loehrs Forensics: High-Tech Trackers Seeking the Truth
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By Susan Cushing
April 5, 2022
Super sleuths. It’s the only term that comes close to capturing and conveying the seemingly impossible capabilities of Loehrs Forensics. With a team of certified examiners proficient in the most cutting-edge software and a mastery of the general science of digital forensics, Loehrs Forensics’ expertise in mining even the most obscure or deeply hidden data of evidentiary interest is unparalleled.
My hesitation is using the term super sleuths in connection with this exemplary team of professionals, is the fear that in a world saturated by hyperbole, sophisticated readers are quick to respond with skepticism or dismiss entirely. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the concern that just by virtue of employing the word “super” there’s a chance of evoking an almost cartoonish super-hero image, and that too is a completely false and frivolous characterization.
Suffice to say, that Loehrs Forensics, led by the mother-daughter team of Tami Loehrs and Michele Bush is an entity that has for more than 20 years consistently delivered unsurpassed results for clients the worldwide.
WORKING AS A PARALEGAL, I REALIZED I ALREADY HAD CONSIDERABLE COMPUTER KNOWLEDGE AND SPOKE BOTH LANGUAGES WHICH PROVED EXTREMELY HELPFUL. THE COMPUTER PEOPLE COULDN’T SPEAK TO THE LEGAL PEOPLE AND VICE-VERSA. I WAS ABLE TO BRIDGE THAT GAP, SERVING AS THEIR TRANSLATOR.”
Tami Loehrs and Michele Bush
Speaking the Language
Forensics wasn’t a lifelong ambition or childhood dream for Loehrs. In fact, her aspirations were to become a lawyer. A single mom in her early 30s, she was already on that path and working in the legal arena when fate stepped in.
“For as long as I could remember, I’d wanted to be an attorney,” she says. “I was working in the field as a paralegal, but I also had an interest in computers. My father worked in computers, so I was always around them growing up when I’d go visit him in the computer lab. I found all that technology really interesting and seemed to pick up a lot just being around him and his work.”
Raising two young children on her own while working at a law firm, at the age of 33, Loehrs decided to go back to school for a degree in computer science.
“I wanted to combine computers with the legal field,” she says. “Working as a paralegal, I realized I already had considerable computer knowledge and spoke both languages which proved extremely helpful. The computer people couldn’t speak to the legal people and vice-versa. I was able to bridge that gap, serving as their translator.
As Loehrs was making this conscious adjustment to her career plans, something out of her control prompted another decision. This was the 1990s and long before the “Me Too” movement; a time when such matters weren’t even openly discussed. A very unpleasant and offensive incident involving a male attorney at the firm, prompted Loehrs to leave and strike out on her own.
With an already extensive legal background and armed with an arsenal of computer expertise, Loehrs launched her own business, Law2000, a computerized litigation firm specializing in converting stacks of paper legal discovery documents into searchable data. It was a big risk, especially for a single mom with two young children. She may have been leaving a steady paycheck behind, but if there is something she could count on, it was her combined proficiency in both the law and technology. Without even realizing it at the time, Loehrs was a pioneer, launching one of the first businesses to recognize and fill the need for this highly specialized service. Even more significant, she was creating the foundation for what would eventually become Loehrs Forensics, a concept that few, if any, could even dream of 23 years ago. “When I first began Law2000, I was primarily just fixing computers and building computer systems and programs for law firms as well as other businesses,” she says. “That blossomed into computerized litigation. This means I would computerize trials, scan and code documents, and other similar services.”
As the digital forensics industry took shape, the demand for digital forensic experts grew exponentially. As Law2000 grew organically, it also expanded in the services naturally morphing into a leading forensics firm.
“This new direction came about almost by accident,” Loehrs admits. “I was working on a case for one of my regular clients and they asked if I could look into this data and analyze what it meant. It was almost like being back in the role of translator. Of course, I agreed, and absolutely fell in love with it. I realized that I didn’t want to fix computers or just computerize trials, I wanted to analyze data and explain what it all meant in English. It felt so natural, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute.”
Unlike others who might have the ability to fish and even translate data, Loehrs had a tremendous advantage from the start. Thanks to her legal background, she not only understood the data but was also able to apply it to the law, often faster and more accurately than the attorneys.
“It felt like I had found my niche,” says Loehrs. “Even back then, there were computer forensics experts, but they could only mine and deliver the data. They didn’t understand or know how that information applied to the law, and certainly not to any specific case.”
OF COURSE, I AGREED, AND ABSOLUTELY FELL IN LOVE WITH IT. I REALIZED THAT I DIDN’T WANT TO FIX COMPUTERS OR JUST COMPUTERIZE TRIALS, I WANTED TO ANALYZE DATA AND EXPLAIN WHAT IT ALL MEANT IN ENGLISH.
Raising a Partner
Gradually, Loehrs adjusted her focus concentrating more on the analytic side of the business, allowing the litigation support aspects to fade away. Concentrating her time and energy on those services so critical to attorneys, she quickly became in high demand. Happily, it also meant following her passion. Loehrs’ relatively small company was still a bit of an anomaly and one of only a few of its kind. Demand combined with her reputation for timely, detailed, and exceptional work translated into her company growing faster than ever.
But Loehrs and Associates was not the only thing thriving. Loehrs’ children, Michele and Kyle were also growing. As a single-parent Loehrs had become proficient at juggling. The lines get blurry, however, when you’re not just the only parent and breadwinner but running your own business. Bringing work home was a basic part of the daily routine. While the kids did homework, Loehrs poured over data. As the business continued to grow and the workload and demands increased, her kids had a front row seat to their mother’s work ethic.
“It was an exciting but challenging time,” Loehrs says, “yet no matter how heavy the workload, I truly loved what I was doing. Not only was my business growing rapidly, but I was also adding new aspects and services as I or attorneys recognized various needs. And of course, during all this Michele was by my side watching and absorbing everything.
“I’ll admit it wasn’t always easy, and sometimes the kids would complain or be upset with me for missing things, but overall, I think because they saw how hard I was trying, they understood,” she adds. “They watched the business grow and saw everything that was going on, especially Michele who very early on showed an active interest. When she was about 11, I started taking her into the office with me. She wanted to help and would take on tasks such as scanning and coding documents. She was a big help, and it was nice having more time together.”
Some kids might not be particularly thrilled to be hanging out with their mom or taking on tasks not usually entrusted to a child, but Bush says she felt quite the opposite.
“While my friends were having pool parties or playing outside, I was starting my career,” says Bush with a little laugh. As she’s speaking, she steals a sidelong glance at her mom who smiles too. The brief, almost imperceptible exchange between the two women speaks volumes about the close relationship and mutual respect.
“It’s pretty amusing when she testifies,” her mother notes, “and a prosecutor asks how many years of experience she has. They hear her response, look at her young face and do a doubletake. I think what makes it especially hard for them to reconcile her many years of experience with her age, is because Michele is an exceptionally poised and knowledgeable witness. We’ve actually had attorneys tell us that she’s a dream witness who rarely needs any kind of prepping. She knows her stuff and is excellent at conveying that clearly and concisely and in terms that jurors can understand.”
What’s in a Name?
2009 marked not just a new name but a huge evolutionary step for the already thriving company when Loehrs acquired a private investigator agency license. It didn’t take long for this to become an essential part of the business and just one more way for Loehrs and her team to shine.
Virtually overnight this virtuoso of both the law and computer technology, became internationally recognized for her innate ability to analyze digital evidence, apply it to the legal industry and effectively translate into compelling testimony presented in layman’s terms.
As the client roster continued to expand, so did Bush’s contributions and her role grew along with her knowledge. Today, the young 29-year-old commands the same respect and admiration her mother has enjoyed for so long.
“There’s no such thing as an average day,” she says. “It varies from day to day. Sometimes it means travelling – getting on a plane at in the wee hours of the morning in order to be on the other side of the country by noon to get to a law enforcement facility.”
Though the travel and working with high levels of government and various law enforcement entities might sound glamourous, Bush explains it can be anything but.
“I’ll get to a local police station for instance,” she explains, “and they’ll stick me in a broom closet where I’ll be working. I pull out my computer, connect it to the evidence and start analyzing it in response to the attorney’s various questions and get a grasp on what the evidence looks like so we can give counsel a better picture of what’s there and what they potentially have to work with.
“Other days I arrive at the office early and basically sit at my desk for about eight or nine hours solid while I put out fires, talk to attorneys and look at evidence so that I can write my reports.”
The analysis process itself is unique to Loehrs Forensics. They don’t simply translate raw data into comprehensible reports but invariably end up doing much of the research and detective work typically attributed to law enforcement or attorneys.
“We’re provided with a hard drive which contains a lot of data that’s not going to make sense to anyone other than a forensic examiner,” Bush explains. “We use specialized software to read the data and help find those bits of information that will be important to the case. It’s kind of like having a big garbage bin filled with shredded paper and going though every bit to find the right pieces and putting them together in the right order to form a picture.”
Cracking the Code
"While we do all types of cases, the bulk of our work pertains to criminal law,” says Loehrs. “When law enforcement serves a search warrant and seize a computer, cell phone, tablet, etc., they will take it back to their lab, make forensic copies, do their work and send that information to a prosecutor and then our client gets indicted.
“When we get hired, we are required to do our work on their premises. We are told that they can’t trust us to remove it from the building,” she continues. “While they’ve had weeks or months of unfettered access to this evidence to do their work, we go to their facility in a remote location, follow their rules and work under difficult conditions. We don’t have our lab only our mobile equipment, which is inferior to a lab, and are given only a couple of days to grab what we can and go back to our lab to make a case.”
As Bush mentioned, they are frequently on a plane, repeating the above process, because no law enforcement agency will simply send or share the evidence. And while it’s apparent both women are passionate about the work they do, they feel both frustrated and even a little angry at the hoops they’re forced to jump through in order to simply do right by their clients.
“It makes no sense,” says Loehrs, “it’s a tactic and to be honest, this is usually driven by prosecutors not the law enforcement agencies themselves. It’s challenging to say the least, but it’s their playing field and we have play by their rules.”
As Loehrs explains, most of these rules and conditions are rooted in the Adam Walsh Act which reads in part: “… material is ‘reasonably available to the defendant’ if the prosecution provides ample opportunity for inspection, viewing, and examination at a Government facility…”
“It’s a good act,” says Loehrs, “the problem is that it’s a 20-year-old law and applying it to today’s technology doesn’t make sense and it prohibits us from doing the job that we need to do, that the Constitution promises criminal defendants are entitled to. Basically, we believe that it’s being misapplied. It needs to be changed or amended.”
No Dog in the Fight
I FEEL VERY FORTUNATE TO BE IN A WORLD THAT ACCEPTS WOMEN IN THIS PROFESSION, BUT WE STILL HAVE A WAY TO GO. AS A WOMAN, EVEN TODAY WHEN SO MUCH HAS IMPROVED SINCE MY MOTHER’S EXPERIENCE, YOU STILL HAVE TO HAVE THICK SKIN.”
To clarify, the team of Loehrs Forensics are neutral. Regardless of who hires them, they approach each assignment with the eye of a scientist, not trying to prove guilt or innocence, just mining what evidence is available and translating. As they say, they have no dog in the fight, their only concern is finding the truth.
As Loehrs pointed out, while they are often hired for civil cases, the majority of their work is criminal and that is exclusively for the defense.
“That’s not by choice,” Loehrs clarifies. “We would be happy to work with prosecutors and I believe be extremely helpful in preparing their case. The trouble is they won’t hire us.”
“They work with their internal staff,” says Bush. “They’ve already got the people in law enforcement, so I guess they figure ‘why pay someone from outside?’ But the problem with that is law enforcement is already overworked, understaffed, under paid and frequently under trained.”
“As Michele can attest to, I have been talking about this my whole career and even testified to it on the stand,” adds Loehrs. “We would love to work with them. We’d love to look at the evidence with our experience and prevent prosecutors from destroying people’s lives. By the time we finally get hired, most clients have already lost everything – money, friends, reputation, jobs – and been publicly humiliated. By the time we get in there and prove their innocence, the damage has been done.”
“You also get prosecutors and law enforcement who file bad indictments due to a lack of training or experience,” Bush adds. “While there may be plenty of evidence to support a crime, the prosecution will indict the individual for a specific charge that has no support. It’s just a bad indictment. It ends up costing taxpayer money as they will have to recharge it and retry the case, costing thousands.”
Women in a Man’s World
Despite the fact that she built this company from the ground up and has been working for nearly a quarter of a century in a male-dominated field, she says she always assumed it would be her son who would join her in the business.
“I don’t know why,” she says with a smile, “because I’m a woman in a man’s world, but it was my daughter who really just fell in love with this much like me, and at a very early age.”
“It’s pretty telling,” adds Bush, “when I’m questioned on the stand about how many years of experience I have, invariably the follow-up question is, ‘How did you get into this?’ I’ll respond that it’s a family business and they immediately ask, ‘Oh, what does your father do?’” Loehrs acknowledges that of all the challenges she’s faced over the years, building a vital and robust business on her own, some of the biggest hurdles have been because of her gender. “Actually, it’s ironic because the thing that happened to me while working as a paralegal is in a very large way, the reason I started my own company,” she says. “I was fired by an attorney because I wouldn’t sleep with him. At the time, it was devastating. I had just computerized the whole office for them; I was feeling secure. In fact, I had just purchased my first home. I was making my way and was feeling lucky to finally be in a position where I knew I could provide for my children.”
“I feel horrible for what my mom went through,” says Bush. “I mean, obviously it was a blessing in disguise, but I think of all the women who have gone through similar situations and didn’t fare as well.
“I feel very fortunate to be in a world that accepts women in this profession, but we still have a way to go. As a woman, even today when so much has improved since my mother’s experience, you still have to have thick skin.”
Proof is in the Pudding
Today, the name Loehrs Forensics is synonymous with the sophisticated and meticulous delivery of admissible evidence in criminal, civil, corporate and private investigations, foreign and domestic, through the application of computer forensics, mobile forensics, cloud forensics, and cell site analysis. With an international base of clients that seems to grow daily, it’s apparent that even the most misogynistic has to concede that this feminine duo know their stuff.
Their instincts and experience even make it possible to deliver a profile of an accused that’s as detailed and accurate as that of a trained profiler.
“It’s almost like a game,” says Loehrs. “I’ll write up a profile and hand it over to my client prior to them receiving the report from a profiler. I love the look on their faces when they realize that my report was as good if not better than that of an expensive professional profiler.”
They say that some people are “born to do” something. If this is true, Loehrs and Bush are the epitome of such an aphorism.