Episode 06 - Jeff Cremeans
What's up, Server Nation? You are listening to Process Server Daily, and I am your host, Mighty Mike the Podcast Server. Our guest today has recently appeared on Vice TV where he has been on the hunt for the most notorious Neo-Nazi of our time. He has been in business for 25 years and he owns and operates Encore Delivery Systems located in Columbus, Ohio.
Jeff Cremeans, welcome to the show!
A pleasure to be here, Mike.
Awesome, Jeff. I want to hear from you, Jeff! Tell us a little bit about yourself that wasn't in the intro. Take it away.
Sure. My name is Jeff Cremeans. I've been a process server for about 25 years. I started off, giving my age here, back in 1989 working for a law firm in Columbus, Ohio. Started off as a messenger working in the mail room. Did filings at the courthouse. Started to do the subpoenas, that type of thing. I'll make a long story short. I had an attorney, of the many duties I did in the mail room, wanted me to go get him a hot dog. So I went and got him a hot dog, I brought it back and he yelled at me, he said, "Why wasn't there mustard on it?" I thought, "You know, I'm gonna start my own business and I'm gonna charge this guy 25 bucks to go get his hotdog."
So I started a company out of law firm called City Wide Legal Messenger Service. Took off really well in Columbus, Ohio. There's a need for that type of thing here. I owned that for a few years. I sold that company to another company. I worked there for 11 years and then I've owned Encore since then. So I've had Encore for about 14 years. So ...
That's awesome. Yeah, when I was watching the show, it's really cool, your office looks really cool. It looks like you got a pretty good size operation going on there.
Yeah, doing good. In any given time, we'll have eight or nine servers out, serving anything from child support papers to foreclosures. I don't get out as much and serve, certainly on this big case I'm helping out on, the Andrew Anglin case. But, yeah, I have a great group of servers. Very hard workers and do a great job. So ...
Jeff, one of the most important things as process servers, for anybody, actually, is family. You got a family?
Sure do. I have a daughter at Ken State. Freshman at Ken State University. I have a son that's a sophomore. Yeah, they're pretty much my world, so ... Yeah.
That's awesome. Jeff, there's a reason why you're on my show. You have a lot going on right now. Full of great experiences. But first, tell me about your worst experience working in the field.
You know, I think a lot of the process servers cross and that start talking about bad stories. Everybody's got a lot of bad stories. I think the one that really stood out to me was one, believe it or not, where I wasn't out in the field. Long story short, I'm sitting in my office, I had let everybody go early. I'm in the office by myself, just doing paperwork and in walks four people. I won't put their description out, but they were not very nice-looking people. I said, "Can I help you?" They said, "Yeah. One of your servers have been pounding on the door at my grandmother's house. We're here to see what's going on." Course, they were not so nice about it. I thought, "Well," I looked up and I saw these four guys. They meant business and they were there to do some damage or something. I thought, "Well, gosh, here we go." I can hold my own, but not with four guys. They were really upset that the server ... Now, how they go to where we were, they did some diligence on finding who we were and our address and everything. I got to give 'em that.
Anyway, I'll be honest with you, I was scared for my life. I thought if these guys want to start on me, there's not a whole lot I can do, but I explained to them. I calmed 'em down, I said, "Look, I'm sorry. This is not the way we do business and I apologize that your grandmother was scared," and all this stuff. Turns out that the server that went out, he was a newbie. He was trained and everything, but he had it to where he thought he could pound on doors and maybe even intimidate people, scare people to come to the door. Boy, did I have a long talk with after him that. I told him, "Hey, look, you're gonna go out, you're gonna go looking for trouble. You're gonna get it."
Fortunately, the trouble came to the office and it affected me. Nothing ended up happening. I talked to these guys and they end up not hurting me, which is a good thing. So the moral of the story, and for everybody out there, whether you're training a server or you're serving yourself, you don't have to ... there are times you have to get creative and aggressive. We can talk about that later in the podcast, but the big thing is, I explained to the server, "There was an old lady in there. You were scaring her to death. She had her grandkids come here and threaten me and want to know what's going on. Take it easy, man. You don't have to do that. If they don't answer the door, you don't have to pound on it." The lady wasn't even avoiding servers, so he learned a big lesson. He learned from that and turned out to be a great server. Not so aggressive anymore after that.
I've recounted an experience that I've had too in a previous podcast about knocking on a door and being really gung-ho, and then realizing it was a 14-year-old girl in there, terrified! She's told not to answer the door and it really helped correct my perspective that you never know ... I just had one yesterday. They told me she's an elderly lady and I've been there at all different times during the day. So I decided to come at night. Sure enough, her car was there, but she wasn't answering the door. The neighbors said, "Oh, she's in there." But I thought, "Man, I'm just gonna come back again at night and maybe she won't be in the shower or in the back room or wherever. Whatever she's doing to keep her from answering the door, giving her the benefit of the doubt-
That she might actually answer the door if I come at a different time.
Yeah, what I take from your story is prudence. Have a little bit of prudence when you come to the door. It's one of the most valuable assets to have in any industry.
Jeff, tell us about your greatest experience working in the field.
Well, as many as there are bad, there are some good experiences out there. I think one that stands out to me is, and this is back in my City Wide Legal Messenger Service days, I was young and I was just new to the industry and learning, and doing stuff. I got a job to serve a wealthy person in a domestic case. Long story short, I had attempted many times. Pulled out all the tricks. I dressed up for Halloween, did the whole pizza delivery thing. Nothing worked. This guy, he was a dodger and he knew the game. He had been served before.
I pulled up one day, I just happened to be around the neighborhood. I thought, "Let me go try this guy again." I got there and he was out back, washing one of his expensive cars with his brother. I pulled up and he looked at me and started to run. Then he stopped and he's like, "You got me." He put out his hand and he shook my hand. He's like, "Congratulations, man. You played a good game." He was serious, very nice. We ended up talking there for a minute, so it was kind of ... never had that happen before, but it was nice to know that old game of hide and seek, he was not a sore loser, you know? So, yeah, that's kind of a good story.
That's cool when they're like that. Some people just have a habit of dodging and ducking and hiding under couches, and things like that. Every once in a while, you'll get that guy that's probably like you would be when you're retired or something like that, or if someone else was trying to serve you. Ultimately, you're gonna accept the responsibility for your own problems, but you don't mind giving 'em a little run for his money.
That's a great experience.
Jeff, tell me what you're working on right now that you're most excited about.
Well, in the past few years, we've gotten accounts with the Children's Services and the child support. It's a lot of work. It's lucrative, but dodging has increased with the child support papers as everybody knows, especially at that end of the stuff that we serve. So I've been able to hire more servers, it's broadened our horizons as far as learning more about the industry and finding people, the skip tracing, that type of thing.
Then, of course, there's the case we're trying to serve, the famous neo-Nazi. That has been the most challenging serve in my career in 25 plus years. So the reason why this case is so challenging to serve, this guy, he's a national, if not worldly-known neo-Nazi. He's got his own website, the Daily Stormer, that's been very controversial, but he has so much help hiding out. I've never seen anybody have so much support in hiding out. Anything from his father with all the property he owns, and people putting him up in places, this type of thing. But, yeah, it's been a very challenging serve. Worked very hard and done all the skip tracing. Done everything we possibly can to this point. Right now, we're relying on tips from a lot of different people that have maybe spotted him or know where he's at. We had a pretty good tip, as you saw in the Vice show. That's probably our best tip and missed him there. But, so, yeah.
There's a lot of things going on, a lot of good things. Growing at a steady pace and, again, I think any processor out there will tell you each case is different, each server's different. You don't want to get too emotionally involved, especially when someone's dodging, but there comes a time where, "Ask us for help," you know. One person can't do everything. If you feel like you've exhausted all your efforts in getting the serve, get somebody else on it. Get a fresh face, that type of thing. So ...
Yeah, that's good, Jeff. I'll tell you, when I was watching the video, and you were going over the footage in the store where you were watching him with his protein powder, I got this feeling, almost like that's happened to me before where I've seen someone I was hunting for three months. He was a pot farmer up in [inaudible 00:09:36] Creek. Anyone knows you go up there, you gotta go up there with the AKs and [inaudible 00:09:40] dogs, and ready to go.
I saw him in a park. He was apparently getting visitation with his kids, and I didn't have the papers, so I ran back, I drove back to my house. By the time I got there, he wasn't there. I was so mad at myself. How did you feel when that-
First, it was just shock and awe seeing him there. My son and I were just walking through the store and it was one of those things, when I first saw him, I thought, "Oh, man. That guy looks familiar," and I got closer. As I got closer, I thought, "Oh my gosh, that's him." No doubt in my mind whatsoever. In fact, I submitted a declaration to the court for the attorney's request to explain that I saw him. I got up, I was watching him. I was standing there as you could see in the video, watching him. Very nervous. He was kind of looking behind his shoulders and just kind of looked really, really paranoid, that type of thing. I thought, "You know, I don't have the papers. They're not even in my car. They're at home. By the time I get it and do that, it's not gonna happen." Plus, I had my son with me. It was really not a whole lot I could have done, like I couldn't leave him there.
As he was checking out, I proceeded to go through the store, past self-check out lines. I looked over and I just thought, "You know, I gotta say something to him. I gotta go talk to him. I just can't" ... So as he was walking out, I pulled up right in front of him with my car. My exact words to him were like, "You know, you look like somebody I know. Is your name Andrew?" "Nope." He was gone. He was not gonna hang around. It was him, it was definitely him. Now-
He was not going to hang around, and it was him. It was definitely him. Now, people, especially his attorney ... What are the odds? What are the odds of tracking somebody down for almost a year and you see them at a grocery store? I don't know, but it happened and it was ... Needless to say, I have the papers with me every time. I have them in my briefcase, I have them in my car, I have them at work. I have other people that have them. All my servers have a copy of this stuff [inaudible 00:11:24] just in case something like that were to happen again. Don't think I'll ever get that opportunity again, but you never know.
Yeah, I actually keep a bucket now, because of that experience that I had. I'll tell you one fun experience. I was in the courthouse and I'd been hunting this ... trying to serve this professor of Chico State University. He was retired. And so, I had served him like three times before and then he moved. We go to court every day to file papers at the courthouse. And so, I was in line at the courthouse and I heard this voice, and I was like, "I know that voice." And I listened and I heard it. He's just shooting it with a couple guys, "Yeah, no, I'm a professor down over at Chico State." And I thought, "That's him." And I didn't have the documents, but I was at the courthouse. So I said ... I looked it up on my phone, and I bought a copy of the paperwork at the courthouse. I checked the box individual and said, "Here you go."
Oh, nice. Very nice.
I felt like such a ninja when I did that. It was cool.
So I mean, if I would have seen him at the store I would have been in trouble. What I wanted to know, and I'm sure other servers are the same, is what's the next step? You can only skip trace them so much, right?
You can only-
Yeah, there's a lot of people looking for this guy for one reason or another. It's not just to serve him papers. As you can imagine, he's made a lot of people upset with his comments and his viewpoints. Hey, you know, I believe in the first amendment. I think everybody can believe in whatever they want to believe in. You believe clowns should make more money when they go to parties? Fine. Just the fact that threatens violence and harasses people I don't think bodes well.
So anyway, with that being said, a lot of people look for him. We're all trying to put feelers out there and we're all going off tips, whether it be the media, reporters, and other process servers. And from here, where do we go? Waiting on a tip. There's been rumor that he claims he's in Cambodia, then he was in Nigeria, then he was in Russia. Personally, my opinion, I think he's right here, whether it be in town or the state of Ohio, at least in the United States. He's not overseas. So it's going to be off a tip. It's going to get lucky. Somebody's going to see him, he's going to show his self somewhere. That's pretty much all we can do right now, just sit back and wait.
Yeah, you just have got to post somebody up over by the protein powder. That's what you have got to do.
Okay. So I hope you get him and when you do get him, maybe we'll have you back on the show or even we'll do a Facebook Live.
I look forward to the day, believe me.
Now dreams of the day.
Server Nation, Jeff has been dropping some major value bombs on us today, but prepare yourself, because we are headed into the rapid fire round right after a word from our sponsors.
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Welcome back to the show. Jeff, are you ready for the rapid-fire round?
I think I am.
If you could recommend one app, what would it be and why?
I think Road Warrior's a good app. I'm not a humongous app fan. I kind of do a lot of things old school. I think if you're diligent enough and you really want it bad, you can find the right app and it'll get you where you need to be.
Very good. I swear by the Road Warrior.
I mean, if another one came out I would try it, but I haven't found any other app like that.
Yeah, it's a good app.
And if you have it set to go straight into the Waze app, it works really good in the city. You can pick different navigators, but yeah, Road Warrior's a great one. What case tracking software would you recommend as the best? I would take you as a Process Server Toolbox guy.
Yeah, yeah, Process Server's Toolbox or like Serve Manager. Again, I don't even ... To be honest with you, I don't use them. Again, I'm-
Yeah, I'm a firm believer in the old-fashioned way of doing things, and my customers seem to like it. I've tried to offer them the different software and the Process Server's Tool and everything, and my customers like, you know, "Just use the court's return. We don't want this. We don't want that." And I've just kind of been doing that for years, and it works for me so far.
No, I'm intrigued, Jeff, because, let me tell you something, there's a beauty in simplicity. So I'm just curious, we don't have to go too far into it, but you have like a service request form?
And they fill that out. And is your return or your field sheet, if you were, is that a part of the same form?
No, that's a different form in fact. And that's the thing, we kind of create our own affidavits and our own returns of service if they want. For anybody that has just your federal district return of service, we'll start off with that. If somebody wants something different, we've created so many different types of affidavits and non-serve affidavits and returns of service. We've had people say, "Yep, we don't want this notarized. You don't have to notarize it," so we'll just make it a simple proof of service.
Of course, as you know, in California they have their own and New York wants certain things. A lot of the different states and people want different things.
So we kind of have a variety of affidavits and stuff we use.
That's cool. Yeah, that's cheaper.
Yeah, it is. It is.
I tell you, there's beauty in simplicity. When I first started out, I had a form and I thought I was a genius because I had my service request area on top where I gave the customer's info and special instructions, and then at the bottom, it had four spots for first attempt, second attempt, third attempt. And I only did four attempts because most of my customers were for unlawful detainers. In our local area, you had to get three attempts for diligence before you could post or subserve. So yeah, there's beauty in simplicity. I appreciate that.
What is your favorite skip trace tactic?
I think what's worked for us over the years are the neighbors. Knocking on the doors next to it. I tell you, there's ... We have had more nosy neighbors help us get people served than anything. It's a simple skip tracing tool. There's a lot of ways of skip tracing, but, boy, just I don't know how many times ... And I'm sure a lot of servers have experienced this. The neighbor's out washing the car, you go over, "Hey, is so-and-so here?" "Oh, you know what? No, they're down the street at this park at the baseball game." "Oh, really? Which park is that?" "You know, blah, blah, blah park." You go down there. Now, if somebody's been dodging for a few weeks and you really want to get them served, I don't mind going to a park at a ballgame and getting them served. It may be the only opportunity to get them. So yeah, I think neighbors are very informative, and can be very helpful for getting somebody.
Yeah, and actually, you can skip trace a specific address, not a person, and it'll give you the people that live in that general area. Or you can go on Google and find out what the nextdoor neighbor's address is and skip trace them and get the phone number. And then call them up, say, "Hi, is this ..." So if you're looking for Jill, you call up the neighbor and say, "Hi, is this Jill?" And then she's going to go, "Oh no, Jill lives next door." "Okay. Oh, sorry about that." You know?
Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
That's a good one that works a lot.
Jeff, what is your favorite tool for defense?
I think there's weapons and there's this and there's that. I firmly believe in being human with people, talking to them. One thing that taught me about that bad experience, I think if you're there and you're calm and you hear them, and you're honest with them, say, "Hey, look, I got these papers," well I think that's worked more than anything. To be, for lack of a better word, aggressive or cocky or pushy and doing too much, I don't think that's going to help you out. I think really trying to talk to people. And there's a lot of different ways of doing that.
My biggest thing is somebody that's wanting to avoid service, I try to tell them, "Hey, look, I'm going to come back. I'm going to keep coming back. I'm not going to go away and this is not going to go away." I'm not a lawyer, I can't give them legal advice, but I try to tell them, "Hey, look, you're best off taking this now." So things like that and that nature, that to be me has been the best tool. Call it a tool. Call it whatever you want. I think it's a really good tool to use.
Yeah, I did a poll on Facebook and, "What was the best tool for defense?" And people came back ... And actually, I have some options and I gave like a gun, and a knife, and all these things. And then, I gave a few options. It was like common sense ...
Those things that are inside of you, like in your brain and in your habits, and the way that you treat people, the way that you talk to people, those are the things that had the most hits. I think one of them had like 64. Common sense had like 64, and the next one had 30. And the actual gun I think only had like 16. We all like to talk about the guns that we own, but the truth is, when you're out there serving, using your gift of gab or your ability to control a situation with your words is way more powerful than a gun.
A gun is an immediate ... It's not an answer. It's not a resolution. It's a tragedy if you did have to pull it out. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-gun. I'm just saying I agree with you. That's absolutely correct.
And yeah, guns can be dangerous and they can promote ... get you into a situation where somebody could get hurt or killed. Again, I'm totally not anti-gun either. I totally believe in that, and a lot of people should have one for their protection. I've never been a really big badge guy. Again, I'm just kind of human, old fashioned way of doing things.
Yeah, in California it's actually become quite a ... most of the server companies, it's quite anti-badge, because a lot of people are getting convicted and charged, and potentially convicted for impersonating an officer.
Throwing around words like, "Officer of the court," and things like that.
You know, I used to do it when I first started because that's what they said in my training class, and really we're not. Joe down the street could serve papers, but he can't serve more than 10 in California. I know it's different in every state, but ...
Jeff, what book would you recommend?
Anything John Grisham. I'm a huge John Grisham fan. In fact, the older I get, I'm doing a lot more reading. And I love to read, it's just like a lot of people, you just don't have the time. But John Grisham, really just the fact ... You know, he's mentioned process servers in his stories and subpoenas being served. I always kind of liked that part of it, but just his work is just I think is amazing. And the legal aspect of it, I'm really interested in that part of it. http://www.jgrisham.com/books/
That's really cool. I'm going to have to check it out, John Grisham. I'm actually writing a book. It's going to be done here in about 90 days is my goal. And it's going to be on process server safety and best business practices. It's going to be great!
Yeah, you can get a free copy at www.processserverdaily.com/freebook.html when it comes out.
Jeff, did you have a mentor?
I started off at a young age. I’m the second youngest of 10 children. Growing up, it was one of those things where, as you can imagine, you either go off to college or go get a job. You're not going to hang around the house, that type of thing. My mentor was no doubt about it my father. He was a hard-working man, raising 10 kids, him and my mother. To me, they’re the most awesome people in the planet, but nevertheless, he said, “Work hard and be nice and don’t ever give up.” He was always supportive of all my brothers and sisters, whatever road they took. He was so excited for me when I started City Wide Legal Messenger Service. He loaned me $1,000, which I had to pay him back by the way. He wasn’t that nice!
He was truly my mentor. Did he know anything about filing stuff at the courthouses, doing certain papers? Absolutely not. Just his life lessons taught me, even to this day, I still use them. It has really taught me a lot and just got me far.
That’s great. You answered one of the questions. What’s the greatest advice you’ve ever received?
The greatest advice I’ve ever received is definitely from my father. Be humbler. Be nice. Work hard. I taught my own kids that. I’d tell you. If you're nice … Don’t be too nice. You're going to be taken advantage of. I’m not saying that, but I’d say being nice, being compassionate, being humble will get so you much further in life. I truly believe that, and that’s the way I try to live my life and do my work.
To provide an abundance of value without expectation just as a business practice, but also just as a person. There are many examples of that, whether it’s in your love life or with your family. If you provide value without expectation, it will come back to you. Like you said, don’t be taken advantage of, but sometimes it might feel like it and then the next day, you're like, wow, I didn’t expect you to do all these nice things for me.
That’s the idea. Jeff, what would you do if you woke up today, had all the same skills and knowledge, had no clients, a smartphone, a car and only $100? What would you do in the next week?
I would definitely do some work reaching out to other people, advertising to a certain extent. I’d tell you. The best thing that I would do is to get out there and do a good job for folks. I think word of mouth advertisement has been a key for me to my success. It’s one thing to go out and say you're a process server or say you're going to do this and do that, but if you do it, it takes that one paralegal that you do a great job for. You communicate the whole time. You're doing everything you need to be doing. That paralegal could be involved in a group that tells another paralegal and so on and so forth.
I think part of doing that good job is communicating. Somebody sends you a paper. Don’t take three days to get back to them if it’s a rush and what’s going on. Certainly don’t take another week to send them back to return a service, that type of thing because again, that word of mouth could also hurt you too. It could be a very valuable factor. It could also hurt your business. I would pound the pavement and get out there and try to talk to as many people as I could, talk to paralegal groups, bar association, that type of thing.
That’s good. One of the things that I take from your story is that, from your methods, is that be diligent. Get out there. Sometimes it’s nice to have a little hand-up, not a hand-out, but the truth is in this example, you only have $100. You have a car. You have the knowledge that you already have, and you have a smartphone so you can give the internet … You can search things. Guys, anybody can do this. You get out there and go after it. I say anybody can do it, like anybody who wants to build a business. Some people, they’re not cut out for serving papers, and if that’s the case, build the business; have someone else serve the papers. There’s a lot of really good husband and wife teams out there. Jeff, what is a parting piece of guidance you want to give to the servers out there?
Again, what we’ve talked about previously. Stay humble. Treat people with kindness. You have a job to do and certainly do it. In doing so, just remember this thing is bigger than you. Don’t go out there thinking you're Captain Bob, the process server and think that you're better than everybody, that type of thing. Just go out and communicate with your customer. Take good care of your customer. Communication is key.
I touched base on it earlier. I don't know how times I’ve used servers across the nation where they do 75% of the job. What I mean by that is, hey man, I got this rush. I need to serve right away. This is a big customer, blah, blah, blah. By gosh. They went out and they got it served right away, did a great job. A week later, hey, where is my return of service? I got to get this filed. The attorney is screaming at me. They got to get this filed. Follow through on your job. Do what it all right, not just half of it. Definitely get in the network groups. Meeting new guys and get involved with this and NAPPS members and stuff, a great, great tool. It’s great to get advice to people.
Again, I’ve been doing this for a lot of years. I still seek advice. I’ll call a server that I’ve been dealing with for 20 years and say, “Hey, man. How would you do this? What’s your viewpoint on this?” Never stop learning because I’d tell you. There’s a lot to learn in this industry.
You're right, Jeff. There is. A big part of the industry for process servers, what I find most often is that they find themselves in a chasm alone by themselves and the way that they think that every other processor is their competition. The truth is that many process servers out there have too much work and they would be more than glad to give you the work if you can give them a discount.
If that’s what you need to get off the ground and to get your business rolling so you can raise your prices and have some more customers, more attorney clients come in, then that’s what you got to do.
I started out making $20 a paper. How about you?
When I worked at the law firm, I think I made about $4 an hour. Whether that’d be filing at the courthouse or serve a paper even add to that, yeah, it’s … I think then after that, as time went on, I think I was getting $20 a paper at that point. It’s been a long road. I certainly charge more for that these days.
Jeff, I appreciate your story. I want to personally thank you for being on the show. I’ve been really impressed with your story and the whole situation with the neo-Nazi. That’s just a side thing. Watching the video and seeing your operation going on, it’s definitely worth being excited about. I’m excited to share it with the world. Jeff, what’s the best way that we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye?
Sure. You can reach us via email. Our email address is jeffENCORE@sbcglobal.net. Definitely a phone a call away, (614) 414-0730.
Excellent. You can get that information in the show notes at www.processserverdaily.com/jeff.html Until next time, server nation, you’ve been served up some awesomeness by Jeff, the Nazi hunter and Mighty Mike, the podcast server!