By Craig A. Ruark
Early in life, K.J. Smith never dreamed that at the age of 59, she would become a licensed private investigator (PI) and the president of a full-service background investigation company.
In 1971, Living in Portland, Oregon, Smith found herself in the position of having to raise two young children by herself. So, on the holiday July 4thweekend, Smith moved her family to Reno to find employment. On July 7th, she started working in the casino cage at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, eventually moving from that position into the vault-count room, and finally working her way up to the casino credit manager position.
“It was quite shocking to see two elephants walk past my car when I arrived to work that first night,” laughed Smith. The elephants, Bertha & Tina, were the star attraction for the casino, performing on stage with notable legends, like Tony Bennett, Debbie Reynolds, Carol Channing, Red Skelton, and Liberace
After Smith’s children graduated from high school, she decided that she wanted to take time off for herself and left Ascuaga’s two months short of 15 years. “I went to Oregon, visiting friends and relatives, thinking that I might be interested in retirement.
However, upon returning to Reno, Smith went back to work for the Pioneer Casino and then the TransUnion Credit Bureau putting in another 15 years, mostly in gaming.
While mostly learning her craft on the job, Smith took college courses that fit her “wants and needs” earning various certifications in several areas of FCRA, Credit and Collections, also in the field of Hotel/Casino Management (University of NV), but never found time to earn a full college degree. However, the experience of working with credit reporting agencies, along with Gaming Control Board, FBI, and Secret Service agents, as they investigated some of the high-rollers for embezzlement and money laundering schemes and performed the regular casino audits, would prove to be invaluable later on in her second career.
In 1998, tired of the corporate world, Smith had the opportunity to join Employer Lynx, Inc. as their manager and to study for the PI exam to head up a new office. (A private investigator is required to be on staff to run this type of company.) Studies included learning state and federal regulations, taking a written test and sitting before an oral review board. In 2000, at age 59, Smith became a private investigator and the managing partner of Employer Lynx. “And I have loved every moment since.”
Although moving from the corporate world to the private world required a different mindset, the services that Smith performs are not that much different. “In the gaming world, I was in charge of extending credit and collecting credit, you had to be able to read the facts and understand the people before you granted them to have money,” explained Smith. “I see the same thing in background screening, requests come in, my staff and I look through it, if there are any questions, we discuss it, we see a red flag, we then work that side.”
While Employer Lynx, is a small company with only seven employees, they cover the entire State of Nevada. Since Smith took the reigns as president, the company has grown from a base of 200 clients to over 560. “The biggest reason is service and action behind the word,” said Smith
Smith has over 30 years’ experience working with gaming properties and surveillance teams, several law enforcement agencies, and TransUnion Credit Bureau. She has a strong working knowledge of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Fair and Accurate Transactions Act (FACTA), Homeland Security, the American Disability Act (ADA), Drivers Protection Privacy Act (DPPA) and others.
Smith is a founding member of the National Association of Background Screeners (NABPS). She is on the Board of Directors of the Nevada Retail Risk Management Association and is a member of the Northern Nevada Human Resource Association. She has served as District Director-at-Large for the International Credit Association and has been affiliated with the Financial Crime Investigators Association of Nevada and California.
In her spare time, Smith loves to garden and has a goal of visiting every country.