Private investigator and personal psycotherapist talks spousal surveillance
The Santa Clara
April 12, 2018
Artur Tilis knows a lot about people’s personal lives. He knows where they eat, sleep and work. He knows their taste in men or women. He knows where they go late at night. He even knows their feelings.
“I feel like a therapist,” Tilis said. “I’m always giving advice.”
But Tilis is not a therapist. He’s a private investigator.
He usually works out of his car to catch cheating husbands and wives in the act. After five years of experience working with infidelity cases, the game of love is no joke to Tilis.
According to Tilis, his clients are right 98 percent of the time when they think their partner is cheating.
The ratio of female and male clients hovers around 50/50 in his practice. He credits women’s intuition and masculine jealousy as reasons for getting hired by his clients.
In a Paris Baguette bakery in Millbrae, Tilis recounted how he got into his line of work. His role as part-time private eye, part-time counselor came after an uncommon upbringing and education.
Originally from the Ukraine, he moved to San Francisco with his family at age three. Tilis graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in kinesiology and a promising future in baseball. He was on track for the big leagues.
At least, that was his plan. Scouts from around the country came to San Francisco just to see him play. Then he broke his shoulder, and his baseball career came to a screeching halt.
“I didn’t know where I was going with my life,” Tilis said.
He worked some security jobs but felt indifferent about them. His best friend was a cop at the time, who encouraged Tilis to join him, but Tilis hesitated. It was his mother who pushed him over the edge.
“But then my mother said, ‘Why don’t you do it? You’re not doing anything else,’” Tilis said. The profession was an instant match. He recalled thinking, “Wow, this is cool.” He enjoyed kicking down doors and the silent authority that came with being a cop.
But after 12 years, Tilis decided it was time for a change. Luckily, a position opened in detective work and Tilis fit the bill.
He was then hired as a detective and worked as one for three years. Tilis enjoyed it, but straining his back on the job impaired his mobility, cutting his detective stint short.
All the experience he had from the San Francisco Police Department prepared him well for private investigating, so Tilis made the move.
To get to the bottom of a case, Tilis has hired professional models, flown to other countries and been flirted with by a cheating partner. He has created fake Tinder and dating site profiles to catch subjects.
Once, Tilis was invited home by a subject at a bar and got it all on recording for his client. His favorite story stars a man he calls Chad, who was dating two women at the same time.
Tilis was enlisted by Girlfriend #1 and followed Chad from San Francisco to Foster City, 20 miles south. Chad had picked up Girlfriend #2 and her mother on the way to an extravagant 50-person gathering at a high-end restaurant.
Tilis called Girlfriend #1 to update her and she sped to the restaurant with a couple friends in tow.
“She’s a young girl, like, 23, and she is just pissed off,” Tilis said.
Girlfriend #1 marched into the restaurant, walked right up to Chad, and made out with him in front of Girlfriend #2 and the entire dinner party. After pulling away she said, “Hey, honey, what’s going on?”
Chad looked at her, looked at Girlfriend #2, walked out of the restaurant and drove away. He disappeared for four days.
Some cases are simple to solve because the subjects are profoundly indiscreet.
Tilis once caught a cheating wife having sex with another man at one of California’s busiest tourist spots.
“I’m not kidding,” Tilis said. “They were on the grass in the middle of Golden Gate Park with kids walking by and everything.”
One picture was all the evidence his client needed, and the case was over.
Tilis said he gets hired more frequently in the summer, and he has repeat clients who take back their cheating partner and ask Tilis to find out if that same partner is cheating. Again.
“Most of the time, they are,” Tilis said.
When clients start confiding in Tilis, he isn’t bothered by it.
“I listen to them,” Tilis said. “I let them say their piece. I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”
He constantly texts back and forth with his clients so they stay in the know. In the timespan of our 30 minute interview, Tilis received two text messages from clients requesting his services.
In his black league champs of South San Francisco sweatshirt, Tilis left to tend to one of them.
He could not say why; his cases are always under wraps.
Even though his subjects kiss and tell, Tilis does not.
An earlier version of this story was written for a journalism class. Contact Meghan McLaughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.