Lessons of the drug trade

On his first undercover drug buy, Akron narcotics detective Timothy Dimoff forgot to do his due diligence.

He emerged from the drug dealer’s house pumped up about the smooth, 45-minute buy. But when he returned to the undercover police van parked down the street, his superior officer told him the battery pack on the microphone hidden beneath Dimoff’s clothes only lasts for 20 minutes. Several key moments of the transaction were lost.

“When I got out of there, somebody educated me,” Dimoff says. “I didn’t jump into an angel investment not knowing how long the batteries were going to last. You have to know what the timetable is. You have to know how fast you’re going to do it.

“And if you don’t do it right, you don’t get the right information, then you don’t do it. You don’t take chances.

Dimoff retired from the Akron Police Department after 15 years. He spent 11 years in the narcotics department and was injured 13 times. He’s been shot at, but never hit by a bullet. He was cut once by a knife, and suffered three back injuries and a smashed jaw. After a year of rehabilitation, he decided to apply his detective skills to a new career.

Dimoff is not only an angel investor, he’s also president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc., based in Mogadore. Although no longer chasing bad guys, he incorporates the same skills he used as a detective. He also uses many of the same business practices drug dealers use to turn a profit, except with angel investing, the payoff is legal, and usually slower and much less profitable than the illegal drug trade.

“(Drug dealing) is the fastest turnover of all businesses in the world, including the types we’re involved in,” Dimoff told a captivated group of investors at a meeting of the International Angel Investors Institute – Ohio. “Last year, only one person made more money in the world than the illegal drug trade: Bill Gates, $74 billion. Illegal drug trade, $54 billion.”

Here are a few of the business practices investors — legal and illegal — need to use, according to Dimoff.

Learn from the best

Just off the police force, Dimoff didn’t know much about being an investor or an entrepreneur, so he bought a lot of people lunch. He found investors and learned from them, then asked who else he should talk to.

Did he ever make mistakes? Of course, but that’s what you have to expect.

“I took my licks, took my bumps and learned the hard way, like we all did,” he says. “I didn’t get where I am by myself. I got here because a lot of great business people took the time to tell me how to get there.”

Don’t go it alone

As with drug dealing, starting your own business or investing in one is a team effort, Dimoff says. In both professions, you need financiers. You need people who will protect you, and those who will help prevent you from making mistakes.

In both trades, you need people to help you learn the market and break into that market. You need people who are going help you improve the product.

“Illegal drug dealers, they do the same thing,” Dimoff says. “They get their money, they go down to Florida, New York, California, they get their drugs, they get the big payoff. We’re both investors and we both take chances.

“The only difference is if they get caught, they go to jail. If I get caught I just lose my money. I like those odds better.”

Due diligence

On the flip side, when Dimoff was busting drug dealers, he needed every bit of information about them that he could find. When he and the SWAT team busted a drug house, they’d have an informant map out the entire space — where the drugs were, where the dealer kept any weapons, where they slept.

Everything down to the last closet was on paper before he and his officers stampeded through the doors.

“There was no second chance in that game,” Dimoff says. “Angel investing, there’s also no second chance. You can lose your money if you don’t know what’s behind the door.”

Speed

Drug raids changed while Dimoff was on the force. It used to be him and a couple of officers would break down the door with sledgehammers and secure the home in a couple minutes. By the time he retired, two SWAT teams of 12 men broke down each door and secured the house in less than 12 seconds.

Dealers never had time to react. It’s no different with an angel investment — you can’t waste time.

Speed is of the essence,” Dimoff says. “Once you get your investment, once you’re moving, you need to grow that investment and get it to that second level. Amazing how two different trades, one legal, one illegal, have so much in common.” How to reach: SACS Consulting, (330) 628-6393

Morgan Lewis Jr. ([email protected]) is a reporter at SBN Magazine.