The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published on: 02/12/07:

Careless love: On Feb. 14, some unfaithful spouses will try to have it both ways, to keep everybody happy. But Cupid’s arrow may not be the only thing pointed their way.

Every Valentine’s Day, Jeanene Weiner, a mother of two, hops into her Mercedes and goes trolling for married men who don’t mind cheating on their wives.

She sits across from them at restaurants or coffee shops and eyes them carefully —- recording their every move with a camera hidden in her coat button or tucked into the spine of a hardcover.

Weiner, 44, is a private investigator. And those in her profession say there’s no better day to dig up dirt on philandering spouses than Valentine’s Day.

It’s the one day of the year when a man who’s having an affair is expected to do something romantic for both his wife and his girlfriend.

So, like flower shops and restaurants, jewelry stores and greeting card companies, sleuths such as Weiner will be busy Wednesday, trying to catch the juggling acts on tape.

There are about 60,000 private investigators in the United States, including more than 1,500 licensed in Georgia. While they handle varied cases, including child custody battles and background checks, investigators say more than half their business comes from suspicious spouses who want their significant others tailed.

Hearts, flowers, spying

And Feb. 14, these investigators joke, is their Super Bowl of Surveillance.

"Eighty percent of cheating spouses will try to spend part of the day with the other person," said Jimmie Mesis, editor of the trade journal PI Magazine.

Ruth Houston —- founder of and author of "Is He Cheating On You?" —- says she normally discourages the use of private investigators, but makes an exception for Valentine’s Day.

"I’ve seen too many people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, only to come up empty except for a receipt," Ruth said. "But if someone’s cheating, they are going to make contact on Valentine’s Day, either to give a gift or receive one."

Weiner is the founder of Busted Confidential Investigations, an all-woman outfit in Marietta boasting the grrl-power motto "Where Intuition and Information Meet."

Her Valentine’s Day will begin early, because she knows from experience that many of the cheaters will schedule a breakfast or lunch-hour tryst.

"This way, they get to go home after work and spend a romantic evening with the person they’re married to, and no one suspects a thing," she said.

Among the cases Weiner said she and her staff will tackle, charging $75 an hour, is for a woman who has been married for 30 years. Lately, though, her husband has become uncharacteristically religious.

He goes to church early in the morning on Sundays, and doesn’t return until 9 p.m. But Weiner suspects he is worshipping at an earthly altar: "We’ve narrowed it down to a girl from work who goes to the same church."

Indeed, when men cheat, it’s usually with someone they’ve met through work, investigators say.

But they are generally horrible at covering their tracks, said Stan Lewis of ICU Investigations in Stone Mountain.

"I had a [husband] going to the girlfriend’s house five days a week at the same time every day," he said. "Monday through Friday, quarter to 6, he was there. It was like shooting fish in a barrel."

Women usually sneakier

Women cheat just as often as men, investigators have found, but they tend to be extra careful not to slip up.

They are smart enough to schedule their rendezvous for the day before or after Valentine’s Day so that they don’t arouse suspicion. And their excuses also are more creative, such as a dear friend suddenly falling sick.

Which is precisely why some investigators relish cases involving a cheating wife.

Tina Elkins of Tama Investigations in Snellville recounted a case when she was hired to tail a woman, a mother of two who had been married for six years.

The weekend before Valentine’s, the woman told her husband she wasn’t going to be home —- something about being out of town with her girlfriends.

Instead, she bee-lined to a motel in Columbus, where she holed up for two days with her lover.

Elkins checked into the room next door, and through the thin walls, captured what she euphemistically described as "a lot of audio.""They’d go out to eat, come back, and we’d catch some more audio," she said.

The woman’s husband left her and now has custody of their children.

Elkins said that when investigators present the evidence to their clients, it’s nothing like on the TV show "Cheaters," in which irate people confront their unfaithful spouses or lovers. Instead, these detectives recommend that the aggrieved client contact a divorce lawyer.

[An} Atlanta attorney . . . says he has had several clients come to him with evidence that a detective had dug up on their cheating spouses that day.

"It’s certainly a time when people’s romantic instincts get the best of them and trip them up."

That certainly was the case with a metro Atlanta lawyer. He’d been married to his college sweetheart for 20 years. (His former wife doesn’t want their actual names used, to avoid further post-divorce complications.)

The two had met on Valentine’s Day. And every year without fail, they made a night out of the special occasion by dining at a French restaurant in Buckhead.

But last year, the lawyer convinced his wife that he was tied up at work on a major case. Sensing something wasn’t right, the wife contacted Weiner.

It wasn’t difficult finding the attorney that evening. He was at the same French restaurant, canoodling with a woman from his law firm.

The investigators followed him to a downtown hotel, and his wife had all the proof she needed to file for divorce.

"I knew they weren’t in there playing Parcheesi," the wife said.

This is not to say that the duplicity unearthed on Valentine’s Day always end up breaking a marriage.

Weiner offers this example:

A woman had a sneaky feeling about her boyfriend. They’d been dating a year and half, yet he never spent the night with her, claiming he couldn’t leave his dog alone at home.

Weiner camped discreetly outside his home last Feb. 14. True enough, a car pulled up to his driveway, a woman walked in, and there she stayed until the following morning.

Yes, Weiner discovered, the boyfriend was cheating on her client . . . but it turned out to be with his own wife.