Not your usual private eye, Mr. Levin is a practicing Orthodox Jew, a member of the Bobov Hasidic sect and the founder of T.O.T. Private Investigation and Consulting, a New York-based company that specializes in Orthodox-related cases worldwide. The company, whose focus is uncommon — and perhaps unique in the United States — hires forensic experts, former homicide detectives, photographers and even pilots, mostly on a per-case basis. Its services range from investigations into international banks and Israeli investment companies to local background checks for prospective Shidduchim, or Orthodox marital arrangements.
Since Mr. Levin started the business 12 years ago, his life has often resembled the plot of a TV crime drama. He has trailed unwitting subjects into synagogues and strip clubs, sat beside them on international flights and tracked them down in remote areas of Puerto Rico and Brazil.
While he usually wears the black frock coat and fedora of the Hasidim, when undercover he has donned stocking caps and Yankees jerseys to conceal his brown knit skullcap and tzitzit, the ritual fringes worn by observant Jews.
His organization’s mission is encoded in the name T.O.T., an acronym for the Yiddish expression “Tuchis afn tish.”
“It means ‘Put your tuchis on the table,’ ” said Mr. Levin, a bearded, powerfully built man in his late 30s, who shaved off his side locks years ago out of personal preference. “In other words, ‘Show me the proof.’ And that’s what I do. I bring my proof to the people.”
Mr. Levin’s wife of 13 years, Ruthie Levin, 33, said he often has trouble sleeping.“Last night he was up every hour,” she said recently, sitting beside him outside their home. She added that the pressure of a new case involving two powerful rabbis was causing him stress.
Asked whether Mr. Levin had ever used his investigative skills in their relationship, she raised her eyebrows.
“Are you kidding?” she said. “Before we met, he knew all the boys I’d ever dated. He knew everything about me.”
How did he come to know these things? “I’d been looking into it,” Mr. Levin said, cracking a smile. “Let’s put it like that.”