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Fortune 52: Joanne Brass-Pesa – President, Brass Private Investigations LLC

Joanne Brass-PesaMost television portrayals of private investigators glamorize their careers and show them living a mysterious and sometimes dangerous life. Joanne Brass of Babylon doesn’t wear a wrinkled trench coat or smoke a cigar, but she is a licensed private investigator who finds evidence and factual information to help her clients make informed decisions. And, she often performs her job using something that her male counterparts don’t have: women’s intuition.

Brass P.I. solves its cases with a woman’s touch, and Joanne says that men have hired her for just that reason.

“There’s no question that a man thinks differently than a woman,” she says. “I think we get a lot more information and we have our intuition. You know who to send, when and where.”


Joanne isn’t new to the gumshoe business. She’s been exposing fraud and deception for more than 20 years while working with her husband, Carlo Pesa, who was also a private investigator and owner of United Claims Services in Baldwin. Joanne’s official career as a P.I. didn’t begin until recently, but she was learning the ropes during her years working alongside her husband.

“He taught me what I know,” she says. “He kept saying to me, ‘You need to get your P.I. license. There are no female private investigators out there,’” Joanne says. Sadly, Carlo passed away two years ago. But Joanne has taken the reins and is beginning anew. “You are never ready for grief,” she says about handling her husband’s death.

After she passed the P.I. exam, Joanne and her sister, Maryellen Schook, a former bank fraud investigator and licensed P.I., formed Brass Private Investigations LLC. “We’re nosy people—you have to be nosy to do this for a living,” Joanne says.

There are very few female P.I.’s on Long Island, and the sisters use it to their advantage when they have a quarry in their sights. “I’m the last person they’re going to expect,” Joanne says. She conducts her investigations by whatever means are necessary, whether it be by boat, car or motorcycle.

“Who expects me on the back of a motorcycle videotaping them?” Joanne laughs. If a search brings them to the water, then they jump on Joanne’s boat to continue their surveillance. Maryellen is the tech expert at Brass P.I. She does most of the inside investigating while Joanne’s quiet demeanor allows her to walk in and out of many tricky situations virtually unnoticed.

Hiring a private investigator is often the last resort for those who cannot find help or guidance through ordinary channels.

“It takes all the courage in the world for some people to pick up the phone and call me,” Joanne says. “I don’t charge for consultations or phone calls and do a lot of pro bono work,” she says. “If you are being abused or your children are being bullied, you can’t always come up with a $2,000 retainer.”

Joanne advises them that they might not get the results they want or expect.

“People ask you for help but they have to be prepared for the good and the bad [news]. It’s not always what you want to hear.”

Joanne has handled a wide variety of assignments, from car accidents to violent crimes. “We do everything,” she says. “The only thing I don’t do is aviation, because we don’t have a pilot on staff.”

Joanne meets most of her clients in her living room because she wants them to feel comfortable. When we met recently, Joanne’s son Doug joined us, and at 6’8” he’s a very imposing young man, a gentle giant, who enjoys a wonderful rapport with his mother. “My greatest achievement is sitting in the room with us,” she says proudly of her progeny.

With that, Joanne launched into the topic of online dating services and pre-marital background checks, another service that Brass P.I. offers. She wants women to keep their guard up before meeting a stranger for a date. “You’d better check that guy before you bring him into the house with your children,” she warns.

Ironically, Doug met his fiancé, Katie, on “I checked her out first,” Joanne says with a smile.

Brass P.I. is a true family business, and both Doug and Katie help out with process serving and other duties when needed.

Since opening her agency, Joanne has been marketing her company to women, gearing her cases toward females and nonprofits, and charging a much lower rate than traditional P.I. companies.

“If they can bill $125, then I am billing $50,” she says.

In Joanne’s own way, she is honoring her late husband’s memory by helping others. She is a researcher and a fact-finder. With her experience and her training she helps others navigate through some very troubling times.
“I try to help empower parents,” she says about investigating teenage drug use and cyberbullying. “I started to publicize my business because I needed a way to regain my life, and it gave me a sense of giving back. It gives me satisfaction that I’ve helped someone else.”

For more information e-mail Joanne at or call 516-771-4509.

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