Jim Leusner Bio

Jim Leusner is a longtime investigator in Central Florida, spending nearly 30 years as a reporter at the Orlando Sentinel. He retired in July 2008 to form his own private investigation, research and media company, Jim Leusner Consulting, LLC. Leusner has been a licensed PI since 1996 and is a Florida Board Certified Investigator – one of 47 recognized statewide by the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators. In addition, he is a member of the Texas and California Associations of Licensed Investigators. He has worked for WFTV-Channel 9, Orlando magazine, the Associated Press, assorted news organizations, various civil law firms, private companies and nonprofits.

At the Orlando Sentinel, he served as an investigative, legal affairs, criminal justice, general assignment reporter and coach, covering many high-profile local, state, national and international stories. Leusner is an award-winning, nationally known investigative reporter, lecturer and instructor.

As an Orlando-based private investigator, he specializes in covertly locating and gathering information on civil legal targets, witnesses and companies nationwide. He also performs due diligence, asset and background checks, in addition to other specialized services.

Reporting Career

During his reporting career, Leusner’s stories appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and numerous other publications nationwide. He probed government corruption, the 2000 Florida election recount, business, land development, municipal bonds, college sports scandals, and the history of Orlando’s tourist corridor. He chronicled the drug war, motorcycle gangs, right-wing militias, serial killers, terrorism and homeland security. Leusner also investigated two space shuttle disasters and NASCAR safety and the death of racing legend Dale Earnhardt.

His assignments have taken him to the White House and the halls of Congress; CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, NRO and DEA headquarters; aboard Coast Guard cutters and U.S. Customs Service radar planes; and to Florida’s Death Row.

Photo Credit: Orlando Sentinel

From 1980 to 1998 and 2006 to 2008, he covered the criminal justice system, mainly based on the federal law enforcement/courts beat. He observed hundreds of federal and state criminal and civil trials — and countless hearings — while still working on major investigative projects.

His stories and investigations included the 1980 ABSCAM congressional corruption scandal; the Champ Williams tax-evasion probe; the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters; the land dealings of millionaire developer Jeno Paulucci; the controversial activities of Orlando’s Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation; Martin-Marietta Corporation’s secret missile-building operations in South Orlando; and the Puerto Rico-to-Orlando heroin pipeline and secret witness relocation program. He has written extensively on serial killers Ted Bundy, Christopher Wilder and Danny Rolling, and Outlaws Motorcycle Club enforcer Joseph “Crazy Joe” Spaziano.

From 1999 to early 2006, he was assigned to the Orlando Sentinel’s Special Projects (Investigative) Team probing land development and the use of tax-exempt, community development district bonds; Florida’s 2000 presidential election crisis; the 9/11 terrorist attacks and response; formation of the nation’s homeland security strategy; NASCAR safety; the business activities of Orlando souvenir shop magnate Jesse Maali; the evolution of the International Drive tourist corridor; and the Orlando Police Department’s use of Taser weapons.

From 2006 to 2008, he served as the legal affairs reporter covering Orlando and Orange County’s rising murders and violence; misconduct by state judges; and massive fraud schemes of ex-music mogul Lou Pearlman and Mirabilis Ventures Inc. chief strategist Frank L. Amodeo.

Leusner has lectured for more than three decades on investigative reporting, investigative research, news reporting, public records, the law and media relations. He has addressed various journalism schools, media outlets, civic groups, law enforcement agencies, Florida Bar conferences, continuing education seminars, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida,  Investigative Reporters & Editors Inc. and the Florida Association of Licensed Investigators. He has been interviewed on local and national radio and television news shows including WFTV-Channel 9, Central Florida News 13, CNN, Court TV, the BBC, ESPN, A&E’s American Justice and the History Channel’s Gangland programs.

He contributed to four journalism text books: Professional News Writing; Professional News Reporting; Advanced Reporting: Skills for the Professional; and Professional Feature Writing, all by University of Miami Professor Bruce Garrison; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1990-94. In addition, he served as a regular instructor for the Orlando Sentinel’s in-house training programs and mentor to numerous reporters since the early 1980s.

Awards & Honors

Leusner has won many awards over the years. They include:

The 2001 Gerald Loeb Award, one of the nation’s top citations for financial and business reporting; the 2002 Scripps Howard Foundation’s Distinguished Service to the First Amendment Award; the 2001 Associated Press Sports Editors Best News Story Award; the 2001 Florida Press Club’s Frances DeVore Award for Public Service; and the 2001 American Planning Association’s Journalism Award. In addition, the University of Florida’s Brechner Center recognized two Leusner stories in the state’s Top 30 Freedom of Information Stories, 1977-2007.

Some other honors include: the 2006 National Association of Real Estate Editors, 2nd Place, Best Serial Report; 2004 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), 3rd Place, Deadline Reporting; 2003 SPJ 2nd Place, Green Eyeshade Awards, Investigative Reporting; 2001 SPJ 2nd Place, Green Eyeshade Awards, Investigative Reporting; 2001 AP Sports Editors, 2nd Place, Best News Story; 1997 SPJ 2nd Place, Green Eyeshade Awards, Investigative Reporting; and the 1997 Florida Society of Newspaper Editors 2nd Place, Public Service Reporting.


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