Scherzer International is occasionally asked about the availability of a non-law enforcement “national criminal database” as some of our competition offers this service. The fact is that no such database exists.
The FBI maintains the only comprehensive national criminal database and access to it is restricted to law enforcement agency use. The information offered by private vendors as a “national criminal database” is incomplete, unverified and unreliable for any purpose other than as a supplemental tool. The reason that these databases are of such little value lies in the fact that there is no central criminal record database for the United States other than the FBI. Even the FBI records are not totally accurate as they are based on fingerprint data which is not always submitted in a consistent or usable manner.
There are also wide variations in the reporting standards and requirements of individual states as well as local jurisdictions within the states. Thus, although a “hit” may appear in this type of database, it should only be used as an indicator that there may be a criminal record. Further research must be conducted to verify this information. Similarly, if there is no “hit” in a national criminal database, this does not mean that the subject has a clean criminal record as the FBI estimates that less than half of all state criminal records make it into any national database. Based on the variation in record accuracy and reporting it is clear that a “nohit” result in a “national criminal database” is of virtually no value. As a reminder, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that Pre-employment investigators always follow all “reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of information we present to the client. (FCRA 607b) FCRA Section 613 (a) (2) also requires “that the information is complete and up to date.” Pre-employment investigators should keep these requirements in mind whenever a Consumer Report is prepared. The requirements of the FCRA do not apply to the Business Background or
Prospective Client Investigations. The Fallacy of a National Criminal Database
As part of a business transaction for an accounting firm, SI was engaged to investigate one of the most respected charitable organizations in the US. The organization itself showed many years of humanitarian service, but among its countless good deeds, SI uncovered the not-so-charitable actions of a former chapter director. In 2008, this individual was sentenced to six years in a federal prison following his conviction on 15 counts of fraud, money laundering and interstate transportation of stolen property. The fraud charges involved swindling an Ohio man out of more than $9 million in a bogus investment scheme.
Additionally, in 2006, the Utah Division of Securities had fined the subject $60,000 and obtained a default cease-and-desist order barring him from future acts of securities fraud in an unrelated matter. Court records also revealed that the subject had convictions for grand theft and forgery dating back to the 1980s. By employing a risk management strategy like our client’s, the charity would have avoided its association with a felon, and thus prevented significant expenses and continuing embarrassment.
A holding company’s claim that it “had the funds and network to take the action necessary to complete business deals” was put to the test in an SI background investigation. Searches of civil records located a lawsuit filed in 2008 in which the holding company sued the United States of America, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and Internal Revenue Service for return of approximately $24.5 million seized from bank accounts in Florida. The government’s response to the holding company’s claim disclosed that there was an ongoing criminal investigation in Arizona involving drug trafficking and related international money laundering enterprises. The seizure of the funds resulted from evidence gathered during the investigation.
In addition to the foregoing, the government stated that it was still investigating whether there were any victims of fraud because the investigation made it apparent that many of the entities associated with the seized accounts had no legitimate business activity, are shell companies, and have failed to comply with reporting requirements in Florida regarding their purported operational activities. The government specifically noted that the holding company’s Web site appears to promote an investment scheme with unrealistically large interest returns which typically is consistent with a fraudulent investment operation and, in fact, agents have received statements from individuals reporting that they have invested in a program that promised incredibly high rates of return. The government’s investigation led it to conclude that the holding company failed to establish it is an entity of substance and not composed of a series of shell companies simply moving money around in a money laundering exercise to conceal the ownership, source, and control over the funds.
A pharmaceutical company already engaged in a long-term business relationship with an accounting firm, as part of its rebranding, brought on several new executives, including a chief financial officer. After learning that this client had not performed background investigations on these individuals, the accounting firm ordered due diligence investigations from SI.
Everything looked great with the chief financial officer: an MBA degree from a prestigious university was confirmed, as well as employment history in financial positions with large companies.
However, in digging deeper, SI’s investigation discovered that the subject, in his capacity of chief financial officer at a previous employer, had been named as a defendant in several federal lawsuits, including a civil complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission which alleged that the subject falsified financial documents. The subject paid $50,000 in fines to the SEC without admitting or denying the charges and agreed to a permanent injunction. His CPA license was revoked, and he was expelled from the AICPA. The former employer was forced to restate its earnings which, in turn, resulted in a shareholders’ class-action lawsuit against the subject and the company. Unrelated to the securities matters, an open federal tax lien filed in 2008 for $469,500 against the subject was located in searches of his previous jurisdiction of residence.
As part of an international company’s standard protocol, a background investigation was ordered regarding an applicant being considered for an administrative position. The investigation verified the subject’s JD degree and employment dates; however, further checks revealed that the subject’s most recent employment (in healthcare) was at a rate less than half of the salary for previous employment as an attorney. The subject indicated no reason for the shift in professions, so SI’s research analyst searched online records of the state bar to determine if something was amiss. The state bar reported that the subject was no longer practicing law, but provided no further details. As other elements of the investigation were completed, the full picture of the applicant’s professional history came into focus.
Criminal record searches located a misdemeanor case which indicated that the subject pleaded guilty to a charge of deadly conduct two years prior; the subject was sentenced to one year of jail time (probated), fined and ordered to permanently forfeit the license to practice law. A follow-up call to the state bar authorities revealed that the subject had resigned the right to practice law in lieu of disciplinary action taken by the board in connection with the offense. The deadly conduct charge stemmed from the subject’s offer to kill someone for a fee.