Child Molestation Case Pushes Indiana Lawmakers to Consider Background Checks for Carnival Workers

By Michael Klazema on 7/15/2013

One concerned parent described working at a traveling carnival as “a pedophile’s dream job.” She may be right, at least in states like Indiana where state law does not require carnival operators to perform any sort of background check on their workers.

Offenders and ex-felons have no trouble at all being hired on to work at Indiana carnivals. Some employers simply pay their workers in cash, no questions asked, which means that carnival supervisors may not even know their employees’ full names and addresses. Now, local parents and lawmakers are realizing that these lax hiring policies could be putting children in harm’s way.

On June 16, a man working as a ride operator at a Jonesboro street festival allegedly molested a 13-year-old girl. When the victim’s mother realized she was missing, she first turned to the carnival’s supervisors. She was shocked to discover that they did not even know the man’s full name or address. They were able to give her the man’s first name and the name of the street where they thought he was staying. The police discovered that the man had bragged to two other workers about his conquest, and they eventually found the man and the girl in his friend’s trailer. During the course of the investigation, a second victim, this one 12 years old, was also located. The ride operator, Ethan Todd Gee, was arrested and is currently being charged with two counts of felony child molestation.

The 13-year-old victim’s mother is now pushing for tougher hiring requirements for carnival workers. Indiana State Senator Timothy Lanane supports her position.

Lanane points out that Illinois has recently passed laws requiring background checks on all carnival workers and mandating that certain offenders be denied employment at carnivals. He suggests studying this law and bringing Indiana’s regulations up to a similar standard.

Requiring background checks on all carnival workers would help give families attending fairs and carnivals peace of mind about the safety of the environment. For example, by using a national background check tool like US OneSEARCH from, carnival operators could quickly and easily vet prospective employees and take steps to prevent they don’t hire individuals with a history of violence or crimes against minors. US OneSEARCH can compare an individual’s name and date of birth against a collection of over 450 million records taken from state and local databases across the country, flag any matches, and return a result almost instantly. The national scope of this tool would help ensure that the criminal histories of these typical transient workers are more easily discovereed, and the speed of the check would help ensure even last-minute hires could be investigated.

Some local sheriffs do request lists of carnival employees before the fair rolls into town so that they can conduct their own county or state background checks. However, it would be more efficient and more comprehensive to conduct one national focused background check at the time of hiring. This would protect all festival attendees, even those in towns whose sheriffs do not regularly investigate carnival workers.

Beyond background checks, the older victim’s mother is also pushing for requirements mandating that carnival operators keep better employee records, so that the full name and address of any employee could be found quickly in an emergency.


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