Former Indiana Prison Guard Had Colorful Criminal Record

By Michael Klazema on 7/7/2016

A recent case in Indiana has shown how aliases can hoodwink background checks if employers aren't careful. The situation involved an employer, the Indiana Department of Correction, that hired a 52-year-old man to work as a corrections officer without flagging his significant criminal history. According to a report from the Associated Press, the man was able to slip through the cracks and avoid a red flag on his background check by using a different name.

The officer in question worked at the Pendleton Correctional Facility from 2007 to 2015. The man had convictions on his record for attempted murder, burglary, robbery, and kidnapping. However, none of those convictions showed up on his background check because he used a different name on his application than the one under which he was convicted.

The name wasn't just an alias: the man legally changed his name in 1993 while he was serving a prison sentence in New York state. However, he failed to disclose his criminal record on his job application to work for the Indiana Department of Correction. Because of that fact, the man has been indicted on a new set of charges—this time from the federal government. The charges allege that he defrauded the State of Indiana by lying about his criminal history, a lie that led to eight years of employment and income of $175,000.

All Indiana Department of Correction employees have to go through background checks at the time of their hiring. Those checks include searches of the Indiana state criminal database as well as driving history checks and sex offender registry checks. The AP report noted that the checks include some search of multi-jurisdictional "national crime databases." Reference checks round out the process. The Department of Correction also reportedly takes fingerprints of each employee on their first day of work. Precisely what those fingerprints are used for and whether or not they are used to double check the department's name-based background checks remains unclear.

A true fingerprint background check with multi-jurisdictional reach might have uncovered the man's criminal record despite his name change. Similarly, a Social Security Number check would have highlighted the fact that he had lived and worked under two names. This revelation could have come as a red flag for the Department of Correction, who could have then run background checks of his second name.



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