A property management company in Salt Lake City is trying to figure out how a maintenance worker with an extensive criminal history was able to slip through their background check process undetected. Per a report from the Salt Lake Tribune, the company—called Highland Property Management—hired a woman to live and work as a maintenance worker at their Ball Park Apartments complex last fall. As it turned out, though, the maintenance worker had a criminal record and had just been released from prison on parole.
According to the Tribune, the maintenance worker—a 37-year-old woman named Ann Swenson-Shaw—has previous convictions on her record for “identity fraud, theft, forgery, shoplifting, unlawful use of a financial card, possession of a controlled substance, and escaping from official custody.” She was recently arrested for violating her parole by using drugs, possessing drug paraphernalia, and trying to cheat a drug test.
The arrest was a shock to residents of Ball Park Apartments, as well as to Highland Property. Highland said that it had followed its usual background check policies when hiring Swenson-Shaw and that her record had come back completely clean. Highland repeatedly reached out to its third-party background check to find out what had happened and was told the issue was the result of “human error.” The property management company is now going back and double-checking other employees it vetted using the same company, to see if the oversight went beyond just Swenson-Shaw.
Tenants, meanwhile, are worried that Swenson-Shaw may have used her access to their apartments and their records to commit identity theft. As part of her job, the maintenance worker had keys and access codes to Ball Park units. Highland representatives say Swenson-Shaw’s job didn’t involve access to tenant records, but that she may have been able to steal some information anyway. Swenson-Shaw was allegedly found to be in possession of several residents’ personal information when she was arrested. Tenants aren’t sure if she might have applied for credit cards under their names, or used their information for other means.
Ball Park Apartments is a popular housing destination for the elderly and disabled, thanks to subsidized rental rates. Highland Property Management has typically marketed the property to the 55-and-older audience. The company recently issued a formal written apology to all residents and has offered to institute numerous safeguards. Those protections include rekeying locks on apartment units and offering a free year of credit monitoring for each resident. Highland says that 75 percent of apartment locks have already been changed.
At backgroundchecks.com, we pride ourselves on thorough background checks and reliable, accurate data. We also encourage employers to conduct multiple checks on their new hires, to minimize the risk of potentially overlooking red flags. For instance, in the case of a criminal history check, it’s often smart to run checks in multiple counties (based on the candidate’s address history) and then back those checks up with a state and/or multi-jurisdictional database search. Layering criminal history checks in this fashion helps you cover all bases and makes it easier to find convictions that one check alone might miss.