News for March, 2009

OUR VIEW: Background checks must be thorough, or else …

A recently filed civil lawsuit alleges that a Culpeper man working as a counselor had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor and that he had fraudulent credentials that left him unqualified for the job. Records show he has an arrest history that includes convictions for being drunk in public, making threats over the phone and failure to appear in court. School officials are examining their background checking policy to understand how the records were overlooked.

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The Criminal At Your Door

According to an investigation conducted by a local journalist, convicted criminals could be passing undetected through residents’ front doors as sub-contractors. Current laws do not require companies to perform criminal background checks on people in this position. At the same time, subcontractors are widely used because of the costs saved to the companies.

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Arrest of teacher signals time for more in-depth background checks

Officials are calling for more thorough background checks on teachers after the arrest of a Gilroy High School math teacher charged with nine counts of sex crimes with a 14-year-old girl. Morgan Hill resident Alberto Gomez Vicuna Jr., 32, was arrested Feb. 25 near his home after the girl’s parents told San Jose police that Vicuna was having sex with a minor. She met Vicuna through the Internet social networking site, Tagged.com.

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GAO cites fraud in Medicare in-home services billings

The Government Accountability Office reports fraud and abuse helped boost Medicare spending on home health services 44% over five years as some providers exaggerated patients’ medical conditions and others billed for unnecessary services or care they did not provide. The GAO reviewed home care payments from 2002 to 2006, when spending reached $13 billion. The number of Medicare enrollees using in-home services rose 17% during that period to 2.8 million. The study recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) consider criminal background checks on home health operators and draft new rules to remove problem providers more easily.

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Nursing home hiring practices can put residents at risk

New York state Lawmakers are now turning their attention towards  closing the legal loopholes that have allowed negligent hiring practices in nursing homes. Since 2007, the state Attorney General’s Office has charged more than 50 nursing home workers, including five in the Rochester area, for kicking, neglecting, tying up, stealing from or sexually abusing residents. Some accused workers in Rochester homes found jobs at other area facilities shortly after their former employers reported abuse to the state. Among them, a certified nurse’s aide accused of kicking an 87-year-old resident, and another convicted of stealing patients’ Social Security numbers.

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City of Wilmington performs selective background checks for employees

Controversy has arisen around the city worker in Wilmington, NC involved in a police chase last month after the revelation he has a lengthy criminal record.  City officials currently run criminal checks on potential employees based on the job title only.  They often hire people with prior records to help them earn legitimate money and stay away from crime. The city does criminal background checks on employees who will be working with children or in sensitive positions where money is involved, but this policy might now be reviewed and made more strict in light of the recent events.

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Criminal past no barrier to mortgage field

A state-wide review of mortgage loan broker license holders has revealed a number of convicted criminals as recipients, drugs dealers and gang members among them. The profession operates with minimal state oversight. The licenses give the ex-cons easy access to a client’s personal financial information, including bank account and Social Security numbers. More importantly, the licenses open the door to the mortgage market, which was awash in billions of dollars until it crashed, sparking the national economic crisis. Given the sensitive nature of the economy and a growing number of identity theft scandals, lawmakers are working to amend these licensure requirements.

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Metro Reexamines Bus Driver Hiring Rules

LA Metro officials say tighter hiring standards for bus operators could be in place as soon as May. Two recent incidents where Metrobus drivers were involved in crimes sparked a thorough review and proposal to amend existing loopholes. One of the drivers had an extensive record of violent felony offenses, including one in which a man was killed. The driver had a record of armed robberies and other crimes dating back to the 1990s, was hired as a Metrobus driver two months after getting out of prison, where he spent nearly 11 years.

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City to check drivers for criminal records

North Charleston taxi inspector Ed Ott has taken on the mission of identifying taxi drivers with criminal records and getting the worst offenders off the road. This is part of a larger initiative to protect residents from unqualified and dangerous drivers, a growing problem in recent years. “They’re not out there to drive cabs,” Ott said of renegade and alcohol-abusing drivers. “They’re out there to do other things.”

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