Mega Group Online

UBER BACKGROUND CHECKS MISSED CRIMINAL RECORDS

“The background-check service that ride-hailing company Uber uses to screen potential drivers did not flag the criminal records of 25 drivers who gave thousands of rides to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The findings were made public in an amendment to a consumer protection lawsuit filed last year by the district attorneys for Los Angeles and San Francisco. The suit alleges that Uber has misled customers about the safety of the app-based ride service, including how they screen potential drivers.

In the amended 62-page civil complaint, prosecutors detailed the criminal histories of 25 people who gave rides to passengers in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the last two years.

“I support technological innovation,” San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascón said in a prepared statement. “Innovation, however, does not give companies a license to mislead consumers about issues affecting their safety.”

The Times reported this month that four Uber drivers cited at Los Angeles International Airport had criminal records that would bar them from driving a taxi in Los Angeles.

Whether ride-hail drivers should be held to the same background-check standards as taxi drivers has been the subject of hours of testimony at Los Angeles City Hall, as lawmakers prepare to vote on a permit process that would allow Uber and its main competitor, Lyft, to pick up passengers at LAX.

Prospective Uber drivers are not required by state law to submit fingerprints as part of their background checks. The company says its background-check service identifies all criminal convictions in the last seven years.

By contrast, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation runs the prints of potential taxi drivers through federal criminal databases.

Uber and Lyft use services that can process screenings within days. They have both argued that using fingerprint checks would be redundant.

In a prepared statement, Uber spokeswoman Eva Behrend said that no background check is “100% foolproof.” Running fingerprints through state and federal databases can flag the criminal records of people who have been arrested but not convicted, “which can discriminate against minorities,” she said.

According to the amended lawsuit complaint, one driver was convicted of second-degree murder in Los Angeles and spent 26 years in prison. He gave a different name when he applied to drive for Uber, and a background report said he had no known aliases and no criminal history, the complaint said. The driver gave 1,168 rides over seven months, according to the prosecutors’ court filing.

Using fingerprints and checking federal databases would have identified the man’s criminal history, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also said they found three unlicensed drivers who used someone else’s account to drive for Uber.

Five drivers had convictions for driving under the influence in the last seven years, the complaint said, and some still drive for Uber. The company has said it bars applicants with convictions for DUI in the preceding seven years.

Several drivers were convicted of fraud, including one driver convicted in 2010 of 29 felony counts of theft, grand theft, filing false or fraudulent real estate deeds, and money laundering, according to the complaint.”

Sex Offender Lied on Application to Get Syracuse DPW Job

“SYRACUSE — Mark Carrigan has been described by Syracuse Police as ‘the most prolific sex offender’ in the city’s history. Now, through the Freedom of Information Law, CNY Central has revealed his application for employment with the City of Syracuse.

In 2009, Carrigan filled out a standard application form as he applied for a sanitation job in the Department of Public Works. He was asked twice if he had ever been convicted of a crime, either a felony of a misdemeanor. In one instance he left the question blank, in the other he lied by checking the “no” box.

Carrigan’s application is dated June 10, 2009. At that time he was already a level three sex offender. Carrigan had been victimizing young males since 1988, police say.

At the time he applied for a Syracuse City job, he’d been arrested at least 16 times. Of those charges, 16 were felonies and 22 were misdemeanors along with two other charges. Out of 16 felonies, three resulted in convictions. Of the 22 misdemeanor charges, 12 resulted in convictions.

In 2012, when Carrigan was fired from his DPW job because he had been arrested again for having oral sex with a 15 year-old boy, the city announced that it would not change its policy on background checks. The mayor has since reiterated that the city’s policy is to conduct a background check on people who are applying for jobs where they are most likely to come into contact with children, including police, fire, airport and city parks jobs. However, DPW workers are not subject to such checks.”

Originally posted by CNY Central and can be viewed at http://www.cnycentral.com/news/story.aspx?id=942279#.Ui36tMakqQA

ARRESTED SENATE INTERN WAS SEX OFFENDER, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT

Senator Robert Menendez said he did not know an 18-year-old intern at his office was a sex offender and illegal immigrant until news broke of the intern’s arrest this afternoon.”I just heard … ” Menendez said on MSNBC during a prescheduled interview to discuss immigration reform. The Associated Press reported that federal authorities on Dec. 6 arrested Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, who came to the United States from Peru and allegedly overstayed his visa.

The report also said although the Department of Homeland Security was notified in October that the intern may have been eligible for deportation, it told Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to hold off on the arrest until after Menendez’s November election. The AP cited an unnamed official involved with the investigation. Peter Boogaard, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, called the report that the agency delayed Sanchez’s arrest until after the election “categorically false.”

“ICE followed standard process in coordination with its federal partners and local prosecutors before taking appropriate enforcement action,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

Menendez, a Democrat, easily won re-election last month with 59 percent of the vote against his Republican challenger, state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth).

Menendez said his staff found out about the arrest Monday and immediately terminated Sanchez from the intern program. In a telephone interview, Menendez spokesman Tricia Enright said Sanchez had been an intern for about two months and that the senator did not know him. “What we know is we have a nonpaying college intern program. This young man applied to that process, got recommended by the school,” Menendez said on MSNBC. “We ask the status of all of those college interns … And we certainly wouldn’t have known through any background checks, since he is a minor, about any sex-offender status.”

Sanchez committed the offense in 2010 but because he was prosecuted as a juvenile, the exact charge and court records are not publicly available, according to the AP. The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office — which first told Homeland Security about Sanchez — did not return a phone call seeking comment.

To read more, please visit http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/12/menendez_says_he_was_unaware_a.html

ENFORCEMENT OF NEW CALIFORNIA HUMAN TRAFFICKING LAW BLOCKED BY JUDGE

A federal judge has temporarily blocked enforcement of a provision in a just-enacted California state law that requires all registered sex-offenders to immediately turn over the all of their Internet identifiers and the names of their Internet service providers to local police or sheriff’s departments.

The temporary restraining order comes in response to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of North California.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two John Doe plaintiffs, sought the immediate striking down of the provision in the newly enacted Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act, which was enacted Tuesday when California voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 35.

In granting the Temporary Restraining Order, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson said the plaintiffs have “raised serious questions about whether the challengedsections of the CASE Act violate their First Amendment right to free speech and other constitutional rights.”

The CASE Act increases criminal penalties for human traffickers, which it defines as anyone who forces people into felony crimes such as prostitution or forced labor or are involved in the creation and distribution of child pornography even if the offender has no actual contact with the minors depicted.

Penalties for such crimes are dramatically increased under the new law.

CASE increases the maximum prison sentence for labor trafficking from five years to 12 years. The maximum sentence for sex trafficking crimes involving adults now fetches 20 years versus the previous five-year maximum prison sentence. Those convicted of trafficking in minors can now face up to life in prison; the previous maximum sentence for that crime was eight years.

The EFF and ACLU are challenging a provision that requires all registered sex offenders in the state to give their e-mail addresses, user names, screen names, and all “other personal identifiers for Internet communication and activity” to local law enforcement agencies.

The law requires that registered sex offenders notify authorities within 24 hours of creating new email accounts, changing online names or their ISPs or  face years in prison.

The EFF contends that the provision immediately affects more than 73,000 Californians who are registered as sex offenders.

In the complaint, the EFF and ACLU say the provision is too broad and impacts people with decades-old convictions for relatively minor misdemeanors or whose crimes are unrelated to Internet use.

“The law requires registrants to provide information about online activities that have no possible relationship to criminality, such as the screen names they use to post comments about articles on a newspaper’s website or names that they use to access political discussion groups,” the complaint says.

The requirement is unconstitutional, contends Hanni Fakhoury, a staff attorney for the EFF who is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

“This is a First Amendment issue,” Fakhoury said. “What the [statute] does is to eliminate the right to speak anonymously for an entire class of individuals.”

The bill is not limited to human traffickers. Rather it applies to every sex offender in the state regardless of how minor the offense was or how long ago it occurred, he said.

It’s one thing to expect a curtailment of certain rights for people who are currently incarcerated or under probation or parole, Fakhoury said. It’s another matter though to curtail those rights, for people who have already served out their prison time and their probationary periods, he said.

“At some point, they become just like everybody else in society” and have the right to communicate anonymously online if they choose to, he said.

The District Court has scheduled a hearing on Nov. 20 to decide whether a preliminary injunction enjoining the state from implementing and enforcing the provision should be issued.

To read more, please visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9233395/Judge_blocks_enforcement_of_Calif._human_trafficking_law

 

SEX OFFENDERS SUE CITY OVER HALLOWEEN RESTRICTIONS

An attorney representing five Simi Valley sex offenders who sued the city over limits to their Halloween activities said the lawsuit will be the first of several she expects to file over such restrictions.

Lawyer Janice Bellucci heads the 18-month-old advocacy group California Reform Sex Offender Laws. On Friday, she filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that Simi Valley’s ordinance violates her clients’ First Amendment rights.

The suit seeks a judge’s order prohibiting enforcement of the ordinance in Simi Valley, which has 119 registered sex offenders, according to a city report. Bellucci is representing five unnamed sex offenders, three of their spouses and two minor children, she said.

The ordinance, adopted Sept. 10, prohibits registered sex offenders in the Ventura County city of about 125,000 from displaying Halloween decorations, answering the door to trick-or-treaters or having outside lighting after dark on Oct. 31.

Simi Valley councilman and LAPD officer Mike Judge said the law is modeled after similar Halloween laws enforced in other California cities, and is meant to protect children.

“This law was generated by citizens asking the City Council to do something,” Judge said. “And it didn’t seem unreasonable for the City Council to take it up.

“As far as I’m concerned, our law doesn’t go as far as other laws in the state of California and it still, in our opinion, protects our children a little bit better than not having it.”

Registered sex offenders are also required to post signs with on their front doors reading, in 1-inch letters, “No candy or treats at this residence.” Those offenders visible to the public on the state’s Megan’s Law website and convicted of a crime against a child are required to post the sign.

Sixty-seven of the city’s offenders are listed on the website, according to a city report; the rest are convicted of misdemeanors and don’t have their names on the public list.

Bellucci said the sign-posting requirement was “particularly egregious.”

“We consider that to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution,” Bellucci said Tuesday.

The ordinance both imposes “forced speech” – the sign – and restricts speech by prohibiting Halloween celebrations, she said.

“It’s similar to Jews in Nazi Germany who had to wear the yellow star on their clothing,” Bellucci said.

The Simi Valley measure is part of a trend of increasing strict restrictions on the activities of convicted sex offenders who have “paid their debt to society,” Bellucci said.

Her organization intends to begin filing lawsuits to challenge other statutes, she said.

The office of Simi Valley City Attorney Marjorie Baxter said the city had not been served with Bellucci’s complaint, so it had no comment as of Tuesday afternoon.

Baxter was quoted in the Ventura County Star, which first reported on the lawsuit, as saying: “We thoroughly researched the ordinance and I don’t feel the lawsuit has any merit, and we will defend it vigorously.”

At an Aug. 20 initial City Council hearing on the ordinance, a deputy city attorney told council members that “traditional trick or treat activities associated with Halloween provide have the potential to provide significant opportunities for sex offenders to victimize minors.”

Council members at that time expressed some concern about legal repercussions, as well as worries that residents who decide not to decorate will be thought by neighbors to be sex offenders.

The police chief told the council that he could find no records of a sex crime against a child on Halloween in Simi Valley.

Those who are convicted of violating the ordinance would be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in county jail, according to a city staff report.

California residents who have been convicted of or pleaded no contest or guilty to a sex-related offense must register with local public safety authorities.  Offenders are listed on the registry for life.  

To read more, visit: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Sex-Offenders-Lawsuit-Simi-Valley-Halloween-Restrictions-172382921.html

SAFER ONLINE DATING

Online dating is getting a little bit safer now that three major sites, Match.com, eHarmony and Spark Networks (the operator of JDate and Christian Mingle) have agreed to join forces with California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to protect members by running background checks on prospective subscribers.

While some of the dating sites have already implemented screening of prospective members, this announcement is the first joint effort with law enforcement and Attorney General Harris is encouraging other dating sites to implement similar policies.

The participating sites will now check subscribers against national sex offender registries; anyone who is a registered sex offender will be barred from the online dating services.  The sites will also be screening for violence and identity theft as well as checking the accuracy on client applications.  Any criminal information gathered from the dating sites will be provided to the Attorney General’s office.

The sites will also increase their online safety tools with “rapid abuse reporting systems,” which will give members access to a website, email address and/or phone number to report suspected criminal activity.  Further implementations include online dating safety education, guidance for fraud prevention and instruction on how to meet people safely offline.

The increased use of online dating sites has also brought an increase in financial scams and even physical abuse.  A Match.com client sued last year, saying she was raped on a date with a repeat sex offender she had met through the site.  The alleged attacker had at least six prior sex offense convictions.

In 2011, 40 million Americans used an online dating service and more than $1 billion was spent on online dating website memberships.  Of couples married in the last three years, one in six met through an online dating service and one in five people have dated someone they met through an online dating site.

“Consumers should be able to use websites without the fear of being scammed or targeted,” said Attorney General Harris.  “It is a priority for this office to ensure consumers are protected online, and companies who are creating in the Internet space have a continued opportunity to innovate and thrive.”

While these measures are promising, not every would-be sex offender can be screened out. Common sense is paramount, and safe online dating tips include using the online dating services email system, meeting in public places and letting friends know vital information about the person you are meeting.

 

WILL BOY SCOUTS’ FILES EXPOSE “CULTURE OF HIDDEN SEX ABUSE?”

A judge in Santa Barbara, CA has ordered the Boy Scouts of America to hand over the last 20 years’ worth of confidential files, detailing allegations of sexual abuse by Scout leaders around the nation.

Historically, Scout officials have resisted releasing the estimated 5,000 files, which have been kept since the 1920’s and are known as “ineligible volunteer files.”  The Scouts haven’t discussed the file contents either, citing the privacy rights of victims and the fact that many files are based on unproven allegations. Scout officials further deny that the files have been used to conceal sexual abuse.

According to Deron Smith, public relations director for Boy Scouts of America “These files exist solely to keep out individuals whose actions are inconsistent with the standards of Scouting, and Scouts are safer because of them.”

But in a negligence lawsuit brought against the Scouts by the family of a California boy molested by his Boy Scout troop leader in 2007,  the boy’s lawyers contend these files will expose the Scouts’ “culture of hidden sexual abuse” and its failure to warn about pedophiles in the ranks of one of the nation’s oldest youth organizations.  “They have created these ticking time bombs who are walking through society, and nobody knows their identities except the Scouts,” said Timothy Hale, one of the lawyers for the Santa Barbara County boy.

The lawsuit contends that the Boy Scouts knew, or should have known that Al Stein, a volunteer troop leader who had a history of inappropriate behavior with children and had put the unnamed victim boy at risk. The suit further alleges that the Scouts asked the victim’s mother not to call the police following her son’s claim of abuse, stating that the Scouts conduct their own “internal investigation.” Lawyers for the family say this is evidence of the Scout’s efforts to conceal widespread sexual abuse.

In 2008, Stein was charged with committing a lewd act upon a child and two child pornography charges for photographs he took of a boy. In 2009, Stein pleaded no contest and was put on probation. Authorities later found pictures of nude children on Stein’s cell phone and he was sentenced to two years in prison, but was paroled early.  According to Stein’s attorney, Stein is currently living in a motel with other sex offenders.

The trial is set for April in Santa Barbara County.