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How a Background Investigation Can Protect the Community
In the past few weeks, there has been considerable media coverage by the Rochester media regarding overly aggressive door-to-door sales people in Farmington, Canandaigua, Victor, and Fairport.
T&B Sales, based in Jonesboro, Georgia, came out in force selling cleaning supplies to communities in Ontario and Monroe County; more specifically Farmington, Canandaigua, Victor, and Fairport, NY. I was visited by one of these salesmen who was aggressive but not inappropriate. He could clearly see by my demeanor that I was not interested, and after about 2 minutes he thanked me and left my doorstep.
In my law enforcement career, I’ve handled many calls for aggressive or unlicensed solicitors. Typically, we would stop the individuals, determine if they had obtained the proper permits, and if not, take them into custody. That was usually enough to deter any further soliciting by the same group.
In this particular case however, some of the solicitors employed by T&B Sales were overly aggressive and were allegedly entering homes uninvited and threatening home owners. One such encounter between a home owner in Farmington and the solicitors was filmed. The video depicted 3 males who were loud, disorderly, threatening, and using profanity. It appears they attempted to enter- yes, actually physically enter- the residence of the people filming the exchange. In New York, this would at minimum, rise to the level of a crime in the form of Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree and possibly Burglary in the Second Degree.
None of the sales people’s actions could be construed as a legitimate sales tactic. When the homeowner confronted the men and told them to leave his property, they continued to taunt him and attempt to engage him in an altercation (which he did not give into, and wisely remained on his property).
I looked into this company and discovered that this was not a unique situation with T&B Sales. A simple Google Search yielded the following results:
- In December 2013, T&B Sales’ owner, Timothy Burgess, was arrested by the Polk County Sheriffs Office (FL) for aggressive sales tactics and soliciting without a license (Wood, 2013)
- In March 2010, in Bakersfield, California, Burgess and T&B Sales received complaints for aggressive sales people entering homes and refusing to leave. Burgess was quoted as saying he hires from inner city areas like Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles and claimed to conduct background checks on his employees. Burgess further stated they stay in a community for 2 months at a time at local hotels and drive around in vans (Ferguson, 2010).
- In May 2010, similar reports surfaced about T&B Sales and their aggressive tactics (i.e. entering homes uninvited) in Longview, Washington (Slape, 2010).
- In December 2006, in El Cajon California, Archie Lee Thomas, was conducting door-to-door sales. Thomas entered a residence where an 18 year old girl was home alone. Thomas brutally raped and assaulted the girl for hours. Thomas was sentenced to 80 years in prison (Moran, 2006). According to the Polk County Sheriff release, Thomas was an employee of T&B Sales at the time (Wood, 2013).
On July 28th, 2015 residents of the Town of Farmington, NY attended a town meeting to voice concerns about the conduct of the salesmen from T&B Sales. T&B Sales also sent a representative who apologized for the conduct of the salesmen (whom they claimed to have fired following the incident) and said they did not condone the tactics of those salesmen (Adams, 2015).
Clearly that is not the case. As my research above shows, T&B Sales has clearly continued to use these tactics all over the country for the past 9 years (at least) despite repeated complaints and run-ins with law enforcement. It doesn’t appear that there has been any attempt to modify their behavior or sales tactics at all.
In fact, there seems to be a disagreement whether the company actually finds the aggressive tactics to be inappropriate at all. On July 29th, 2015, the Gates, NY Police Department issued a warning to residents on its Facebook page that the sales force from T&B Sales were staying at a hotel on the Gates/City of Rochester border. A reporter from a local news station caught up with Keelan Burgess, who identified himself as the General Manager. Burgess stated, in sum and substance, that the sales people have to be aggressive and can’t just run off at the first “no”. When asked if the news crew could follow some of the sales people to see how they conduct business, Burgess stated that wouldn’t be possible because he didn’t know what towns they were working in. (Really? You’re the General Manager and you don’t know where your employees are?) Burgess ended by telling the reporter that T&B sales didn’t have a permit to sell in Gates, but that was “ok because they don’t like to sell in the same town they are staying in” (Davidsen, 2015). I wonder why that is?
These incidents point out the need for strengthening the laws in each town regarding door-to-door sales. These laws should include the requirement for a background check on each individual wishing to obtain a permit to go door-to-door. The background investigation should include a criminal history check and a check of the sex offender registry. This information, along with other criteria, can be used to determine whether the municipality should grant or deny a permit. The law should deny permits to individuals convicted of certain offenses and anyone registered as a sex offender. These applicants should also have to be bonded and/or insured in the event any of their actions while conducting business in the municipality results in injury to persons or damage to property.
A private investigator has the ability to run these checks accurately and in accordance with the law. You cannot rely on using an instant background check service you find on the internet. For instance, New York State does not allow reporting of convictions to these databases and individual searches must be conducted at the County level and at the state level to ensure you are getting ALL the relevant information. Someone using one of the services mentioned above would likely never see convictions in New York State and assume there were no problems.
Background investigations involving employment are also governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and if you are not familiar with all the requirements for complying with the law, you could very quickly find yourself the subject of a lawsuit for upwards of $10,000 dollars.
At Trident Recovery and Investigations Group, we conduct background investigations, in conjunction with other private investigations and are familiar with the requirements for conducting such checks. Should you require the services of a private investigator, or need a background investigation or pre-employment screening performed, we would be happy to help you.