Sharpsburg resident learns importance of background checks

by Wes Mayer

Unfortunately, we live in a world where not everyone can be trusted.

A Sharpsburg family learned this the hard way after they had a surprising experience with a cleaning lady they hired in June. Now, they know the importance of background checks.

“She seemed like the girl next door,” said Suzie Burk, who had the bad experience with the cleaning lady. “We were so happy to have found her. We finally found the perfect cleaning lady we had been looking for all these years.

“I just want to save somebody from going through what we went through,” she said.

Susan and Jason Burk found out about the cleaning lady, who owns a Newnan-based cleaning service, through the parents of one of her son’s friends. One day, her son came home with the lady’s card and Burk called the woman. Burk was impressed and hired her. The cleaning lady’s first day was on a Monday, and she arrived around 9:30 a.m., according to Burk.

Burk then noticed a few curious things. First, the cleaning lady arrived with two other people whom Burk was not told about. Burk was only able to meet with the cleaners for 30 minutes, though, because she had to leave for work. While she was still home, however, she noticed, while they were cleaning, they’d cleaned inside her medicine cabinet.

The situation got even stranger when the lady called Burk and said she was at Target buying cleaning supplies – Burk thought it was strange the cleaning lady had only just arrived but needed to purchase supplies. The lady also told Burk she broke a picture frame.

A short time later, the cleaning lady called again and said she’d gotten sick in Target and was not sure if she could come back to the house that day. She called a third time and said her car had broke down, so she knew she could not return.

Burk said, at this point, she was still understanding, but she asked the lady if she could bring some form of proof that she was licensed to clean houses. After this, the cleaning lady texted her back and essentially quit.

The only problem – Burk had paid the lady up front with a $130 check. She told the lady to bring that check back the next day, but the lady said she’d already cashed it. Then Burk demanded the cleaning lady bring the money back the next day, but she didn’t. She asked her to bring the money the following day, but the cleaning lady didn’t. This went on for the rest of the week.

Eventually, Burk looked online to see if she could get a background check on the cleaning lady. She was able to purchase one through an online site, and she discovered the cleaning lady is not only a convicted felon, but she is currently serving a 10-year sentence on parole for forgery and identity theft.

“When I found that out, I totally freaked out and lost my [expletive],” Burk said. “She’s on parole and she’s cleaning houses.”

Burk then got help from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office in order to get the lady to bring back the money. The situation was finally resolved when the lady’s husband returned the money almost a week later.

Burk said the cleaning lady never told her anything about being on parole or about being a convicted felon. She didn’t appear to be a criminal at all, and she’d impressed Burk and her family.

“We had a convicted criminal in our house,” Burk said. “So many people just let anyone into their house, and they have no idea who they really are.”

This situation taught the Burks a lot about background checks, and they also learned the importance of hiring people who are licensed to perform their services and the importance of meeting them for the first time in a public location.

“When you have someone working in your home, and you can’t be there [the whole time], you need to do a background check,” said Lt. Col. Jimmy Yarbrough with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. “Especially when it is someone looking at or being around your children.”

Yarbrough said anyone interested in getting a background check on someone should visit the sheriff’s office on Greison Trail, fill out a form and pay $20 for a background check. However, if getting a background check through the sheriff’s office, you need the consent of the person whose background is being obtained.

The same holds true with the Newnan Police Department, for $10, said Newnan Police Chief Douglas “Buster” Meadows, and with the Senoia Police Department, for $15, said Senoia Police Chief Jason Edens. Both departments also require a consent form from the person whose background is being checked.

This usually applies for employers, the chiefs added. If an employer needs a background check of a new employee, that employee may visit the police department, fill out their information, provide their photo identification, and then they can receive their background check directly or have it sent to their employer.

Because of this, Burk found out the best thing to do is to ask the person you are hiring to go obtain their own background check and bring it to you before you hire them. If they want the job badly enough, they will do this, she said.

Another solution is to file a Code P, Burk discovered. This form does not require consent, but it does need a fair amount of information about the person whose background you are checking. This information can be found by asking the potential hire for a copy of their driver’s license. These checks will only release information on any felonies the person committed in Georgia – not any lesser crimes or in any other states.

There are also a number of websites people can visit for background checks, and one is through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Georgia Technology Authority. For this, you need the person’s name, sex and date of birth. You also have to enter your name and email address – if you want any results returned by email – and a reason for searching. You will also be charged for this even if no results are found.

At the very least, Burk suggested simply doing an Internet search with a person’s name and seeing if anything negative appears.

“People need to understand the importance of background checks,” Burk said. “But most people don’t even know where to begin.”

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