Man Says Database Attached Social Security Number To Criminal - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Man Says Database Attached Social Security Number To Criminal

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A federal court lawsuit claims a typing error by a clerk in a sheriff's office gave a man's Social Security number to someone with a history of drunken driving arrests and a murder charge.

As a result, Scott Lewis of Nelsonville says he couldn't get a job, despite his good work record in medical sales and administration. One prospective employer called him an "unsavory character" after doing a background check on him, he said.

This went on for most of 1998, according to Lewis' lawyer, Sylvia Antalis, who said the background checks based on Lewis' Social Security number kept bringing up the other man's name and criminal record.

"Not only did the businesses think he was lying to them about having a clean record, but that he was using an alias," Antalis said.

Lewis is suing those who created the database where the erroneous information was stored, the Ohio and Michigan sheriffs associations, and those who sell such background reports to prospective employers.

In addition to monetary damages, Lewis wants the court to order the Michigan Jail Linkage System, OPENonline, Intellicorp, and related companies to adopt procedures to make sure what happened to him doesn't happen to others.

In early 1999, Lewis had a friend download a criminal-background report. He was stunned by what he saw.

A decade ago, a clerk at the Stark County Sheriff's Office typed in the last four numbers of a drunken-driving suspect's telephone number as the last four digits of his Social Security number. That error resulted in Lewis' Social Security number.

The information was relayed to the Michigan Jail Linkage System, a database created by the private, nonprofit Buckeye State and Michigan sheriffs associations to share with other sheriff's departments and to sell to the public.

OPENonline, which at the time was called the Ohio Professional Electronic Network, and Intellicorp sell the computerized information.

Antalis told U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley last week that OPENonline, Intellicorp and the Jail Linkage System are liable for Lewis' troubles.

She argued that the companies are subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The law says those who provide reports about individuals' character and reputation to help others judge their eligibility for credit, employment and insurance are liable for their accuracy.

Marbley is expected to rule within the month whether the act is applicable and whether the case can proceed to trial.

OPENonline general counsel Angela Bosworth told The Columbus Dispatch the company was not subject to the act because it didn't assemble or evaluate the information. OPENonline was merely a gateway for customers to access the information in the Jail Linkage System, she said.

Robert Cornwell, executive director of the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, said sheriff's offices in Michigan and Ohio create the information in the Jail Linkage System and have the responsibility to make sure it is correct. The system is not responsible under the act because it is simply a repository, he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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