A decade ago when Scottsdale, Ariz., police uncovered a local fraud ring, they learned that breached information came from an unexpected source: an auto dealership finance manager.
A background check likely would have paid off for the dealership, Henry Brown Buick-GMC-Pontiac in suburban Gilbert.
But even though background checks may seem like an obvious way to protect dealerships from hiring untrustworthy employees, some dealerships don't use them. And dealerships that do rely on background checks must navigate a complex web of federal and state regulations that could lead to legal trouble if not followed properly, experts warn.
Henry Brown Buick-GMC-Pontiac's finance manager had 17 felony convictions for crimes such as burglary, credit card theft and drug violations. Management knew that he had been in prison but was unaware of the extent of his convictions, the detective and chief of the county's fraud and identity theft bureau said in 2011.
"This guy is the most magnanimous person you would meet," Maryann McKessy, chief of the Fraud and Identity Theft Bureau of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, said of the finance manager at the time. "He's a spin master. That's why he's so good at his job."
Especially for positions that involve handling money and customer information, background checks can be valuable, Amanda Turner, human resources administrator for Worden Martin Inc., a dealership group in Champaign, Ill., told Automotive News late last year.
With so much information given to the store, customers trust the dealership to keep it safe, she said. But without a background check, some dealers are letting private information end up in the wrong hands.
For example, last year a Connecticut dealership, Lee Partyka Chevrolet, learned its finance manager embezzled $80,000 from the store. The embezzlement was not the manager's first brush with the law. He also stole $1.4 million from his former employer. He avoided jail time by cooperating with the state attorney's office in the murder trial of a former high school classmate.