Hiring a “Warm Body”

20080113_inq_stheft13z-a1.jpeg Anthony Fussell 

 Photo - Philadelphia Inquirer

 Did you hire this man?

On January 13th, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article, by Staff Writer, Mari Schaefer, about a man who, from December 2004 to November 2007 took an estimated $220,000 in cash from eight or more retailers. Read the story.

According to the article, “Anthony Fussell was a human-resource manager's dream come true. Or so it seemed. He was a well-spoken Morgan State University grad, a former Marine Corps reservist with a solid resume who convinced interviewers at ShopRite, Kmart, Value City, Toys R Us, and Ross Dress for Less that he had the retail business down cold.â€
According to law enforcement authorities, Fussell never attended Morgan State University, received a less than honorable discharge from the Marines, and was wanted on a fugitive warrant. According to the news article, Fussell was repeatedly hired as a store manager where he would work for a few days or weeks then disappearing with cash receipts. Apparently Fussell was hired as what is commonly referred to as a “warm bodyâ€. His “MO†(method of operation) was to pick high cash transaction companies, and work during the busy holiday season when retailers were less like to complete background checks. That is if they conducted background investigations at all. And, that is the crux of the problem.

This is where retailers often go wrong – they fail to properly investigate an employee’s history, handing over the keys to their business. Think about it, would you hand your house keys to a stranger and ask them to watch your house? This falls under the umbrella of negligent hiring. In Mr. Fussell’s case the only harm he caused was to the retailer’s themselves. Let’s look at another side of this.

Your employee Bob (not the one from the Account Temps commercial) suddenly physically assaults a customer. The customer is severely injured and it’s found, during the lawsuit discovery phase, that Bob has a history of violence, has been convicted, numerous times, in court for assault, and served time in jail. You, the retailer, hired Bob without conducting a proper background investigation. You ‘could of known – should of known’ that Bob was prone to committing assaults. What do you think the outcome of this type of suit would be?

OK – I guess I’ve ranted enough. The lesson for retailers (or any business owner) is to know who is working for you. Take the time to check their background.

Curtis Baillie, Principal Consultant - Security Consulting Strategies LLC