The Triton


More to background checks and crew history than at first glance


By Joe Johnson

The main reason to do background checks is to avoid hiring or going into business with people who may be untrustworthy and harbor ulterior motives. On TV or in movies, a private investigator is often told to “run a make” on someone – well, it’s not that easy.

To conduct an in-depth, comprehensive background check for a legitimate reason takes skill, knowledge and connections to the right databases, and the ability to decipher and interpret the results. Television and website ads that claim to do “Backgrounds for $29.95” do not come close to a real background check  and can ultimately cost a business or a person dearly.

A professional background check makes sure those who are considered for employment are not only who they say they are, but have no criminal record and have the experience necessary to fill that position. When dealing with a professional private investigator, choose a licensed, experienced firm with a background in different fields, including both civil and criminal law. Local, state or federal law enforcement experience is an added benefit.

In the maritime industry, ship owners have to hire crew members – from the captain to deckhands and all positions in between. Recently, A1A Investigative Services conducted at least 25 background checks for a South Florida family who were looking for an entire crew for their new yacht. Potential crew members were referred by a yacht broker in Miami.

Out of the captains referred, two had serious felony records, and one of the two was an illegal alien who had been deported and then returned illegally to the U.S. just 12 days after deportation. That candidate not only had a U.S. felony criminal record,  but had a felony criminal record in England and Scotland as well. Obviously, the two were not hired. The various deck hands and other crew candidates had backgrounds that included issues ranging from a seatbelt violation summons to felony convictions.

The procedure to conduct an in-depth background check calls for the following: name, social security number or tax identification number, date of birth and current address. If an applicant refuses, or is reluctant, to give any or all of that information, don’t waste your time or money on that individual.

To be clear, there is no such thing as a nationwide criminal records check. Only the police and FBI can do that with fingerprints sent to the U.S. National Crime Information Center (NCIC). An individual may submit their own fingerprints on an FBI Applicant Fingerprint Form (FD-258) to the FBI to get their own personal records, if there are any.

An A1A Investigative Services background report will provide you with any and all traffic and criminal records from all states that report them to professional databases not available to the public. Also it will provide a verification of the date of birth, driver’s license history, taxpayer ID info, address history, cellphone numbers, social media information and emails, property and vehicle ownership information, bankruptcies, liens and judgments, other names and dates of birth used, others using the subject’s taxpayer ID and date of birth, any professional licenses, business and corporations affiliations, weapons licensing, global watch lists including terrorism, voter ID info, and all family members of record – living and deceased – associated with the applicant.

Background checks on an international level can be more difficult and complex. Contacts should be verified independently, and working with a variety of resources can take weeks to complete. If necessary, a potential employee could be hired on a contingency basis until a background check has been completed.

While all this information is valuable, also important is a professional investigator’s work to digest this information and determine the validity of the individual in question, and to confer with the client to discuss the results.

Background checks are not new in the maritime industry. They are being used in every industry now, unfortunately. This is the world we now live in. No one should be unknowingly exposed to frauds and criminals when it comes to hiring individuals who will be closely interacting with them. Placing the wrong person on your valuable yacht, in your business or home, and around your family could be dangerous and very costly.

Joe Johnson is a Florida-licensed private investigator with more than 20 years’ experience with the N.Y. Police Department and as a New York supreme court criminal investigator. His company, A1A Investigative Services (, processes background checks.

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7 thoughts on “More to background checks and crew history than at first glance

  1. Tommy O

    Very interesting article. The best way for me to sum in up is pay only $29.95 for what you feel is a comprehensive BG check and you will pay for it down the road- with potential over looked offenses from that applicant that can take you for hundreds, thousands, and more!!!

    Why jeopardize your hard work, family, fortunes, etc… over being cheap in the beginning. The old saying is so true- YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

  2. Peter A. Bournias

    I know Joe for over 30 years since his days as a NY Police Officer, and he is definitely one of New York’s finest.
    Today, Joe is a dedicated investigator who will utilize all tools at his disposal to achieve success and has the insight, integrity and client-centered focus that is a part of his DNA.
    He has been in dangerous situations without concern for his own well being and expertly used his training to deliver justice.
    If you want someone for investigative work, I highly recommend Joe Johnson!

  3. ashley

    Yes… beware… even some detectives won’t find any thing on someone because they lie about their age or other information you wouldn’t expect them to lie about… such as where they’re from, where they live, where they went to school… some people just really suck. This happened to me… even did a background check on him and “nothing came up”… you never know sometimes… best to get qualified help if it’s worth looking into.

  4. Vivian

    Great article! The importance of professional services these days cannot be overlooked. DIY is fine for some things, but when it comes to your property/assets, your health, and most importantly, your family’s safety, hire a professional. The few dollars you’ll save is not even close to worth the headaches you’ll experience later on (and that’s if you’re lucky)! Keep up the good work, Joe!

  5. Jane Bolin

    This article is spot on! As an attorney, I can tell you spending the money in advance will save you the headaches and costs down the road.

  6. John Moorman

    You can never be too safe. As a business owner with several employees, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Yes, you can call their references and check their social media (If any) but you just don’t know. Don’t get me started about “trusting your gut”.
    Great article.
    Thank you.

  7. Captain Sandy

    Trusting a yacht broker from Miami was their mistake. It’s the same as trusting a used. Everyone knows that in the industry, its no secret. No wonder they got criminals. That’s why crew agents exist. Common sense goes out the window all too often in yachting.

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