Friday, March 21, 2014

Ryan Family Misadventures

There I was, listening to a silent hold and waiting for the FBI Analyst to return to our phone conversation or route me elsewhere or ask me to repeat the story for the upteenth time.  How did this HAPPEN?, I asked myself.  HOW it happened might be a forever mystery, but at least it's over... kind of.

So let's start at the beginning.  Friday February 21st was my last day at CBRE, after 4.5 years of service.  We were thigh-high in boxes around the house, planning a weekend house-hunting trip that weekend, kicking butts and taking names.  My workday was rather busy for a last day; training to do, financials to deliver, ad hoc requests popping up.  But nothing I wasn't happy to help with.  And besides, a huge chapter was about to begin for us!  Nothing could have altered our mood as moving day drew nearer.

I was in email contact with my future employer, accomplishing one pre-employment task after another.  The usual stuff: background checks, urine tests, filling out forms to prove I'm a US citizen, etc. etc.  Everything passed, as it should.  A few days before I was asked to complete a fingerprint card, and return it to my employer for a more thorough background check.  Nothing I had ever done before, but I made it happen.  Paid the $30 at the Bartlett PD, was fingerprinted and dropped the pre-paid envelope in the white fedex box.  A day later I received an email from the pre-employment team, saying they needed court disposition notating the status of an old issue on my record.  All they could give me was:  10/04/2007 - Memphis Police Department.

When I read the email I rolled my eyes.
"They need documentation about those expired tags I went to court for, back in the day", I told Michael.  I made a few phone calls, talked to a few people, and was able to get my court disposition faxed to the pre-employment team within a few minutes.  So now we were good to go!  That is where I sat, that Friday afternoon.  Happy and ready.

The phone rang on my bedside table.  I sat indian style on our bed, laptop before me, working earnestly.  My cell screen showed a New Jersey number; this wasn't too strange, as I had already spoken with people in Louisiana, Phoenix, North Carolina -- all assisting with our upcoming move.  So I answered...

"Hello?  This is Marie."
"Hello, is this Marie Ryan?"
"Yes, it is."
"Marie, this is [lets call her...] Denise.  I am with the pre-employment team.  Thank you for sending in your court disposition."
"Sure!  Wasn't a problem at all.  Did that resolve any questions you had?"
"Well, not quite.  On this fax, it shows the resolution of the two instances on your record.  Expired tags and driving w an expired license."
"Yes ma'am -- that was in 2007, but I received two tickets that day.  I appeared in court with an attorney and both items were paid and resolved at that point."
"I see.  Well the problem is, you did not send us anything on the third charge."
"Third charge?" I sat upright in bed.  What?
"Yes.  Your court disposition shows two, but the fingerprint background check shows three.  The third charge to your name, which we need information on, is for..."  I heard her shuffle through some papers at her desk.  "The third charge is for an Unlawful Possession of a Weapon".

I think I laughed.  Honestly, I didn't know what to say.  This had to have been a joke.

"Unlawful possession of a weapon? Hah... you're sure that is to my name?  I'm married now, my maiden name was Marie Balla in 2007.  Are you sure that's correct?"
"Yes ma'am.  Your name now is Marie V Ryan?  Name at the time was Marie V Balla?  Your birthdate is xx/xx/xxxx?  Your social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx?"
"Yes, yes, yes, yes....... but, I've never heard of this charge before.. I-I-I don't know what to say.  It's not mine.  I didn't do that."
"You weren't arrested on 10/04/2007?"
"No!  No... I've never been arrested.  Ever."
"It says here you were arrested on 10/04/2007 and you pled guilty to the charge."
"I'm sorry.  I didn't do this.  I have never been arrested.  I've never pled guilty to anything."

The conversation ended shortly thereafter with Denise telling me she would do some double-checking.  She was confused, although not as much as I.  I sat on the bed, with my head spinning.  I was starring at the computer screen but I couldn't think.  Michael walked into the room and he saw a tear roll down my face.  I repeated the conversation, told him what she had told me, and we both sat there.

"I didn't do this, Michael.  I swear I didn't.  I have no idea what she's talking about.  What am I supposed to do?"  Neither one of us had answers.  I worked as best as I could until I heard back from Denise.  She explained she checked, double-checked and triple checked.  She told me this charge was on my name, no doubt about it.  She said she needed to have a court disposition of the resolution of this charge, or some sort of official letter from the FBI that this charge was cleared.  She told me I needed to provide this to her.  Until then, my start date would have to be pushed back OR Chase may have to retract my job offer.  This was late Friday afternoon, practically at the end of my last CBRE work day.  And I was being told that I didn't quite have a new job yet/at all... because of something I had never done.  And it was now in my hands to prove my innocence.

Que the tears.

She told me more:

-My name was connected with this charge as well as to another name:  Perry Brunt
-My record had my info (name, DOB, SSN) and it had another set of data.  A different name (Mr. Brunt's), DOB and SSN.
-All of Mr. Brunt's charges but the main charge was this Unlawful possession of a weapon

Thanks and Happy Friday.
There was very little I could do that day.  I think I made some more phone calls to multiple offices of Memphis, most of which were dead ends.  No one could bring up this mystery charge.  They put in my name, my info and yet no charge of a weapon.  Memphis couldn't find it.  The lawyer I had hired back in 2007, who accompanied me during my 5 minute court appearance, was GONE.  His phone number and name comes up via Google, but the line must be disconnected.  I tried every which way to contact him.  SURELY he'd have a file on me, or would be able to tell me what to do!  Perhaps that would have been true if I could have gotten a hold of him.
Then it was closing time, no one would be answering their phones any more that weekend.  I pretty much melted down.  I had no idea where to start.  I had no idea how to prove my innocence and maintain my job!  All the pressure was on;  no more income, house is half-packed, trip planned to look at houses, but now all of that was in jeopardy.  And I had all weekend to think about it.

Luckily Michael was my rock, and assured me everything would be alright.  That Friday and then Saturday, I was a mess.  I couldn't believe any of this was happening.  She said the FBI generated this report!  The FBI? What the-?
Michael would snap me out of it.  There was nothing to do now.  All offices were closed.  He assured me we would start work on it early Monday morning and all of this would be resolved.  That Sunday I wrote out a three page Challenge of my Criminal Summary Report and sent it via FedEx Overnight.  Monday morning, I was up early, waiting for 8:15 to roll around so I could call the FBI office of Memphis (random start time, right?).  The rest of the week was a blur;  every day was the same.

Called FBI Memphis office.  Of no help.
Called FBI Headquarters in WV.  Told my story to three people.  Finally one individual started to help.  He referred me to the TN Bureau of Investigation and gave me a few other tips.  Spent the rest of that day and the next and the next on the phone.  It all kind of blurred together after a while.  Calling, waiting for returned calls, emailing Chase with updates, calling Denise and making sure I had all the details correct, called multiple Memphis offices, explaining my story over and over and over and over.  Finally Michael and I decided that talking to a lawyer.  I didn't do this and nothing was really getting resolved.  I was trying not to panic.  We made the call, told my story again, set up an appointment.  Some theories were tossed around.  No one could understand HOW this happened.

I mean... people get their identities stolen all the time.  They get their wallets stolen, birth date and social security number thieved, but NO ONE gets their fingerprints stolen.  When I told my story to officials I would get asked the same questions...

"So, when were you arrested?"
"I WASN'T arrested.  That's the problem."
"But, the arrest is on your FBI fingerprint record.  That means it happened.  Your fingerprints cant be stolen."
Then I would fight the tears.  Sometimes I won, sometimes I didn't.
"In any case, if you say you didn't do this you still need to speak with the arresting department."
"The Memphis Police Department?"
"But--"  I tried not to argue but it was a vicious circle.  The Memphis PD didn't pull up anything to my name, re: a weapons charge.  How was I supposed to prove my innocence when Memphis tells me the charge isn't there, but the FBI tells me it is?!!

I printed fingerprint cards and the appropriate forms.  Checked bank accounts to make sure money was readily available.  Drove to the Bartlett PD to be finger printed; they only do prints Wed & Fri.  We had to come back the next day.  Woke up early every day, tossed and turned at night.  Then, panic.

I was bleeding.  Bad.
This wasn't normal.  This was a lot.
Lots of blood.

I called my doctor, asked for advice.  They told me to come in right away.  Michael and I drove in and we were prioritized;  ultrasound then exam.  Doctor finally reassured us that baby girl 2 was fine.  He wasn't quite sure what caused the bleeding but in the back of my mind I was thinking of the stress.  All of the stress. I knew everything was going to be alright, but every day scared me.  I felt like I was in a bad dream, and I could only hope Chase would hold out for me to get this all resolved.  We went home that day and just relaxed.  No more phone calls.  No more emails.  The rest of that day was for rest.

The next day we were at the Bartlett PD, getting finger printed.  I had gone thru this before.  I knew the drill.  Met nice police officers who insisted this was the best part about their day; getting prints for non-criminals.  I smiled at that.  That's who I was.  A non-criminal.  I was smiling because it was true and I was gonna prove it.  Per the FBI I was to send those prints off to an FBI-Approved Channeler who would run my prints and provide me a copy of my criminal history report.  I couldn't do squat without my own copy.  Drop $30 on the fingerprints.  Drop $70 on the Channeler background check.  Drop $30 for overnight delivery to Oregon.  I didn't keep track of all that we spent during this time, getting everything resolved, but I kept all the receipts.  They are between the many pages of the file that contains copies of every note and every conversation and every email I had those few weeks.

Prints were sent to the Channeler.  Now we waited.  I rested.  I tried not to stress.  The background check arrived and there it was.  The bogus charge in black and white, under my name.  I had it in my hands and now on to fix it.  I got ready to send it off to the FBI but made a few more phone calls.  I'm glad I did because the resolution came fast at that point.  The next three days I was on the phone with multiple people, FBI in WV, TBI in Nashville, Records Dept of Memphis... telling and retelling my story.  Getting routed this way and that.  Leaving voice messages.  But getting into contact with people who were truly intrigued by my story and interested in helping.

One morning, at 7:30am I received a phone call from my contact at the TBI.  She started off by apologizing profusely.  I mean, PROFUSELY.  She didn't know how all of this happened, but she fixed it.

She continued talking but all I heard was that she fixed it.
I think I might have started crying [again].  Tears of joy!  SHE FIXED IT!!!!!
She said the error occurred in Memphis.  Somehow this guy's charge was attached to my name back on 10/04/2007.  I never knew because why would I ever need to run my fingerprints/criminal history report??  Memphis somehow found the error and fixed it, but they never fixed the error on the federal level.  So this entire time I was running around with a federal offense on my record.  Who knows how this could have affected me??  She apologized again.  Again and again.  I was just overjoyed to have it off my record!!  Not only that but she assured me that if I had my background pulled again it would come up blank (so my guess is that they wiped off the old tag charge as an apology)!

I ran into our bedroom and jumped on our bed, like a kid, and shouted "THEY FIXED IT"!!!!

My joy can't be conveyed into words, but I promise that was one of the happiest I have been.  I can only imagine what death row innocent people feel like when a saving grace finally proves they're innocence.

Michael and I had an appointment with our lawyer, so although everything was resolved we attended.  He didn't advise that we pursue any lawsuit.  We left happy.  Now I just had to let Chase know, have them re-run the prints and hope/pray everything did come back clear.

They did come back clear.  Chase said they had never received such a fast turnaround on a background check.  It was done overnight!  The individuals who I worked with at Chase said they were sure I was innocent;  I sent emails to them every day and they knew someone who was guilty wouldn't have been so vigilant.  They congratulated me for getting thru this crazy scenario and rescheduled my start date:  March 24th.

So here I am, having been out of work for almost a month.  3/4th of that time was a dream.  NO -- a nightmare!  The rest of the time I've been relaxing, packing, and looking for houses.  We were able to make a trip down to LA, with no luck of finding a house.  Since then we have been virtually-searching, and hoping we can find something in the next week or two.  Tomorrow we (Michael, Bria, Rigby and I) will drive down.  We will tour houses, then I will start work.  If no house is found, Michael and Bria will head back to Memphis, until we find a place.  If we do find a home, Bria will stay with me (start daycare), while Michael comes back to finish packing and to rodeo the entire moving project.

This is our plan.
But as I know, plans don't always work out.  The strangest and most oddball hiccups happen when you least expect them.  It's what you do in the face of those situations that makes the difference.  If our plan doesn't work out the way we'd like, I know we can get thru it anyway.  We stuck together, managed not to take our stress out on each other, and we rocked that FBI fiasco.  We can get thru anything now.