Harris County, Texas Constable Jack Abercia and two of his staff were arrested last week and face federal criminal charges for selling FBI-collected criminal records to private employers.

In the federal indictment unsealed last Friday, prosecutors allege that the defendants sold their access to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database to run criminal background checks on behalf of employers for a fee, which is a federal offense. With a few exceptions, access to NCIC records are restricted to official law enforcement purposes and each inquiry is tracked and recorded in the database.

According to Houston television station KHOU:

If convicted of the conspiracy charge, all three face up to five years in prison. Abercia and Wiener will also face an additional five years in prison for each count of exceeding authorized computer access, while Abercia and Butler could also receive an additional 10 years in prison if convicted of the bribery charge. All 13 counts also include a possible fine of $250,000.

As discussed on this blog previously, NCIC records are not the all-encompassing source of criminal records often portrayed on television shows such as CSI and employers relying upon them are likely to receive incomplete records as well as miss important criminal records.

The takeaway for employers is to run away of anyone who promises access to an “FBI background check” or “NCIC records.” No private firm or law enforcement agency can legally sell such records.