I recently had a General Manager ask my advice on a sales applicant he wanted to hire. The salesperson had worked at the dealership before and was fresh off a six-month sabbatical while serving time in the hoosegow.

His reasoning for even considering rehiring the person was that he had worked with him before and was known to the manager and his staff. More importantly, “He is a beast of a salesperson who can really move the numbers.”

I asked him what the applicant was in jail for. It was possession of a subscribed drug during a traffic stop. The GM also mentioned that, like some people in the car business, the applicant liked to hit the local casino more than once a week. He then went on to share the rest of his background check, which included a felony conviction for forging a driver’s license. Oh, and there was also another felony conviction for possession of a credit card scanner found during another traffic stop.

We sometimes run into salespeople or managers who seem to get a pass from the owner for offenses that other employees would be terminated for. “Teflon Dons,” we call them.

“But those were over five years ago. And the dude can sell,” the GM said. Maybe he should just stop driving, I thought.

The dude can sell, but the dude also has documented felonies for either committing or aiding in the commission of identity theft. Manufacturing an identity document and possessing the tool to clone credit cards certainly qualifies.

Imagine for a second that the GM hired this salesperson knowing of the past felonies. Then imagine that, sometime later, the salesperson becomes the ringleader of an identity theft ring and steals a ton of your customers’ nonpublic personal information. If I were asked to serve as an expert witness on that dealer’s behalf, I would run away. All the red flags for potential trouble were clearly apparent.

We sometimes run into salespeople or managers who seem to get a pass from the owner for offenses that other employees would be terminated for. “Teflon Dons,” we call them.

They can seemingly do no wrong, including being on the wrong side of either federal, state, or dealer laws in the process of selling vehicles or products. Teflon Dons continue their nefarious ways because they bring a nice sum of money to the dealership’s bottom line.

Teflon Dons are already on the payroll. But a good background check process and adherence to a structured policy on what past discretions are acceptable and which are non-negotiable may help prevent others from joining the sales force.

I’m by no means a human resources expert, so be sure to include your HR representative in developing and implementing your background check policy. I am aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discourages a no-hire policy for applicants with felonies, but I believe a case could be made for not hiring applicants with certain known felonies.

For example, applicants with convictions for theft, fraud, or financial crimes can be considered relevant to every position within the dealership. You may be able to establish a policy that these convictions are legitimate reasons to pass on an applicant.

As for the dude who can sell, you may be able to leverage your responsibilities under the Safeguards Rule and your requirement to safeguard consumers’ NPI from identity thieves by not hiring one into a position that has access to NPI. There may be mitigating circumstances for hiring someone with a possession of drugs or illegal gambling convictions, but proceed with caution.

I’ve read too many internal theft cases over the years where the motivation tied back to a gambling problem, a drug problem, or someone living above his or her means. You may want to conduct a credit check on all applicants who will be handling cash or will work in a manager’s position.

Good luck and good selling!

Gil Van Over is the executive director of Automotive Compliance Education (ACE) and the founder and president of gvo3 & Associates. Email him at [email protected].