How a sex offender went undetected while being hired at the Lee County Fair

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
James Tennant (Credit: Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

A sex offender disguised himself in plain sight behind a long list of fake names. Investigators say the man used the aliases to make it by background checks and, in turn, got jobs around your children.

WINK News first told you last week that investigators say James Tennant, a sex offender,  went undetected and wound up working at the Lee County Fair.

Rule number one for sex offenders, you can’t be in places with lots of kids. Deputies say Tennant didn’t care about that. He used a fake name, James Martino, to land a job at the Lee County Fair.

WINK News uncovered documents to show Tennant’s history of using fake names to get near kids. The state attorney had those same documents and tried to increase Tennant’s bond following his arrest for failing to register as a sex offender, but prosecutors were too late. Tennant already bonded out of jail.

“When people try and do this, they often use different names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and then, when law enforcement or human resources does a background check, they can usually put the dots together,” said WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko.

That didn’t happen this time. State records show Tennant used many different names; James Raymond Cornol, James Raymond Campbell, and Skits Tennant, among others. James Martino was his favorite.

He had used that name when deputies arrested him in Manatee County in 2016. “A basic human resources check should find that, but it just depends how hard they dig into it,” said Kolko.

Last week, leaders of the fair said that they asked the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to run the name James Martino. Nothing came back. On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said they ran James Randal Martino’s name through the national sex offender predator database, and nothing came up there either.

WINK News even tested it out by typing James Randal Martino in the National Sex Offender Database, and nothing comes up, but when you type in James Martino, with a little bit of scrolling, you find James Tennant and see that he is a sex offender.

Can someone give a fake name and bypass a background check? Former law enforcement officer and FGCU Professor Doctor David Thomas said yes. He also said there is one test no one can beat. “If you’re doing fingerprints, and there’s no way to hide your identity,” said Thomas.

Fingerprints are not usually required in doing a background check.

Tennant registered as a sex offender in Virginia after bonding out of jail last week.

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