Lawmakers want more transparency with sex offender name changes

Lawmakers want more transparency with sex offender name changes

A group of lawmakers want to know how often registered sex offenders are legally changing their names in Massachusetts.

Last month, 25 Investigates reported that registered sex offenders are legally permitted to change their names and nobody is tracking how often it happens.

Brighton inventor Michael Stanley legally changed his name from Michael "Plusch" in 2013.

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Stanley admitted to 25 Investigates it was to keep his level 3 sex offender status from prospective employers and search engines.

In 2010 he pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child.

In light of our reporting, Massachusetts Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr has proposed an amendment to the state budget that would require the Registry Board and the Probate Court to report:

  • The number of registered sex offenders who petition the probate court for a name change each year.
  • The number of registered sex offenders convicted for failing to report name changes.
  • The estimated number of sex offender who avoid registration requirements by legal name changes.

Nineteen states either prohibit or place limitations on sex offender name changes.  Tarr says the data will help him decide if Massachusetts should enact new legislation.

“We may need to take action but it needs to be informed action.  We need to be mindful of people's constitutional and other rights and we need to make sure the system works as it's intended to do” said Tarr.

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The Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board told 25 Investigates a legal name change won't help an offender evade detection. But we recently discovered a scenario where it would.

We found former names and aliases are not searchable on the national sex offender public website.

Maintained by the Department of Justice, the NSOPW is described as "the only U.S. government website that links public state, territorial, and tribal sex offender registries."  It's for "parents, employers, and other concerned residents."

When we searched Michael Stanley’s former name “Plusch” on the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry website, he shows up. "Plusch" is listed as an alias.

When we tried the same search on the national DOJ site “Michael Plusch” doesn't show up.  The site says “0 records found.”

“Clearly here in the State of Massachusetts the sex offender registry board has a crack in their system.  It's not one hundred percent effective and we need to fix that problem immediately,” said Jennifer Lane, president of the non-profit victim advocacy group Community Voices.

Statement from Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB):

"SORB always encourages the public and others to use the State website for the most accurate and up to date information. The SORB is aware that this information is not present on the DOJ site and has been working with the DOJ to resolve this issue so that the information can be shared as widely as possible.
The Sex Offender Registry Board promotes public safety by educating and informing the public to prevent further victimization. The Board registers and classifies convicted sex offenders according to their risk of re-offense and the degree of danger they pose. The Board's actions are governed by the state's Sex Offender Registry Law; if the Legislature enacts further policy prescriptions the Board will abide by them but it does not have a view on this pending legislation."