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Human error cited for Apex woman's jail troubles

Posted August 3, 2009
Updated August 5, 2009

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— Wake County's clerk of court says the NCAWARE system, designed to instantly check if suspects have outstanding warrants, is working as it should despite an Apex woman's claims she was detained on two warrants that had already been disposed.

Police arrested Jennifer Aben, 25, of Castlebrook Court, on Friday for using her son's name to get a cable television account.

When authorities took her to the Wake County Magistrate's Office, Aben was told she was also wanted for a probation violation and failure to appear in court. The NCAWARE tracks warrants across jurisdictions for wanted persons, but Aben said in her case, the system turned up disposed warrants. But state Administrative Office of the Courts spokeswoman Sharon Gladwell said this was not the case, and that the computer system showed the warrants had been disposed.

Aben had already completed the prison term and probation time for those offenses. Nevertheless, she was placed in jail under a $123,000 bond. Her current offense of obtaining property by false pretense, and a 2002 worthless check offense still on her record, should have equaled a bond of $3,500.

“Part of the problem is that you're straddling between a new electronic system and a paper system,” Wake County Clerk of Courts Lorrin Freeman said.

Freeman said she believes Jennifer Aben's case was due to human error and not a failure with the system.

Aben said she was unaware of the worthless check offense, and paid it off Friday. She also said she has turned her life around since serving time for charges related to embezzlement, and is working at a restaurant to support her two children.

“I was livid, there’s no other way to describe it. I was livid. I was angry,” said David Aben, Jennifer’s father.

David Aben, a retired Navy SEAL, said he taught his children to obey the law. He was the person who turned Jennifer in to authorities when she first got into trouble in 2002.

“My dad always taught me to have faith and trust in the system and do right … (but) I don't have any faith left in it,” Jennifer Aben said.

“We certainly hope this is an isolated incident,” Freeman added of Jennifer’s case.

Freeman said that the NCAWARE system was read incorrectly, but showed the correct information, when Aben was processed, but that a clerk pulled an old document from Aben's file that showed she was still wanted on old charges.

“We're working quickly to try and get this resolved. She was released in less than four hours, it appears. So we want to get to the bottom of it so it doesn't happen to other people,” Freeman added.

Freeman said the NCAWARE system is doing exactly what it was designed to do, overall. It contains more than 100,000 unserved warrants, and since its launch, the majority of warrants served have been done so correctly, she added.

Gladwell also added that an audit of the NCAWARE system showed what the system was working properly Friday.

Freeman said the complexity of Aben’s record likely contributed to the human error.

So far, the NCAWARE system is available to law enforcement officers in Harnett, Lee, Edgecombe, Nash, Wilson and Greene counties. Officials hope to have all counties using the system by 2010.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sunneyone Aug 10, 2009

    How is she stealing cable? She's paying for it. The account is just in another name. I've done that. When my mom moved to another city several years ago, she let me keep her cable account instead of having to open a new one. I paid the bill. No biggie.

  • Cotton333 Aug 5, 2009

    NCAWARE in my opinion is great. People are saying how it is creating problems (like the woman in this case), and yes it may have glitches, but the reality is that it is fixing the big problem that has been going on until now: unserved warrants. There are many, many criminals out there that until now have believed that they have gotten away with their crime. Do you want these people on the streets? Think about it, not all of these criminals are like this woman with charges such as simple worthless checks (which in my opinion aren't "simple"). There are fraud charges, breaking and entering, larceny, and other charges where the victim(s) or businesses have never had justice brought upon those who did these injustices to them. I give a big thumbs up to NCAWARE, and to Wake County for employing this system.

  • frosty Aug 4, 2009

    The really sad thing about the situation is that there is no accountability. I have heard stories about this and similar systems before. And when it happens the responsibility of fixing it is put on the person victimized by it. And the law enforcement and court system sees it a an imposition on them.

    And you don't have to have done anything illegal. They can just get the name or address wrong.

    Like, "Sorry we messed up your life or destroyed your property but we are not going to claim any responsibility or liability. It was just your bad luck. Go away and don't bother us."

  • SomeRandomGuy Aug 4, 2009

    Doesn't NCAWARE supposedly do the same thing DCI does?

  • Alexia.1 Aug 4, 2009

    "the majority of warrants served have been done so correctly"

    I think the NCAWARE system needs to be 100% accurate before it gets employed.

  • rhoda_penmark Aug 4, 2009

    wait a minute...public records show that daddy hasn't paid the Wake County taxes on his boat for 7-8 YEARS now....delinquent ! so, the apple didn't fall far from the tree in this case.

  • Slip Kid Aug 4, 2009

    Know how I avoid this kind of problem? I don't break the law and get 'in the system' in the first place. More people should try it, it works!

  • rhoda_penmark Aug 4, 2009

    WHY won't parents ever realize that yes, their precious innocent babies are criminals? LOL !

    Putting the cable faudulently in the name of a minor child for jeebzsakes !

    Everybody serving a death row sentence has a mama who says they're innocent.

  • tallboy4372 Aug 4, 2009

    Just as someone else stated, our county has been using NCAWARE since April and we have not had any major problems other than getting used to it. It is just like any other program or computer software.....it is only as good as the people who enter the information into it. This girl's situation was not an error of NCAWARE, but of someone in the Clerk's Office who put the wrong information into the system that these warrants were still active. As far as confirming these warrants in the system, that cannot always be done, especially at 3am when the clerks office is closed. That is the whole purpose behind NCAWARE is to eliminate all these warrants that are backlogged in the clerks office, because 9 out of 10 times it's 3am when you run across these subjects, and prior to NCAWARE, if the warrant was in the clerks office, it could not be served. My whole point is that the problem is not the system, but human error.

  • katizs Aug 4, 2009

    How is it she was already in the system if according to her dad he taught them to respect the law? I think this story was not well written for it was hard to see the truth that she did actually do something wrong. She was arrested on current charges as well. She just wanted people to feel sorry for her because she didn't want the truth to be obvious.

    I agree she should not have been charged for something she already served for, but it needed to be more clearer that she was arrested on CURRENT warrants as well