Raleigh, N.C. — Nearly 10,000 North Carolinians are wanted for violating their probation. Many of them are on the run, but some don't appear to be hiding.
The WRAL Investigates team found dozens of them on Facebook and other social media sites, living their lives out in the open. The state says finding violators online is one thing, but arresting them is a different story.
April Melissa Eubanks was on probation for writing bad checks to a daycare center when WRAL News found her on Facebook and called the phone number she had posted on her profile. Eubanks explained she had moved, didn’t know she had violated her probation and said she had a hard time reaching her probation officer.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Walker says Eubanks should have known she was on probation because she was ordered to report to the Harnett County jail in August 2010 and never showed up. Eubanks eventually took down her Facebook page but was still using the phone number she had posted.
Authorities arrested Eubanks on Feb. 10 in Four Oaks, with help from North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement officers. They declined to release details about how they found her.
Probation violator Ingrid Haffey was also easy to find. She was wanted in Wake County for leaving the state before finishing her probation for a theft charge. WRAL News found her online, happy in sunny California.
“(I’m) riding the Blue Bus to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica,” she wrote. In another post, she showed off her new tattoo.
Wake County Probation Manager Maggie Brewer says Haffey's crime is not serious enough for California to send her back.
WRAL News also found Everette Faircloth on Facebook. At the time, he was on probation for drug charges in Harnett County. When a reporter and photographer visited one of his listed addresses, they found his father, who agreed to talk but asked not to be identified. He said he was surprised to learn his son was blatantly posting on Facebook and said he wanted him to surrender.
“Where he is, I don’t know,” the father said. “When you do wrong, you have to pay. That’s all there is to it.”
One day after WRAL News spoke with Faircloth's father, authorities arrested Faircloth on a probation violation, and his probation was later revoked.
Probation leaders say people like Faircloth are hard to find, because they're not at their listed addresses. Just because people post on social media sites “doesn’t mean we can walk in and apprehend them based on that," according to Brewer.
“If it was easy (to catch them), we would not have absconders,” she said.
Terry Days has violated his probation several times, according to court records. WRAL News was able to find him on Facebook as well. He was released from prison in November 2010 after serving time for drug charges and was placed on probation in New Hanover County. He posted a picture of himself with wads of cash in March 2011 and was listed as an absconder in May 2011.
Authorities arrested Day on Jan. 6 and charged him with speeding, fleeing to elude and resisting officers in Duplin County. He posted bond on Feb. 1 and was due in New Hanover County court on Feb. 7 on the probation violation, but he never showed up, according to court records. Once again, authorities are searching for Days, whose bond has been raised to $100,000.
Probation officers don't divulge their investigative techniques, according to Brewer, but she says they are using the Internet to find people.
"Social media is just one of the tools Community Corrections has in its tool belt," Brewer said. "Our managers will continue to emphasize the use of all the tools available to us to include anything having to do with technology and the Internet. We will also continuously seek out new tools."
Tracking where people are when they use the Internet is possible. Ryan Johnson, with Forward Discovery Inc., a computer forensic consulting firm in Cary, says valuable information is stored online and on computers.
With a subpoena, he says, authorities can trace where someone is physically working on a computer, which may lead investigators to a public place, such as a library or coffee shop. Even without a subpoena, social media sites are gold mines of information.
“It’s startling the amount of information people will put out on a social media site like Facebook,” Johnson said.
Probation officers have lowered the number of absconders in North Carolina in the past several years, but they say the chase is still time consuming.
NC probation violators
December 2006 – 15,100
December 2011 – 9,900
December 2008 – 1000
December 2011 – 518
December 2008 – 815
December 2011 – 381
December 2008 – 159
December 2011 – 84
December 2008 – 186
December 2011 – 140