Amy Schmalbach doesn't answer her door when she's home alone with her toddler son. But she opened it for a U.S. Census Bureau worker on May 4.
"I figured this is a government worker, I'm safe," said Schmalbach, 33, who had misplaced her survey and got a visit from a worker.
Schmalbach spoke briefly to the man, who said his name was Jamie, on the porch of her Pennsauken home. He looked familiar, wore a badge, and carried a dark bag with the census logo. He asked for names and birthdates, and whether Schmalbach and her husband rented or owned.
Toward the end of the interview, she recognized him: She had seen his face on the state's sex-offender Internet registry. She remembered his many aliases - including some outrageous ones - such as Phanton Flam, Toot Flynn, and Jamie Shepard.
Schmalbach checked the sex-offender registry site after he left, found the man, and told her neighbors and Pennsauken police. The next day, officers arrested Frank J. Kuni, a registered sex offender in Pennsauken, who had used the alias Jamie Shepard to get a job as a census worker, Pennsauken police said.
Kuni, 47, was being held Monday in the Camden County Jail on charges of false representation and impersonating a public official, authorities said.
"If I had not recognized who this person was, none of my neighbors would have, and I believe he would have continued to go door to door," Schmalbach said.
Police credited a quick-thinking resident concerned about Kuni with helping the investigation.
A census official said someone named Jamie Shepard working in the Camden area passed a name check but failed a fingerprint check. He had been hired in late April, completed four days of training April 30, and was terminated May 5. Kuni had visited more than one Pennsauken home, police said.
The census official confirmed Shepard failed the background check but could not say why.
A sex-crime arrest or conviction would preclude someone from working as a census worker, said Fernando E. Armstrong, director for the Philadelphia region.
Kuni had served about four years in prison for endangering the welfare of a child in November 1996, burglary, and other crimes. He assaulted one victim and had inappropriate contact with two other victims he knew, according to a state website.
There are 3,168 registered sex offenders listed on the state's Internet registry. Camden County has 324, Burlington has 130, and Gloucester has 70.
Armstrong said workers are fingerprinted at the start of the four-day training. The checks usually flag arrests or convictions in training or shortly afterward.
The census hired some 600,000 workers in the last week of April for the home visits, which started on May 1, Armstrong said.
"When you are looking at 600,000 people going through this check, you can understand that it doesn't always work the way it should," he said.
Here is the how the hiring process works:
Applicants must pass a written test and a check of their Social Security number and date of birth, among other things.
Then, new hires take an oath and get fingerprinted on the first day of training. Fingerprints are sent within a day to an Indiana census center.
If the background check finds something, regional offices get electronic messages that someone should be removed, but not the details.
The order trickles down to a field supervisor.
But Schmalbach wants the census to clear workers before they receive any materials and credentials, which happens on the last day of training.
"I know that they're not going to catch every bad guy even by doing the fingerprinting," she said this week. "But I think a great amount of people, who have bad intentions or want to do some harm, would be precluded from doing so if these background checks are done before they give out the materials."
To see the list of registered sex offenders in New Jersey, go to http://www.state.nj.us/njsp/info/reg_sexoffend.html