NEW HAVEN, Conn. – A print shop hired a man who later molested two boys in their homes even though he admitted on his job application that he had been convicted of statutory rape, according to documents obtained in a lawsuit.
FedEx Corp., the parent company of FedEx Kinko's, said in 2005 it was "absolutely horrified" when the molestation allegations arose, saying a background check on Paul Sykes did not reveal a criminal history. But an attorney for one of the boys said the check should have been unnecessary because the company had a policy of not hiring felons.
"FedEx Kinkos and its parent company haven't been truthful," said Neal Rogan, attorney for the boy. "They had a potential employee who told them up front 'I'm a convicted felon for a sex crime' and went ahead and hired him anyway."
Paul Sykes, who worked in a FedEx Kinko's print shop in Fairfield, solicited customers there for a computer repair business he ran called "Facts and Fantasy," according to the lawsuit. He allegedly molested Rogan's client, an 8-year-old boy, during a visit to repair a computer.
Rogan says the case raised troubling questions about a company with widespread contact with the public, especially during the upcoming holiday season. The case also raised concerns about how companies conduct criminal background checks.
Sandra Munoz, a FedEx spokeswoman, said Friday the company "strongly disagrees" with the allegations.
"However, FedEx is not going to fall for opposing counsel's clear attempts to use the media to publicly try this case in a reckless and inflammatory manner," Munoz said. "We will wait to address all the issues in court where they should be heard."
Sykes, who was hired in 2004 at the FedEx Kinko's print shop in Fairfield and later fired, was sentenced in April to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to risk of injury to a minor, fourth-degree sexual assault and possession of child pornography in the case of the 8-year-old and another boy.
Sykes has multiple convictions for molesting children dating back to 1988 in Maine, according to a lawsuit Rogan filed that is pending in federal court.
In his job application, Sykes wrote that he was convicted in 1989 "equivalent to statutory rape." Rogan obtained the application through the legal discovery process in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit contends the company knew or should have known that Sykes was using its business to solicit customers for his own business.
But FedEx, which bought the copy chain Kinko's in 2004, says in court papers that the boy's parents met Sykes through a family friend, not because of a visit to the print shop. They say Connecticut law has long held that business operators are not liable for injuries that occur off their premises.
Rogan argues that Sykes gave his business card to one of the boy's parents at the FedEx Kinkos and would not have had contact with the family if Sykes had not been hired at the print shop.
The company recently entered into a confidential six-figure settlement involving the other boy's case, Rogan said.
"It's my opinion that it is clearly an attempt by FedEx Kinkos and its parent company to hide from its mistakes," Rogan said. "We won't be silent and we won't enter into a confidential agreement because this is about protecting all those other little girls and boys out there."
Pat Filan, an attorney for the other victim, declined to comment.