Are sex offenders living where you shop? Some use shopping centers as addresses

Use of Walmart, other store addresses totally legal

By Amy Viteri - Investigative Reporter

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Most people know how to search their home address online to see if any sex offenders are living in their area, but checking a local shopping center -- that option often goes under the radar.

More than a dozen sex offenders considered homeless or transient in South Florida use local stores, such as Walmart, as their registered address, and it's totally legal.

When Rachel Pirana recently came with her son to a Walmart on Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, she had no idea that five registered sex offenders use the intersection in front of the store as their listed address.

There were similar trend in other neighborhoods.

"That should be illegal," Pirana said.

More than a dozen transient sex offenders and sexual predators use local stores or the intersections near them as their registered address.

Local 10 News found that a sex offender lists the Walmart in Hallandale Beach as his address, a sexual predator who lists the Salvation Army on Broward Boulevard as his residence and another offender in Lauderdale Lakes lists the area near Walgreens, next door to a Walmart.

 "That's really scary. That's alarming," shopper Jillian Lenkowitz said.

Local 10 News showed shoppers the three registered sex offenders who use the corner by their Walmart on State Road 7 and Hollywood Boulevard as their address.

"So anybody could just put any address and live wherever they want," Lenkowitz said.

Broward Sheriff's Office Capt. Ed Sileo said there is no law against being homeless.

"So, in reality, they're allowed to put down almost anything," Sileo said.

He said offenders and predators are required to register an address with the county courthouse or, in the case of transient sex offenders, the closest landmark.

There is a concern that they could have another residence and are just using the listed address as a false address.

"They do from time to time," Sileo said. "We will do those follow-up investigations to find out if that's accurate."

Sileo said most offenders have cellphones and comply with deputies, who check in on them two to three times a month.

"To my knowledge, we have never had an incident where a transient sex offender has ever committed another crime at one of these locations," Sileo said.

Local 10 News asked Walmart to weigh in on the issue.

"It's disturbing to know convicted felons are listing our store as their residential address," Charles Crowson, senior manager for corporate communications at Walmart, said in a statement. "We condemn such a practice and must refer any other questions to law enforcement."

If a sex offender does want to move on to another location, they have just 48 hours to notify the BSO of their new location. If they fail to do that, the BSO said authorities will issue a warrant for their arrest.

The BSO said changing the registration process to prevent transient offenders from using local businesses as their address would require action from state lawmakers.

Meanwhile, shoppers said they will be looking over their shoulders from now on.

"I don't think that's right, because you've got children here. You've got women alone. You've got elderly people," shopper Jessie Miller said.

Copyright 2017 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.