Owner of Company that Allegedly Trains Customers to Pass Polygraph Tests Charged with Fraud, Witness Tampering
The owner of a company that offers to teach customers how to pass a polygraph test, more commonly known as a "lie detector" test, has been indicted by federal prosecutors on five counts of fraud and witness tampering. United States v. Williams, No. 5:14-cr-00318, indictment (W.D. Ok., Nov. 13, 2014). Prosecutors allege that the defendant marketed his services to people who were scheduled to appear for polygraph tests with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. They further claim that he trained people "to lie and conceal crimes" in polygraph tests used during the employment screening process and during internal investigations.
Polygraph examinations use a device that measures and records a subject's pulse, blood pressure, respiration, and other indices as the subject answers a series of questions. The idea is that the subject will display different physiological responses when lying. The position of the scientific community, generally speaking, is that polygraph tests are not a reliable means of determining whether or not someone is telling the truth. Polygraph test results are nevertheless admissible in criminal trials in some U.S. jurisdictions under certain circumstances, and they are used by the federal government for employment screenings.
The test relies on the assumption that deception produces a unique set or pattern of physiological responses, but as the American Psychological Association notes, no evidence exists to support this assumption. Numerous other factors, including the placebo effect, could affect the results and produce false "positives." In Williams, the defendant is a former Oklahoma City police officer who has been an outspoken critic of polygraph tests for years. He owns and operates Polygraph.com, where, he claims, he does not offer training on how to "beat" the test, but rather how to avoid results that lead to false accusations of lying.