ORLANDO, Fla. - They are unregistered, and almost untraceable
: 9 Investigates discovered a major loop-hole in the sex offender registry that is allowing some attackers to simply disappear.
Investigative reporter Christopher Heath pored through hundreds of pages of documents to discover a system in which both victims and law enforcement officers are unable to track convicted sex offenders.
The situation has sexual assault survivors like Rachel Sines concerned. She talked about her own attacker with WFTV.
“I saw him in the hallway,” Sines said. “He had come out and was standing and watching me.”
Sines had returned to her Metro West apartment and walked in on a burglary, but her nightmare was just beginning.
“The apartment was so small that he came up from behind me and tackled me pretty quickly and then when he showed me the gun, that was just complete submission from that point on,” she said.
She was raped and then kidnapped and taken to an ATM.
Sines survived and eventually stood before her attacker in a courtroom. For the rest of her life, she'll know exactly where he is.
But 9 Investigates has discovered not all victims receive this information after their attackers are prosecuted.
An internal report done by the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, found major loopholes with military sex offenders, allowing dozens to walk out of federal prison and never report in with authorities to register.
“We need to be able to protect our survivors. They need to feel safe,” said Theresa Zephirin with the Victim’s Service Center.
Victim advocates point out the problem arises when military members leave federal custody.
In the civilian justice system, offenders register before they leave prison.
But in the federal system, they are told to register after they get out. They’re essentially left on the honor code.
“It really does an injustice to the survivor,” Sephirin said.
In 2014, Coast Guard Seaman Colby
His picture currently does not appear on any sex offender database, because he was convicted in a court-martial.
When he's released in 2016, it will be up to him to register on his own.
For victims like Rachel Sines, the federal loophole means not every attacker will have the same fate as the man who assaulted her.
“I wanted to make sure he couldn't harm anyone else again,” she told Heath.
Even the federal government has no idea how many military sex offenders have slipped through the cracks.
9 Investigates found out there is currently legislation in Congress to fix the problem. However, the bill is still stuck in committee and has yet to reach the floor for a vote.