Celebrity Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff Sent Racist Text Messages

Daniel D. Ribacoff at the set of the Steve Wilkos Show

AntiPolygraph.org has obtained copies of text messages sent by polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff of New York that, while intended to be humorous, evince a deep-seated contempt of, and disdain for, black people.

Ribacoff, a member of the American Polygraph Association, performs polygraph examinations for the NBCUniversal tabloid television talk program, The Steve Wilkos Show, many of whose guests are African American.

Ribacoff sent the texts to an employee of his private investigative firm, International Investigative Group, in 2017 and 2018. Both Ribacoff and the employee are middle-aged Jewish white males.

As previously reported on AntiPolygraph.org, Ribacoff’s company, International Investigative Group, which stands accused of defrauding a client out of millions of dollars, holds a contract with the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department (MTAPD) to conduct pre-employment polygraph screening of applicants.

A complaint currently pending before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges racial discrimination in connection with a polygraph examination conducted by Ribacoff’s company on Jonathan Kyle Carter, a black New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who in 2020 sought to transfer to the MTAPD.

The racist texts Ribacoff sent include:

An image with the caption, “When your GPS says ‘turn right on to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd'” depicting locking car doors, raising windows, and loading a revolver. (Sent on 16 June 2017 at 1:29:56 PM EDT.)

An image of a black man carrying a white man with the caption, “When you can’t carry a gun because of a felony… but you found a loophole.” (Sent on 24 June 2017 at 9:59:48 AM EDT.)

An image of the Disney version of the Winnie-the-Pooh character Tigger on top of the head of a black boy with the caption, “You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for.” (Sent on 15 September 2017 at 12:18:24 PM EDT.)

An image of a black man in a cardboard box with the caption, “When you’ve got $9.34 left in your bank account and you have to start practicing being homeless.” (Sent on 7 February 2018 at 8:26:27 PM EST.)

An image of a “Black Monopoly” board where apart from “Jail,” every square reads “Go to Jail.” (Sent on 18 February 2018 at 12:46:51 PM EST.)

An image of a blonde white woman pointing a pistol with the caption, “THE UNITED STATES IS THIRD IN MURDERS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD. BUT IF YOU DISCOUNT CHICAGO, DETROIT, WASHINGTON, AND NEW ORLEANS, THE UNITED STATES DROPS TO FOURTH FROM THE BOTTOM ON THE SAME LIST. COINCIDENTALLY, THESE FOUR CITIES ALSO HAVE THE TOUGHEST GUN LAWS IN THE UNITED STATES.” The fact-checking website Snopes rates these claims as “mostly false.” (Sent on 20 February 2018 at 1:04:23 PM EST.)

Immediately following this, Ribacoff texted, “What do those 4 cities have in common? A high concentration of Rachet Schvartzas!” “Schvartza” is a Yiddish pejorative term for black people. (Sent on 20 February 2018 at 1:04:24 PM EST.)

Another image Ribacoff sent suggests an anti-Mexican bias. It depicts former U.S. president Donald Trump placing his hand in a crevice at the Western Wall in Jerusalem with the caption, “No, this is no good. You could fit a Mexican child through here.” (Sent on 7 February 2018 at 1:14:02 PM EST.)

Ribacoff also expressed a pro-Jewish bias, writing to his Jewish employee, “👌🏻jews stick together.” (Sent on 31 March 2018 at 2:42:43 PM EDT.)

The attitudes displayed in these messages call into question Ribacoff’s suitability to be responsible for the polygraph screening of MTAPD applicants or indeed, of anyone. (Not that anyone should be subjected to polygraph screening. As we explain in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, polygraphy is a pseudoscientific fraud that is inherently biased against the truthful, yet easy for liars to beat.)

In response to a request for comment e-mailed to Daniel Ribacoff, his attorney, Michael D. Cassell of Hogan & Cassell LLP, replied:

This Firm represents Mr. Ribacoff. I am in receipt of your October 2, 2021 email to him regarding text messages that Mr. Ribacoff supposedly sent. Mr. Ribacoff has absolutely no recollection of sending the text messages referenced in your email. In addition, it is my understanding that the messages were obtained by you from individuals with whom Mr. Ribacoff is presently engaged in litigation. Significantly, Mr. Ribacoff vehemently disputes the veracity of any and all claims by these individuals, seriously undermining the authenticity and legitimacy of the referenced emails.

Email from Michael D. Cassell dated 3 October 2021

AntiPolygraph.org is confident of the authenticity of each of the text messages reproduced in this article and notes that Daniel Ribacoff did not deny having sent them.

The Steve Wilkos Show did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

As previously reported on AntiPolygraph.org, in 2019, Steve Wilkos Show guest Anca Pennington attempted suicide after Dan Ribacoff falsely accused her of lying when she denied having burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. When confronted on Facebook with documentation that the child had not in fact been burned but had a ringworm infection, Ribacoff at first defended his polygraph results, but later deleted his remarks.

In 2018, Steve Wilkos Show guest Jesse Wayne Perkins passed a polygraph “test,” presumably administered by Dan Ribacoff, in which he denied having killed a 15-month-old child. But Perkins later confessed to the killing and is currently serving a life sentence. The Steve Wilkos Show responded by removing video of this episode from its YouTube channel.

Steve Wilkos himself has publicly stated that he would never take a lie detector test.

Steve Wilkos Show Guest Who Passed Polygraph Later Confessed to Murdering 15-Month-Old

Jesse Wayne Perkins

Christine Kalio, writing for entertainment website TheThings, reports on the case of Jesse Wayne Perkins of Clemmens, North Carolina in an article titled, “‘Steve Wilkos’ Criticized After Man Faces Death Penalty After Passing Lie Detector.” Excerpt:

Steve Wilkos episode originally aired in 2018 has caused fans to question the accuracy of the show’s lie detector tests.

Jesse Wayne Perkins appeared on Season 12, Episode 43 of the hit tabloid talk show. The episode was titled: “A 15-Month-Old Died: What Do You Have to Hide?”

After forming a relationship with a woman named Amanda for five months, Perkins took on the responsibilty of looking after her 15 month old daughter Carolina Rose Dodd.

Tragically on Aug. 22, 2018 Carolina’s mother later found the girl unresponsive and face down. The infant was later confirmed dead, according to WITN.

On 14 November 2018, Perkins appeared on The Steve Wilkos Show where he initially refused to take a lie detector test. He was seen storming off stage and past lie detector expert Daniel Ribacoff’s office. Wilkos pursues him as Perkins demands not to be filmed as he smokes a cigarette outside. After being persuaded to come inside, he still refused to take the lie detector test to prove his innocence.

He yawns and fails to communicate with Steve – who later describes him as a “snake.”

It’s only after Perkins’ girlfriend threatens to break up with him that he agrees to take the test.

He is asked: “Did you witness anyone causing Amanda’s 15 month old daughter’s death?” and “Did you intentionally cause Amanda’s 15 month old daughter’s death?”

He passed both questions – much to the shock of the audience.

Jesse Wayne Perkins
(Forsyth County Detention Center photograph)

On 20 May 2021, Michael Hewlett reported for the Winston-Salem Journal in an article titled, “Prosecutor: 15-Month-Old Girl Smothered to Death When She Wouldn’t Stop Crying After Being Burned by a Cigarette.” Excerpt:

A Clemmons man smothered his girlfriend’s 15-month-old daughter to death with a pillow because she would not stop crying after she was burned by the man’s cigarette, a Forsyth County prosecutor said in court Thursday.

Dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, Jesse Wayne Perkins, stood in front of Judge David Hall of Forsyth Superior Court on Thursday morning and pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the August 2018 death of the toddler, Carolina Rose Dodd.

The plea saved Perkins from a possible sentence of death if the case had gone to trial and a jury had convicted him of first-degree murder. Forsyth County prosecutors had declared last year that they would pursue the death penalty. The only other sentence for a first-degree murder conviction is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

That’s exactly what Hall sentenced Perkins to after his guilty plea to murder and several unrelated charges, including attempted possession of controlled substances while incarcerated at the Forsyth County Jail awaiting trial. The other charges were consolidated into the murder charge.

Perkins, his girlfriend, Amanda Vanzant, and her daughter, Carolina, lived together in the apartment. Perkins is not the child’s biological father.

Both Vanzant and Perkins initially denied involvement in the child’s death. But Perkins later told investigators that he was caring for Carolina while Vanzant was at work. When Vanzant came home, Carolina was in her Pack-n-Play and Perkins told Vanzant that Carolina was asleep.

Vanzant took a nap. When she woke up, she went to check on Carolina and found the toddler cold and unresponsive.

Perkins told investigators that he was watching movies and smoking a cigarette. Carolina walked into the cigarette and got a burn on her chest and started crying.

Perkins said he tried to calm the toddler but she wouldn’t be quiet. That’s when he said he snapped and grabbed a pillow and smothered her. According to an autopsy report, he placed Carolina facedown in the Pack-n-Play at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, 2018. Perkins said Vanzant was in no way involved in her daughter’s death.

Steve Wilkos announcing that the lie detector shows that “Jesse told the truth.”

Both Jesse Wayne Perkins and Amanda Vanzant passed polygraph “tests” administered for the show. The episode title, “A 15-Month-Old Died: What Do You Have to Hide?” is ironic because clearly, the Steve Wilkos Show itself now has something to hide. Not long after Christine Kalio’s critical reporting for TheThings was published on 19 August 2021, the Steve Wilkos Show deleted its video of the episode from YouTube.

Nonetheless, AntiPolygraph.org has found a 10-minute portion of the episode on YouTube and is mirroring it here for public discussion purposes in the event that YouTube receives a takedown notice:

Steve Wilkos on Lie Detectors: “Hell No…I Would Never Take One!”

Steve Wilkos and Angela Lee

Steve Wilkos, who routinely uses lie detector tests on his eponymous television talk show, claimed in a 2016 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread that “[t]he lie detector tests are like 99% accurate.”

But more recently, Wilkos admitted in an interview with New York radio station WWPR’s nationally syndicated program, The Breakfast Club, that he would never take a lie detector test and that he beat one when he was younger.

Wilkos made the admission on air on Friday, 29 March 2019, in response to a question from Breakfast Club co-host Angela Lee, who asked, “How credible are lie detectors, because people are always saying they know how to beat it?”

Steve Wilkos: “Hell no, I mean I would never take one!”

Wilkos’s reply, and the ensuing conversation between Wilkos, Lee and The Breakfast Club’s other co-hosts, Charlamagne tha God and DJ Envy, are transcribed below:

Wilkos: Well, put it this way. My son did a school project, science project, right? So he did it on lie detector tests and he came in with my guy Dan Ribacoff and he did the, you know, test and stuff and they asked, and it was a hundred percent, you know what I mean? So like, would I ever take one? Hell no, I mean I would never take one!

Lee: What are you hiding? What are you hiding Steve?

Wilkos: It’s not that I’m hiding anything, but like, if it came like, were, you know, would you let anything in your life that’s important to you fall into the hands of a lie detector test–

Charlamagne tha God: Not if it’s not accurate.

Wilkos: That’s what I’m saying, like… I’ll say this. I did beat a lie detector test when I was younger. I had to take a lie detector test, and I lied on that thing.

Lee: What were you lying about?

Wilkos (laughing): I really don’t want to get into that right now.

Lee: We have to know this.

Charlamagne tha God: You said you lied, Steve.

Lee: You’re a habitual liar, Steve. (laughter)

Wilkos: After I have bleeding on the brain, I just got discharged [from the hospital], I don’t know, I… Who knows what I said? But, yeah, so I took a lie detector test and I beat it, you know, and…

DJ Envy: How did you beat it? ‘Cause they tell you like if you breathe normally?

Wilkos: So, I’ll tell you this. I was a young guy, and I was working somewhere, and something went down. I was not involved, but I knew what happened, okay? I knew what happened. So the company came in, they brought in a lie detector. So I came into work and they’re like, “Oh, you’re taking a lie detector test.”

Well, immediately I like crumbled. I’m like “Oh my God!” you know? But like, so, they called in like three or four other people before me, and then when it came to me, I was already calmed down. So then when I got in there, the guy goes—I had my high school jacket on the thing—and he goes, “Oh, you go to Lane Tech?” I go “Yeah.” He goes, “Oh, I went there, too!” So right off the bat the guy’s putting me at ease, you know? And then I just went on. I lied, like basically I didn’t know—

Charlamagne tha God: You lied to that nice guy.

Wilkos: I lied, I lied because I didn’t want to be a rat.

Charlamagne tha God: No snitching!

Wilkos: Right. I didn’t want to be a rat, and I just didn’t—I really didn’t even want to be involved. And some of the dudes I would have to say about, they were scary guys, right?

Charlamagne tha God: Got you, got you.

Wilkos: I don’t want nothin’ to do with that.

Lee: Like the blue wall of silence thing?

Wilkos: Well, I wasn’t a cop. I was a high school… Cops don’t take lie detector tests. They—I never…

Lee: Really? They don’t have to do that?

Wilkos: I—no, I was on the job for twelve years. I never…

On 10 December 2019, nine months after Wilkos’s admission that he would never take a lie detector test, he accused Anca Pennington, a guest on his show, of having burned her infant daughter with cigarettes, because she had failed a lie detector “test” administered by the show’s polygraph operator, Daniel Ribacoff. In fact, no one had burned Pennington’s daughter: lesions that had appeared on the child’s leg turned out to be the result of a ringworm infection. The anguish of being falsely accused and publicly humiliated led to Pennington’s attempted suicide later the same day.

Viewers and potential guests of the Steve Wilkos Show should be aware that when it comes to lie detectors, Wilkos is unwilling to eat his own dogfood.

Steve Wilkos’ admission that he would never take a lie detector test may be viewed below:

New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department Has Polygraph Contract With Daniel Ribacoff’s Fraud-Tainted Firm

In a 22 April 2021 YouTube interview with retired NYPD detective Ron Licciardi, polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff, who is best known for his appearances on the lowbrow daytime television talk program, the Steve Wilkos Show, disclosed that he has the contract for administering pre-employment polygraph examinations to New York Metropolitan Transit Authority Police Department applicants, stating:

We happen to have the contract for the MTA police, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Police, so we do the polygraphs for pre-employment, where we search for what we call undetected crimes.

Daniel Ribacoff (right) speaking with retired NYPD detective Ron Licciardi on 22 April 2021

As previously reported by AntiPolygraph.org, Ribacoff’s company, International Investigative Group, is the defendant in current civil litigation credibly alleging billing fraud in the millions of dollars.

On 17 June 2021, AntiPolygraph.org submitted the following inquiry to Metropolitan Transit Authority media relations:

Is the MTA aware that the contractor who does pre-employment polygraph screening for the MTA Police Department (International Investigative Group) is the defendant in a civil lawsuit credibly alleging billing fraud in the millions of dollars? AntiPolygraph.org reported yesterday on the latest developments in this litigation:

https://antipolygraph.org/blog/2021/06/15/ny-lawsuit-details-alleged-fraud-by-tv-polygraph-operator-daniel-ribacoffs-international-investigative-group-surveillance-of-actress-leah-remini-for-church-of-scientology/

We’re planning to report on the MTA having selected the fraud-tainted International Investigative Group (IIG) to screen police applicants and would like to know 1) when the MTA awarded this company its first contract to screen applicants, 2) when the current contract period ends, 3) whether MTA intends to cancel the current contract before it ends, 4) whether MTA intends to renew its contract with IIG, and 5) how many applicants have been polygraphed by IIG?

Any additional comment MTA may have on its dealings with IIG is also welcome.

MTA media relations neither responded to nor acknowledged this inquiry, which was submitted directly via their website.

Facebook post by Lisa Ribacoff dated 14 May 2021 mentioning polygraph screening of MTA applicants

A pre-employment polygraph examination conducted for the MTAPD in late 2020 by Daniel Ribacoff’s daughter, Lisa Ribacoff (a member of the American Polygraph Association’s board of directors), is at issue in a racial discrimination complaint currently pending before the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

NY Lawsuit Details Alleged Fraud by TV Polygraph Operator Daniel Ribacoff’s International Investigative Group, Surveillance of Actress Leah Remini for Church of Scientology

International Investigative Group proprietors Daniel D. Ribacoff, daughter Lisa J. Ribacoff, and son Lance Ribcoff

In a 29-page “Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Partial Summary Judgment” (12 MB PDF) filed on 7 June 2021 in the case of David M. Smith v. International Investigative Group Ltd., et al., attorney Steven Cohn of Carle Place, New York presented overwhelming evidence that the private investigation company run by TV polygraph operator Daniel D. “Dan” Ribacoff engaged in fraudulent billing practices.

The evidence of fraud includes numerous text messages supplied by former International Investigative Group (IIG) employee Saul Roth, a retired Nassau County, New York police officer. Roth attests to the fraudulent billing (apparently admitting to a felony crime) in a 16-page affidavit (4 MB PDF) filed in the case.

Former IIG employees James Marr and Yanti Greene also made out affidavits stating that IIG directed them to inflate their invoices.

Leah Remini

Also of note, text messages submitted in evidence (23 MB PDF) document IIG’s surveillance of actress Leah Remini on behalf of the Church of Scientology—a cult founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard that uses a simple lie detector called an E-meter to “audit” (interrogate) its members.

Remini was indoctrinated into Scientology as a child and incurred the cult’s wrath by publicly leaving Scientology and, among other things, producing a documentary series, Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, exposing physical and mental abuse inflicted upon members.

IIG spied on Leah Remini for the Church of Scientology while she was in New York for filming of the 2018 romantic comedy Second Act. The memorandum filed in support of the motion for summary judgment alleges that IIG directed investigator Yanti Greene, a retired New York Police Department officer, to double bill for work on the case.

Among other things, the text messages include discussion of a March 2018 article by Tony Ortega titled “Leah Remini is still being stalked, and now Scientology has turned to an ex-NYPD detective” that reveals Greene’s surveillance of Remini without mentioning him by name.

After these documents were filed in court, the Ribacoffs’ attorney filed a motion to seal all of the filings. Neither the memorandum nor the numerous exhibits are presently available for download from the New York state court system. Counsel for David M. Smith is contesting the request to seal, and the ultimate disposition of the matter is yet to be determined.

AntiPolygraph.org downloaded the three case documents mentioned and mirrored in this article before the court removed public access to them.

For prior reporting on this litigation and the related case of Susanne Gold-Smith v. Daniel Ribacoff et al., see TV Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff’s International Investigative Group Allegedly Bilked Client.

TV Polygraph Operator Dan Ribacoff’s International Investigative Group Allegedly Bilked Client

All in the family: International Investigative Group proprietors Daniel D. Ribacoff, daughter Lisa J. Ribacoff, and son Lance Ribacoff

Lawsuits filed in Nassau County, New York allege that TV polygraph operator Daniel D. “Dan” Ribacoff and his “family owned & operated” private investigation company, International Investigative Group, behaved negligently and bilked the plaintiffs out of millions of dollars. Kathianne Boniello reports for the New York Post:

A prominent PI firm was so eager to keep the cash coming in from rich clients, it turned a blind eye to its private eyes acting “like drunken fraternity brothers,” a new lawsuit charges.

Dan Ribacoff, a polygraph expert who bills himself as one of the top private investigators in the country and has appeared on TV shows like “Impractical Jokers” and “The Steve Wilkos Show,” displayed “willful ignorance” and took no action as the gumshoes who worked for him went rogue, according to the $10 million claim.

Ribacoff’s Long Island-based International Investigative Group exchanged thousands of text messages with underlings, encouraging them to double bill and pad hours to run up the tab for wealthy clients like Patty Hearst’s granddaughter Gillian Hearst and ice cream company heir David Smith, according to court papers.

Read the rest of the article here.

The lawsuit, Susanne Gold-Smith vs. Daniel Ribacoff et al., was filed on 18 December 2020 in the Nassau Supreme Court under index number 614735/2020. Other named defendants include Daniel Ribacoff’s son, Lance Ribacoff, his daughter, Lisa J. Ribacoff, his wife, Barbara Ribacoff, and the Ribacoffs’ company, International Investigative Group, Ltd. The 80-page statement of complaint (23 MB PDF) seeks damages of not less than $50 million and comprises nine causes of action: 1) negligent supervision, 2) negligent hiring, 3) respondeat superior, 4) respondeat superior-IIG and the Ribacoffs, 5) negligent retention, 6) negligence, 7) aiding and abetting, 8) violation of New York Business Law 84, 9) negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Daniel Ribacoff is a member of the American Polygraph Association, and his daughter Lisa Ribacoff is a member of the American Polygraph Association’s board of directors.

A prior lawsuit, David M. Smith vs. International Investigative Group et al., was filed in the Nassau Supreme Court on 31 May 2019 under index number 0607393/2019 and seeks damages of more than $18 million. The 48-page statement of complaint (2 MB PDF) in that litigation cites causes of action including breach of contract, fraud, gross negligence, and “breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.”

In December 2019, a guest on the Steve Wilkos Show, for which Dan Ribacoff provides polygraph services, attempted suicide after Ribacoff falsely accused her of lying when she denied having burned her infant daughter. In fact, no one had burned the daughter, and lesions that appeared on her leg were the result of a ringworm infection.

TV Polygraph Operator Daniel Ribacoff Denies Falsely Branding Steve Wilkos Show Guest as a Liar, But Deletes Posts When Challenged

Daniel D. Ribacoff

Polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff, who performs for the NBCUniversal Television Distribution syndicated daytime television talk program, The Steve Wilkos Show, has publicly denied having wrongly accused show guest Anca Pennington of lying. In an unaired segment recorded on 10 December 2019, Ribacoff accused Pennington of lying when she denied having burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. (Pennington, who resides in Omaha, Nebraska, did not bring her daughter with her to the show’s studio in Stamford, Connecticut.) Distraught, Pennington attempted suicide later that day.

Anca Pennington

Medical staff who treated Pennington after her attempted suicide, upon being shown a photograph of the lesions on her daughter’s leg, identified them as ringworm, a common and easily treated fungal infection. When lesions reappeared later in December, a medical examination confirmed a ringworm infection, and an antifungal preparation was prescribed.

Photograph of Anca Pennington’s infant daughter’s lesions provided to The Steve Wilkos Show

Ribacoff’s denial that he had wrongly accused Pennington came in the form of a Facebook reply to Steve Sledge, who in late May or early June asked on Ribacoff’s public Facebook page, “What happened with the case where the woman [sic] child had ringworm instead of a cigarette burn. That polygraph was wrong?”

Ribacoff replied, “the polygraph was correct. Ringworm was a secondary infection form [sic] the cigarette burns and was diagnosed weeks after the show.” In a second reply to Sledge, Ribacoff wrote, “doctors determined they were cigarette burns at the onset of the investigation.”

On Friday, 12 June 2020, Pennington, who posts on Facebook under the pseudonym Lore Radu, replied to Ribacoff, “stop lying you sick man! I took my child to the doctor my baby NEVER had cigarette burn you sick lying evil man!”

That same day, Ribacoff deleted Steve Sledge’s question and all replies to it from his Facebook page and blocked Pennington from viewing the page. Pennington provided AntiPolygraph.org with the following screenshots of the deleted posts:

AntiPolygraph.org has written to Daniel Ribacoff asking how he knows for sure that Pennington’s child had cigarette burns, how he knows for sure that ringworm was a secondary infection to that, and why he deleted these posts. At the time of posting, Ribacoff has not replied these questions. This post will be updated as warranted.

Update (15 June 2020): Anca Pennington posted a commentary to YouTube on Friday, 12 June 2020:

Polygraph “Test” Drives Innocent Steve Wilkos Show Guest to Attempted Suicide

Anca Pennington

On Tuesday, 10 December 2019, Anca Pennington, 30, of Omaha, Nebraska purchased three bottles of Tylenol, each containing 24 pills, after passing through security at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey. She then proceeded to a restroom stall, swallowed all of the pills, and laid down to die.

Earlier that day Pennington, a single mother of four, had appeared on the set of the Comcast-owned, NBCUniversal Television Distribution-produced Steve Wilkos Show in Stamford, Connecticut, where host Steve Wilkos had announced that she had miserably failed a polygraph test regarding whether she had burned her infant daughter with cigarettes. The show’s in-house polygraph operator, Daniel D. Ribacoff, had come on stage to support his polygraph results.

Daniel D. Ribacoff

Ribacoff, a member of the American Polygraph Association, has previously claimed on the show, “We have tests that are 99.4% accurate, which is way more accurate than most medical tests, and way more accurate than any jury trial.”

And in a 2016 Reddit “Ask Me Anything” thread, in response to a question Steve Wilkos averred, “The lie detector tests are like 99% accurate.”

In fact, however, polygraph “testing” has not been shown through peer-reviewed research to reliably work at better-than-chance levels of accuracy under field conditions. Alan P. Zelicoff and Steven E. Rigdon have conducted a peer-reviewed statistical analysis of the best available field studies of polygraphy. Based on that analysis, Dr. Zelicoff opines that “if a subject fails a polygraph, the probability that she is, in fact, being deceptive is little more than chance alone; that is, one could flip a coin and get virtually the same result for a positive test based on the published data.”

Steve Wilkos

As Pennington recalls, Wilkos told her on stage that she was disgusting, that she was never going to see her kids again, and that she was going to go to jail. The audience booed her.

Pennington recounts that she had looked up to Steve Wilkos as a father figure and had never questioned polygraphs. Afraid that no one would believe her and that she would lose her children, Pennington made the decision to end her life during the ride to the airport for her flight home, writing a suicide note on the sheet of paper with her flight information that was given to her by the show’s producers.

Lying on the airport restroom stall floor after consuming the Tylenol, whose active ingredient, acetaminophen, can cause fatal liver damage in sufficiently large doses, Pennington began to feel warm, and her heart started racing. She became scared, thought of her children, and called 911. An ambulance came. After nearly a week of hospitalization, she was released and returned home to Omaha, having escaped any permanent liver damage.

Photograph of Anca Pennington’s infant daughter’s lesions provided to The Steve Wilkos Show

While in hospital, Pennington showed nurses pictures of lesions on her infant daughter’s leg: lesions that she had suspected were pinch marks or cigarette burns inflicted by the daughter’s father, who had left them, or by the father’s new girlfriend, both of whom also appeared as guests on The Steve Wilkos Show and passed polygraphs. As Pennington recalls, the nurses immediately recognized the lesions as ringworm, a common fungal infection that is easily treated.

Later in December 2019, lesions reappeared on the infant’s leg, and a medical examination confirmed a ringworm infection, for which clotrimazole, an antifungal medication, was prescribed.

Before contacting The Steve Wilkos Show, Pennington had also contacted the Nebraska Division of Family Services regarding her suspicion that her daughter had been abused. In a letter dated 3 December 2019, a full week before her appearance on the show, but which Pennington states she received only after her return to Omaha, Children and Family Services specialist Nicole Powers reported, “Based on the information obtained during this investigation, it has been determined that the allegation will be listed as ‘Unfounded.'”

Pennington reports that on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show contacted her and told her that the episode in which she appeared will air in February. Pennington stated that she was “devastated and traumatized.”

AntiPolygraph.org has written to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra, who coordinated Pennington’s appearance on the show, and polygraph operator Daniel Ribacoff seeking comment. At the time of writing, no replies have been received.

In May 2019, the long-running British tabloid television program The Jeremy Kyle Show, which bears similarities to The Steve Wilkos Show, was abruptly canceled after Steve Dymond, who “failed” a polygraph “test” conducted for the show, committed suicide.

In December 2019, Pennington shared her story in a series of video clips that AntiPolygraph.org has assembled as a YouTube playlist:

Update (28 January 2020): On 26 January 2020, The Steve Wilkos Show released a 30-second video clip titled “THE COLD HARD TRUTH…ALL NEW…ALL FEBRUARY LONG!” with snippets of episodes to be aired in February 2020:

At 22 seconds into the video, a few seconds of the as-yet-unaired episode in which Anca Pennington appeared are shown. Steve Wilkos is seen gesticulating at her and shouting, “You’re the one burning your children!”

Pennington replies, “I did not do that!”

The Steve Wilkos Show‘s apparent decision to air this episode, despite compelling evidence that no one burned her child, may be explained by the fact that February 2020 is a Nielsen “sweeps” period during which audience measurements are taken.

AntiPolygraph.org’s inquiries to Steve Wilkos Show producer Jillian Calandra and polygraph operator Daniel D. Ribacoff remain unanswered.