Stathis and Marinakis’ “Shadows into Light”: A Failure of Peer-Review

In January 2020, the Journal of Child Sexual Abuse published online an article by Marigo J. Stathis and Maria M. Marinakis purporting to show that the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA), a quack device marketed as a lie detector by the so-named National Institute for Truth Verification (NITV), is highly useful for interrogating pedophiles who use the internet in the commission of crimes, producing no false positives and a 100% confession rate from those who failed.

The authors of “Shadows into Light: The Investigative Utility of Voice Analysis with Two Types of Online Child-Sex Predators” declared to the journal that they have no conflicts of interest to report. However, an investigation by AntiPolygraph.org reveals that both the article’s primary author and the source of the data used for the study have ties to NITV that call into question the article’s credibility.

The Journal of Child Sexual Abuse is published by Taylor & Francis, who on their web page on “competing interest” or “conflict of interest” state: “Competing interests can be financial or non-financial in nature. To ensure transparency, any associations which can be perceived by others as a competing interest must also be declared.”

Marigo J. Stathis

Stathis did not disclose that she is the recipient of the National Association of Computer Voice Stress Analysts’ (NACVSA’s) “Chapman Award” for an article she co-authored with James L. Chapman, who until his death in 2012 was a member of the NACVSA board of directors.

NACVSA is an arm of NITV, which has used the article Stathis co-authored with Chapman to claim in marketing copy that “according to an independent, peer-reviewed, published 18-year study” CVSA “has an accuracy rate of 98%.” However, an earlier investigation by AntiPolygraph.org revealed that the Chapman & Stathis article was published in an obscure publication of the Ukrainian government that has dubious claim to being peer-reviewed and that, in any event, the study was not based on NITV’s CVSA, but rather a different voice stress analyzer whose manufacturer went out of business some three decades ago.

In January 2013, Stathis, a resident of Maryland, gave a presentation at NITV’s Advanced Continuing Education Course in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on the topic of “Current VSA Research.”

Bob McCarty,
NACVSA Chapman Award recipients Bob McCarty, Chad Jeansonne, and Marigo Stathis

In January 2015, Stathis was again in Florida for NITV’s Advanced Examiners Conference held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, where she was photographed with other winners of NACVSA’s Chapman Award.

In January 2017, Stathis was yet again in Florida for NITV and NACVSA’s 29th Annual Professional Development and Continuing Education Conference, where she gave a lecture. NITV’s description of the event characterizes her as a “valued member”:

Some of the highlights of the conference were lectures by valued members who have advanced knowledge in specialized areas. One such person was Marigo Stathis, a neuroscientist who co-authored a peer-reviewed field study of the CVSA with Professor James Chapman. Marigo has a deep understanding of the scientific workings of the CVSA, but she’s also great at translating the data into everyday language. Her lecture discussed the protocols of the Chapman study and described how they discovered that the CVSA has an accuracy rate of 99.69%, a precision rate of 99.67%, and a verified confession rate of 96.4 %.

In response to a request for comment, Stathis denied having a “close and continuing” relationship with NITV and affirmed that “[a]ll of [her] efforts pertaining to the ‘Shadows into Light’ article were of a pro-bono nature…”

Nonetheless, a reasonable person might conclude that Stathis’ above-documented association with NITV constitutes a conflict of interest that should have been declared.

In “Shadows into Light,” Stathis and Marinakis write that “[t]he data contained in this paper originates from a southeastern US Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, an organization that successfully uses both advanced interviewing techniques and investigative tools when eliciting disclosures.” Stathis and Marinakis do not specify which ICAC Task Force produced the data on which they rely, but AntiPolygraph.org’s investigation confirms that it is the Central Florida ICAC Task Force, and that the key person involved was former detective sergeant Jerry W. Crotty II of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Jerry W. Crotty II

Like Stathis, Crotty is a recipient of NACVSA’s “Chapman Award” (for 2015):

2015 – D/Sgt. Jerry W. Crotty II: Jerry is with the Manatee Co. Sheriff’s Office (FL) and was the recipient of the fourth annual Professor James L. Chapman Award for Excellence. He developed innovative strategies using the CVSA to protect the safety and welfare of children in Florida and elsewhere. Jerry is assigned to the Federal Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), and he introduced the CVSA as a screening tool during investigations of ‘Traveler and Pornography Cases.’ His efforts have resulted in more accurately determining the past predatory histories of these offenders, and also has directly led to the identification and recovery of multiple ‘live victims’ of sexual predators. As a direct result of Jerry’s innovation and creativity the CVSA has been acquired by many ICAC Task Forces across the USA, which have also adopted Jerry’s specialized interviewing approach.

In February 2018, six months after the cutoff date for Stathis & Marinakis’ data sample, Detective Sergeant Crotty “retired to avoid a demotion and discipline.” Shortly thereafter, NITV hired Crotty as “Director of Law Enforcement Operations.”

That Crotty is the source of Stathis and Marinakis’ data is confirmed by Crotty himself in an online biographical sketch:

His work is…the subject of an article published in the Journal of Child Sex Abuse, where his use of the CVSA was analyzed in online sex traveler and child porn offenders. Using this technique, he was able to recover 87 unknown live victims of child sex abuse.

Concordantly, in “Shadows into Light,” Stathis and Marinakis write, “…as a result of voice stress analysis procedures, 87 previously undiscovered live victims were identified.”

There can be little doubt but that Stathis and Marinakis’ data is based on CVSA examinations conducted primarily, and perhaps exclusively, by Jerry Crotty.

In response to a request for comment, Stathis stated, “I received the data relevant to ‘Shadows into Light’ in 2017 from a Southeastern US ICAC team that consisted of several individuals who originally approached me in 2016, none of whom was associated with or worked for any forensic or truth verification software/hardware company at that time.”

Nonetheless, a reasonable person might conclude that Stathis and Marinakis’ data source’s association with NITV constitutes a conflict of interest that should have been declared.

Stathis & Marinakis’ “Shadows into Light” is also beset by methodological flaws and omissions that make it difficult to generalize the authors’ conclusions to any other population:

  • What were the total arrest figures for the ICAC unit during the relevant period?
  • How many arrestees refused all interrogation?
  • How many were interrogated without CVSA, and what were their admission/confession rates?
  • How were the CVSA charts scored? Manually by the operator? Or automatically by the CVSA software?
  • How many CVSA operators were involved? (Evidence suggests that the number is one, but the authors should have included this data point.)

Stathis and Marinakis write that “[t]his study’s de-identified raw data can be furnished upon reasonable request from the corresponding author.” In order to better understand their research findings, AntiPolygraph.org requested this data by email to the corresponding author, Marigo Stathis, on 22 July 2020 and received no reply. However, in October 2020, following AntiPolygraph.org’s request for comment for this article, Stathis wrote:

…we have appropriately considered your initial July 22, 2020 request for the study’s raw data. However, we additionally require a detailed description of how you intend to use the data. As the corresponding co-author, I will then be able to forward your request to the agencies that comprise the US ICAC task force (that generated the data) with the stated reasonable potential use of such data in order to get their consent to release the data. The latter will be contingent on having met specific criteria re a written limited rights data use agreement, with appropriate protection of the data and defined limited reasonable use.

Given that Stathis did not reply to our request for the study’s data, only addressing it more than two months later when asked for comment for this article, her claim that she needs more information to entertain our request seems disingenuous.

The late astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan famously observed that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Stathis and Marinakis’ claim that CVSA—a scientifically baseless device that NITV itself has acknowledged in court “is not capable of lie detection”—produced no false positives and a 100% confession rate from those who failed is an extraordinary claim indeed.

Regrettably, the evidence of Stathis and Marinakis’ “Shadows into Light” is murky.

Charlatan v. Charlatan: NITV Sues E. Gary Baker

On Wednesday, 17 June 2020, “Dr.” Charles Humble’s NITV Federal Services, LLC, which markets the scientifically baseless Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) to governmental agencies, filed in a Florida court an amended complaint in litigation against competitor Elwood Gary Baker, who runs Baker Group International, and his associate Michael Savage, who runs Expertos VSA, Inc. The original complaint was filed on 25 May 2015.

Charles Wayne Humble in “Heartbeat of America” promotional video

It should be noted that no voice stress analysis technique has any scientific basis, be it NITV’s CVSA, Baker Group International’s Digital Voice Stress Analyzer (DVSA), Dektor’s Psychological Stress Evaluator (PSE), or Nemesysco’s Layered Voice Analysis (LVA).

In the lawsuit, brought before the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit in Palm Beach, NITV alleges that Baker and Savage have been marketing their competing voice-based lie detector in violation of U.S. export regulations and seeks as much as $1,000,000 (or potentially more) in damages.

NITV’s amended complaint includes the following two counts:

COUNT I
Economic Damages Against Defendants due to Violation of Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act

  1. Plaintiff hereby restates the allegation set forth in paragraphs 1 through 46 as if fully set forth herein and further alleges as follows:
  2. Both BAKER and SAVAGE, individually and by and through EXPERTOS INC and EXPERTOS SA, have exported from the United States or re-exported VSA technologies either to or between various foreign locations including Mexico, Central America, South America and South Africa.
  3. Upon information and belief, none of the Defendants named herein have received such US Government approved Export Licenses for the multiple sales they have made from the US to foreign countries and/or between foreign countries, and are knowingly and actively engaged in the commerce of selling US Government Export Controlled commodities to various foreign governments, foreign commercial entities, and foreign national end users who have not been properly scrutinized to be granted an Export License.
  4. The Defendants are in violation of Federal export laws, under the EAR, as well as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. §§ 41 et seq.
  5. The failure to comply with Federal Export Law and violation of the EAR, constitute an unfair and deceptive act and unfair practice under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Act.
  6. Defendants’ [sic] BAKER and SAVAGE, individually and by and through EXPERTOS INC and EXPERTOS SA, deliberate and knowing efforts to export, distribute and sell the DVSA/FVAS outside of the United States without a United States Government approved Export License, constitutes a violation of 15 CFR § 730-774 under the EAR, and constitutes a criminal conspiracy to violate federally promulgated export laws, regulations and directives.
    Due to Defendants’ unfair and deceptive actions in circumventing export licensing requirements, Defendants have been able to expeditiously enter foreign markets to the competitive disadvantage and economic damage of NFS.
  7. Due to Defendants’ unfair and deceptive actions in circumventing export licensing requirements, NFS has lost numerous sales to BAKER and/or SAVAGE by and through EXPERTOS INC/EXPERTOS SA.
  8. NFS’s damages are directly proximate to Defendants’ violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and the Florida Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Florida Statute 501.201 et seq., and specifically 501.211 of the Florida Statutes.
  9. NFS is entitled to an award of attorney fees and costs associated with the bringing of this action pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and Section 501.2105 of the Florida Statutes.

WHEREFORE, NFS respectfully requests that this Honorable Court:
A. Enter a money judgment of $1,000,000 against Defendants or an amount equal to the actual damages suffered by Plaintiff by reason of the violations alleged above, pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and Section 501.211 of the Florida Statutes;
B. Enter an order requiring Defendants to pay Plaintiff’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and Section 501.2105 of the Florida Statutes; and
C. Direct any and all further relief this court deems just and equitable.


COUNT II
Injunctive and Equitable Relief Against All Defendants

  1. Plaintiff restates the allegations in paragraphs 1 through 46 and further states:
  2. As alleged herein, Defendants have engaged in a continuous course of violation of 15 CFR § 730-774 under the EAR and Federal Trade Commission Regulations.
  3. Defendants will continue to violate 15 CFR § 730-774 under the EAR and Federal Trade Commission Regulations causing irreparable harm to Plaintiff, the public, United States national security, and efforts by various foreign governments to combat criminal enterprises by supplying unscreened end users with technology that can be used to thwart law enforcement, military and/or national security efforts unless enjoined.
  4. Plaintiff does not possess an adequate remedy at law to prevent Defendants’ conduct as alleged herein from continuing.
  5. Plaintiff has a clear right to its request for injunctive relief and the public interest will be served as Plaintiff seeks to prevent continuing violations [sic] 15 CFR § 730-774 under the EAR and of the Federal Trade Commission Export Regulations which directly damage Plaintiff, the public and others.
    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that this Honorable Court:
    A. Grant a temporary and permanent injunction against Defendants BAKER, EXPERTOS INC, EXPERTOS SA, and SAVAGE, enjoining the Defendants from exporting, demonstrating or selling its DVSA/FVAS product to foreign customers or potential customers both inside and outside the United States without a United States Government approved export license;
    B. Enter an Order awarding Plaintiff costs and reasonable attorney’s fees pursuant to the Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and Section 501.2105 of the Florida Statutes;
    C. Order Dissolution of EXPERTOS VSA, INC.;
    D. Order Disgorgement of any and all monies received by Defendants’ [sic] in connection [sic] their violations of Federal Trade Commission Act 15 U.S.C. Section 41 et seq., and Section 501.201 of the Florida Statutes; and
    F. Direct any and all further relief this Court deems just and equitable.

The claim is Case No. 50-2015-CA-005885-XXXX-MB in the Circuit Court of the 15th Judicial Circuit, in and for Palm Beach County, Florida. Other notable filings in the case include the transcripts of video depositions of Elwood Gary Baker and Michael Savage.

It should be noted that in 2009, the same court awarded Elwood Gary Baker $575,000 in a defamation suit he brought against NITV, LLC. NITV to date has shirked payment of this judgment, and Baker’s efforts to collect continue. That action is Case No. 50-2005-CA-001771-XXXX-MB.

In addition, NITV is the defendant in a federal fraud suit, Fletcher v. NITV LLC, filed on 18 May 2020.

Update 24 June 2020: In 2006, NITV was ordered to pay $77,000 in penalties for export violations similar to those that NITV now alleges E. Gary Baker et al. to have committed. Documentation of this action is available on Archive.org’s mirror of NITVCVSAExposed.com, a website that in May 2019 was ordered taken down pursuant to a federal lawsuit brought by NITV against Arthur Herring III and Dektor Corporation.

NITV Federal Services Court Filing Shows Flat Revenue, Declining CVSA Sales

NITV logo, misappropriating the Great Seal of the United States

Financial data disclosed in federal court by NITV Federal Services, LLC, which markets the scientifically baseless Computer Voice Stress Analyzer (CVSA) to law enforcement agencies, reflect flat revenue and a multi-year sales slump.

The financial data was divulged in NITV v. Dektor (Case No. 9:18-cv-80994 in the Southern District of Florida) to support a claimed loss of more than $2 million in revenue.

Financial figures for the privately held NITV, which was founded by pseudoscientist Charles W. Humble to market his CVSA device and operator training, is not generally publicly available. A declaration prepared on behalf of NITV by certified public accountant Kevin R. Foyteck includes (at Appendix B) quantitative historical data on NITV’s revenue and customer base. Using Foyteck’s data, AntiPolygraph.org has prepared charts of NITV’s revenue and sales.

The data show that between 2015 and 2018, NITV’s revenue remained flat at an average of U.S. $1,710,251 per annum:

NITV revenue per annum, in dollars, 2006-2018

The data also show that NITV has had difficulty finding new customers, with the number of new customers per year steadily declining since 2011. It would appear that the market for bogus voice-based lie detectors is approaching its saturation point:

NITV new customers per annum, 2006-2018

As previously reported on AntiPolygraph.org, the court awarded NITV a total of $849,347.92 in damages in its suit against Dektor, an amount that it appears, based on a recent court filing, NITV has thus far been unable to collect.

At this time, Dektor’s website (www.dektorpse.com) is offline, and Dektor and its sole proprietor, Arthur Herring III, remain under a permanent injunction essentially enjoining them from communicating any information critical of NITV, its CVSA product, or its founder, Charles Humble, to anyone.

It is worth noting that in 2009, a federal jury awarded competitor Elwood Gary Baker $575,000 in a defamation lawsuit against NITV. To our knowledge, Baker never succeeded in collecting this amount.

Baker DVSA Loses a Customer

Dee J. Hall reports for the Wisconson State Journal that “Dr.” E. Gary Baker, the faux Ph.D. who markets what he styles a “Digital Voice Stress Analyzer” to law enforcement agencies, has lost the Jefferson, Wisconsin Police Department as a customer:

Jefferson police cancel training on voice-stress analyzer
By DEE J. HALL
608-2523-6132
dhall@madison.com

The city of Jefferson Police Department has cancelled a training session on how to use a controversial voice-stress analyzer after the Wisconsin State Journal raised questions about the technology and the qualifications of the business owner scheduled to conduct the training.

Voice-stress analysis is used by some law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin, including the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, to detect “microtremors” in the voice that backers of the technology say indicates speakers are stressed and therefore answering questions deceptively.

“If everything has been exhausted in investigative techniques and they have a suspect or someone they want to eliminate as a suspect, it (CVSA) has been used,” Madson said, adding that the technology has prompted confessions from suspects. “The tool works, as far as I’m concerned.”

Detective Sergeant Tim Madson is badly misinformed. The existing peer reviewed research suggests that voice stress analyzers perform at roughly chance levels of accuracy. While these devices might be useful for scaring confessions out of naive and gullible persons, they have no scientific basis and are no more to be relied upon than a colander wired to a photocopier with a sheet of paper saying “He’s Lying” on the glass paten. Continue reading Baker DVSA Loses a Customer

Colorado Television News Program Investigates Computer Voice Stress Analysis (CVSA)

Colorado television station KUSA 9News investigative reporter Jace Larson examines the use of the “Computer Voice Stress Analyzer” (CVSA) in the state:

KUSA – A device used by Colorado law enforcement agencies to identify when someone is lying, may not work and may be costing taxpayers money.

Computer Voice Stress Analyzers (CVSAs) claim to measure changes in a person’s voice that indicate a lie.

However, three recent studies say the device does not accurately tell the difference between a person lying and a person telling the truth.

CVSAs have been used by 21 law enforcement agencies in Colorado.

Studies by the National Academy of Sciences, the International Association of Chiefs of

Police and the Department of Defense question the validity of CVSAs.

In 2006 a University of Florida study found CVSAs, “performed at chance-level for deception, truth and stress.” The same study went on to say, “false positive rates were high.”

Westminster Police Investigator Wayne Read doesn’t agree though. He and members of his department have used the device and swear by it.

“I know how to operate the instrument. I know how the instrument works. I don’t think I could deceive the instrument,” said Read.

Read’s belief in CVSA despite the scientific evidence against it is reminiscent of the dogged belief of polygraph operators in their own pseudoscientific form of lie detection, despite broad consensus among scientists that it has no scientific basis.

Instructors who teach law enforcement agents how to read the test agree.

“It’s not audible to the human ear,” said Ben Conrique.

Conrique works for The National Institute for Truth Verification, the company selling CVSAs.

“Voice Stress indicated whether or not a person is telling the truth,” said Conrique.

And yet the National Institute for Truth Verification admitted before a federal court that CVSA “is not capable of lie detection.”

The National Institute for Truth Verification sells each device for about $10,000.
Agencies in Colorado have spent more than $331,000 on training and equipment.

“You only spend that type of money on something that has a proven success rate,” said Conrique.

However, experts who oppose CVSAs believe the devices do not work and that they lead to false confessions by suspects.

Deputies in Maricopa County, Ariz. suspected Robert Louis Armstrong of triple murder.

They questioned him for 10 hours in 2003. After deputies told him his test showed he was lying, Armstrong confessed.

Evidence emerged later proving Armstrong was out of the state at the time of the murders and he was freed.

He sued the sheriff’s office.

9Wants to Know tried to speak with deputies in Maricopa County but they declined.

Several agencies around the county have decided to stop using the CVSAs and now rely on other methods such as a polygraph test.

Unfortunately, polygraph tests, too, are completely unreliable as a means of lie detection. They are inherently biased against the truthful, yet easily manipulated through the use of simple countermeasures. See The Lie Behind the Lie Detector for a thorough debunking.

“If you think the CVSA is going to tell you whether witnesses or suspects are telling the truth, you’re gravely mistaken,” said CVSA opponent Richard Leo.

Leo is a criminologist and professor of law at the University of San Francisco.

Leo told 9NEWS if a law enforcement agency buys this device, “You’re wasting your money and you’re wasting public money.”

“You might as well be flipping coins or reading tea leaves or reading an Ouija board,” he continued.

The following are agencies that have confirmed to 9Wants to Know that they own or have used CVSAs:

*Boulder Police Department
*Brighton Police Department
*Broomfield Police Department
*Colorado Division of Wildlife
*Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
*El Paso County Sheriff’s Office
*Englewood Police Department
*Federal Heights Police Department
*Fort Morgan Police Department
*Glenwood Springs Police Department
*Golden Police Department
*Grand Junction Police Department
*Lakewood Police Department
*Lamar Police Department
*Longmont Police Department
*Moffat County Sheriff’s Office
*Northglenn Police Department
*Sterling Police Department
*Thornton Police Department
*Westminster Police Department
*Yuma County Sheriff’s Office

For further reading and video links, see the KUSA 9News website’s feature page, The Truth About Lies. and for discussion, see the CVSA and other Voice Stress Analysis Applications forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board.