Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two child welfare workers faked visits to kids, DCF says

TAMPA — Two state child welfare workers skirted their duties by falsifying reports to make it appear they visited children in the state's care, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Andrew Joseph, 36, of Riverview and Robert Matthew Vilardebo, 34, of Brandon both face criminal charges of falsifying records, jail records show.

Department of Children and Families officials are adamant that no children suffered harm from the pair's actions.

"The potential for danger is incredible — that's why we take this so seriously," said Nick Cox, regional director for the DCF. "Thank God the ending is good."

Eleven children went without visits in Joseph's case, Cox said. He did not have a number for the Vilardebo case.

FDLE officials say they do not anticipate additional arrests and that these cases are unrelated.

Cox says he believes that in such a large agency there will inevitably be a few people who cut corners, but he says the arrests pleased him because they show there is a system in place to find such flaws.

Officials used red flags, such as Joseph's failing to submit travel vouchers, to spot abnormalities, he said.

"I'm thrilled that we caught these people as soon as we found out about this," Cox said.

In September 2006, Joseph joined Youth and Family Alternatives, a New Port Richey organization that subcontracts with Hillsborough Kids Inc., according to George Magrill, the organization's chief executive.

Joseph left two months later for another job, Magrill said.

Joseph, 13716 Gentlewoods Ave., Riverview, was a caseworker in western Hillsborough County, and he was required to check on each child once every 30 days, Magrill said.

Another caseworker saw irregularities with Joseph's files, and the organization reported the problem, opening the way for the FDLE investigation, Magrill said.

Joseph faces 33 counts of felony official misconduct by falsifying records. He was released Thursday on $25,000 bail. He could not be reached for comment.

Vilardebo, 2210 Wallwood Place, surrendered to Hillsborough jail officials on Thursday afternoon.

He faces two felony counts of altering or destroying DCF records, jail records show. He was released Thursday afternoon after posting $4,000 bail.

Reached by phone Thursday evening, he called the situation ugly and embarrassing. He said he is currently unemployed, does not have an attorney and has not worked for the Hillsborough Kids subcontractor for two years. He declined to talk specifically about the allegations.

"I'm just looking for resolution for myself and my family," he said.

Investigators say in October 2007, Children's Home Society, also a subcontractor for Hillsborough Kids, became suspicious his home visits.

Investigators concluded that Vilardebo submitted false reports for two face-to-face interviews with caregivers and children, according to the FDLE.

He worked as a case manager for the organization from November 2004 to March 2006, according to the FDLE.

This is not the first time caseworkers have been accused of falsifying DCF records.

In 2006, the Fort Myers News Press outlined cases against four investigators accused of falsifying records in agency computers. One, Cynthia Alvear, was fired, accused of falsely claiming she had completed face-to-face interviews in two child abuse cases.

Another, Theona Steward, was accused of making an entry into the DCF's computer system that said she had visited a 5-year-old child, when she had not. Her case was referred to the State Attorney's Office.

In 2006, the Orlando Sentinel reported that a caseworker in Apopka, Luanne Bronson, was arrested, accused of falsifying records by changing paperwork to make it appear she had checked in on children in the state's case.

And, in what was perhaps the most infamous case, in 2002 the agency acknowledged the disappearance of 5-year-old Rilya Wilson from a Miami foster home, after a caseworker had written reports that the girl was thriving with her caregivers, when, in fact, the worker had not seen the child in more than a year.

That year, Gov. Jeb Bush signed legislation that made it a felony for workers to falsify child welfare records.

Cox believes such behavior will be easier to spot in the future.

In recent months, the DCF and its contractors have added extra screening processes, Cox said.

"These are children who have been victims, and we need to make sure they're not victims again," he said.

Abbie VanSickle can be reached

at or

(813) 226-3373.

Two child welfare workers faked visits to kids, DCF says 05/22/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 25, 2008 12:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees


    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact


    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show


    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.