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. Bucs have chance to beat Vikings in their third stadium


    Here's a cool sign that the Bucs are getting up there as an NFL franchise: If Tampa Bay can win Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium, it will mark the first time the Bucs have posted road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.

    TIMES ARCHIVES (2012) | Bucs RB Doug Martin runs during Tampa Bay's 36-17 win at the Vikings in 2012, in what was then called Mall of America Field. If Tampa Bay wins Sunday, it will mark the first time they have road wins against the same NFL opponent in three different stadiums.
  2. Memorial for Snooty the manatee, postponed because of Irma, to be held Sunday


    A public memorial to celebrate the life of 69-year-old Snooty the manatee will be held at the South Florida Museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

    Snooty , the world's most celebrated manatee, begs for another slice of apple in his pool in the Parker Manatee Aquarium at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton in 2008. Snooty was 60 then. [Times 2008]
  3. Residents wade through a flooded road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. [Associated Press]
  4. NFL commissioner, players' union angrily denounce Trump comments on national anthem


    SOMERSET, N.J. — The National Football League and its players' union on Saturday angrily denounced President Donald Trump for suggesting that owners fire players who kneel during the national …

    President Donald Trump walks off the stage after he speaks at campaign rally in support of Sen. Luther Strange, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Huntsville, Ala. [Associated Press]
  5. New earthquake, magnitude 6.1, shakes jittery Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A strong new earthquake shook Mexico on Saturday, causing new alarm in a country reeling from two still-more-powerful quakes this month that have killed nearly 400 people.

    Locals play pool at a venue in Mexico City's La Condesa neighborhood, Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, four days after the 7.1 earthquake. The upscale Mexico City neighborhood was one of the hardest hit, with more than a half-dozen collapsed buildings in the immediate vicinity. The few Condesa residents who ventured out Friday night said they were anxious for relief from an anguishing week. [Associated Press]