Man charged with sexually abusing foster children
Santa Ana man faces a dozen charges in connection with what prosecutors allege were assaults on 3 girls that took place over years.
SANTA ANA – A 66-year-old foster parent is accused of sexually abusing three young girls he and his wife went on to adopt.
Felipe Hernandez, of Santa Ana, pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in connection with what prosecutors said were years of abuse, including aggravated sexual assault, possession of child pornography, unlawful sexual intercourse and multiple counts of committing a lewd act upon a child.
He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail and, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of 65 years to life in prison. He would also be required to register as a sex offender.
According to the District Attorney's Office, Hernandez is accused of molesting and raping a 9-year-old girl in 2006. From 2009 to 2012, he went on to conduct lewd acts on a 15-year-old girl on multiple occasions, prosecutors said. District Attorney's Office officials said he threatened to take away the girl's phone, laptop and other privileges if she didn't comply with his demands.
From 2006 to 2012, prosecutors said, he also raped an 11-year-old girl multiple times.
In each case, prosecutors say the girls they believe are victims were living in Hernandez's home. He and his wife had biological children and also fostered other children over the years, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department. Police are still investigating if there are other victims, he said.
"Part of the investigation is looking into the mother as well, if she had any knowledge or participation in any way, shape or form," he said.
The couple was barred from fostering other children in August 2012, Bertagna said. Santa Ana police began their investigation when one of the girls talked to a school counselor this year, he said.
According to the District Attorney's Office, a family member of Hernandez's discovered a memory card with a video of him touching the 15-year-old girl. The family member contacted police.
The investigation is ongoing, and anyone with information is asked to contact Supervising District Attorney Investigator Anthony Sosnowski at 714-347-8794 or Santa Ana police Detective Ed Zaragoza at 714-245-8386.
Judge Denies Requests of Woman Who Kept Foster Children in Cages
A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge has denied a request to reduce the probation of a woman who was convicted of child abuse and neglect five years ago.
Sylvia Vasquez pleaded guilty to felony counts of child abuse and neglect in 2007 after it was discovered she had kept several of her four foster children locked in cages in her home, where she ran a day-care center.
Vasquez appeared before Judge Frank Ochoa this week, asking him to terminate her probation, reduce her felony charge to a misdemeanor and expunge her conviction.
She also owes more than $9,000 in restitution, according to Deputy District Attorney Ben Ladinig.
Judge Ochoa denied each request, a decision Ladinig applauded.
“Judge Ochoa takes his sentences very seriously and considers it a contract with the defendant,” he said. “Simply stated, she has yet to fulfill her obligations under her contract with the judge.”
Judge removes boy from Colorado City foster home
KINGMAN, Ariz. - A foster father in Colorado City, Ariz., is upset a judge ordered the removal of an 11-year-old boy from his home.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Richard Weiss directed officials to find another placement for the boy during a Wednesday hearing.
An attorney acting as the child's advocate, Deborah A. Liverence, said Weiss believed there was too much distance between the boy and his mother, who lives in Lake Havasu City, and his older brothers in a foster home in Chino Valley.
Liverence said there also is a culture shock factor associated with dispatching a boy who spent most of his life in Lake Havasu City to a remote and sparsely populated community 300 miles away.
Foster father Daniel Wayman, 54, said the boy likes his home and he has no ties to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or its polygamous culture.
"He's happy here. He's got friends, and he's settled in school," Wayman said. "Moving him again after three or four months here is going to be disruptive, and that's hard on kids."
Child sex traffickers target Calif. foster Children – enter PROJECT CHILD SAVE
A new study released this week by the National Center for Young Law finds child sex traffickers target California foster children and now state officials plan to act immediately to improve protection.
This comes as no surprise to retired U.S. Marine Ty Ritter, who with his volunteer squad of Navy Seals, Green Beret and Marine Recon Special Forces team retrieves child victims from all over the world.
“We rescue children, who have been kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery,” explained Founder Ty Ritter, PROJECT CHILD SAVE. “A few years ago, I was working for a high profile individual when his friend’s daughter was kidnapped and I got very, very lucky and brought her back. But I couldn’t have done without our team, they make me look good,” he said. “That’s how we got started.”
Founder and Former U.S. Marine Ty Ritter talks about PROJECT CHILD SAVE - Child Kidnappings Founder and Former U.S. Marine Ty Ritter talks about PROJECT CHILD SAVE - Child Kidnappings
The study - Ending Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children: A Call for Multi-System Collaboration in California found thatL
Worldwide, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, involving 100,000 children in the U.S. The FBI has determined that three of the nation's 30 High Intensity Child Prostitution areas are located in California. Studies estimate that between 50 and 80 percent of commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) are or were formally involved with the child welfare system.
“Unlike the way we parents grew up, it’s a whole new world out there and parents need to take extra precaution with their children,” explained Ritter, who insists the Internet has made it easier for child snatchers. “Don’t close the door when your child is Online, and those Nanny Nets don’t work.”
The new report on child stealing was authored by Fellow and Attorney Kate Walker, at the National Center said, "Every day, the unthinkable happens: thousands of America's children are coerced into performing sex for hire," she said.
“Exploitation can start as young as age ten,” Said Walker. “Some exploited children are brutally beaten and raped. Others are isolated, drugged, and starved until they become ‘willing’ participants. Yet, these children are regularly arrested and held in juvenile detention facilities even though they are victims of crime.”
Four of the report's key recommendations spotlight the urgent need for:
1. Safe, secure and specialized homes for exploited children and children at risk
2. New screening tools to help professionals working with children identify both victims and children at risk
3. Special training for "child serving professionals" and systems to identify and support vulnerable children
4. Increased data collection and information sharing to promote collaboration across systems and raise public awareness
The report offers several solutions of expediting response time, protection and agency collaboration. The Report will be presented at the Child Welfare Council's quarterly meeting on March 6th at the Administrative Office of the Courts in San Francisco.
Project Child Save is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping prevent child abductions and kidnapping through education and public awareness campaigns.
“When these heinous acts are perpetrated against our children, Project Child Save, through it's international network, finds these abducted innocents who have been taken against their will and sold into slavery, and retrieves them, returning them to their loved ones," said Ritter.
Every year thousands of children are taken from their homes and sold into sexual slavery. Most of these children are teens or pre-teens, and few ever make it back to their families.
Ritter said the reason is simple - money. “Slavery is a lucrative business, and the cost of rescuing abductees is beyond the means of most. Average families can't afford these costs, so they remain helpless as their loss overshadows the rest of their lives. We leave no child behind, and it’s usually more than one, too.”
Tyler has written a complete child protection handbook for parents entitled, "My Body is My Own." His incredible true story of world class heroes has been produced into a documentary, "Kidnap & Rescue" and aired on the Discovery Channel Ritter urges all parents to contact the Discovery Channel and ask that it be rescheduled broadcast for again.
State starts criminal investigation of Middleton foster care agency
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to audit the state's financial oversight of certain foster care agencies. Read more
Officials: State lacked way to detect alleged foster care overcharges until 2011
Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson also hinted that authorities are weighing a criminal investigation. Read more
Foster care families shocked by allegations of fraud at Community Care Resources
The State Journal interviewed more than a dozen current and former Community Care Resources foster parents and heard conflicting views of the … Read more
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating possible criminal activity by Community Care Resources Inc., the Middleton foster care agency that the state has accused of misusing millions of taxpayer dollars.
The confirmation came in a letter responding to the State Journal's request for all documents involving CCR.
"The Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) does have an investigative case file that is responsive to your request," said the letter dated Feb. 28 from Assistant Attorney General Kevin Potter. "However, because the investigation remains open and active, and the continued confidentiality of the records is material to that ongoing investigation, we decline to release that information to you at this time."
The state Department of Children and Families has revoked CCR's license to place foster children and license foster parents, alleging that the company has overcharged counties by $6.1 million between 2009 and 2011 in part to pay for excessive salaries, three homes, six vehicles and three boats for owner Dan Simon and his wife, Mary, who also works at the company. The for-profit child-placing agency continues to operate while it appeals the revocation before the state Division of Hearings and Appeals. A pre-hearing on the appeal is scheduled for June 7.
CCR attorney David Schwartz of Madison said his client "strongly disputes the allegations." He described the charges by DCF as "significant accounting issues that demand full review and analysis."
In a statement issued Wednesday, Schwartz said "we will fully cooperate with any DOJ investigation and are confident any investigation will confirm that no crimes have been committed.
"Some have gone so far as to accuse CCR of fraud without the benefit of the facts," Schwartz said. "This is extremely unfortunate and fundamentally unfair, especially when only one side of the story is currently available to the public. We urge state legislators, reporters and others not to rush to judgment."
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee has ordered an audit of all 24 child-placing agencies under contract with counties in Wisconsin. In recent months, DCF has revoked the licenses of at least three such agencies citing financial mismanagement and other problems.