A Suffolk County grand jury has issued an investigative report blasting the foster care system for failing to protect seven children placed with a man accused of sexually abusing them.
The report criticized four government agencies and a nonprofit group for failing to share information that should have prevented the suspect from having more children placed in his home. The man was investigated 18 times for abusing some of the more than 100 kids he fostered over 20 years.
“Although these agencies were accountable for the children, the communication among them was abysmal,” the grand jury wrote in its 83-page report. “Even with multiple levels of supervision in place, the children placed in [the suspect’s] home were overlooked, resulting in abuse that spanned two decades. The system failed these children for two decades too long.”
The Associated Press first reported the grand jury’s findings Wednesday, although the grand jury report itself is dated Jan. 26. The report identified the foster care suspect only as “A,” but the details of the case match those related to 61-year-old Cesar Gonzales-Mugabura of Ridge, who pleaded not guilty last year to sexual misconduct and child endangerment charges, the AP noted. Gonzales-Mugabura was also accused of sexually abusing the family dog in front of a child, prosecutors said.
Gonzales-Mugabura, who collected $1.5 million in tax-free taxpayer funds, requested to have children with special needs placed in his home. Children with special needs, the report noted, are more vulnerable to manipulation and “can be tricked into thinking that the abuse is normal,” the grand jury noted. Those children who disobeyed were punched, threatened with violence, forced to eat dog food or locked in a dog kennel, according to the report.
“We believe there are more victims out there,” said Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota after the suspect was arrested. The grand jury said investigators did receive reports of other victims, but prosecutors were unable to pursue charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
Among the recommendations that the report suggested for New York State lawmakers to tackle was repealing expiration dates on prosecuting sex crimes against children. Some of the other issues raised by the report have recently been addressed, “albeit too late” for the victims, the report noted.
The agencies involved in placing or overseeing children in the suspect’s home include the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Suffolk County Department of Social Services (DSS), Suffolk County Child Protective Services (CPS) and SCO Family of Services, a Glen Cove-based nonprofit agency.
The report found that DSS had verbally expressed that no more foster children should be sent to the suspect’s home after a series of complaints, but it didn’t communicate that concern in writing to other agencies, which continued to place children there. The report also found that the Suffolk regional office of the OCFS “failed, in its oversight capacity, by not following-up” with reports to its hotline about the suspect.
Gonzales-Mugaburu is being held at Suffolk County jail after a judge set his bail at $500,000 cash or $1 million bond. He is due back in court March 2 and faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.