ChildNet fires 2 after laptop stolen

ChildNet fires 2 after laptop stolen
ChildNet fires 2 after laptop stolen 

By Diana Moskovitz
dmoskovitz (at) 
April 12, 2007

The agency responsible for Broward's foster children fired two employees 
on Wednesday after realizing they had previous criminal records and may 
have stolen from the agency.

ChildNet had discovered the men's previous convictions, including one 
for manslaughter, during background checks before they were hired four 
years ago, but the agency hired them anyway, said Peter Balitsaris, 
agency president.

One of the two employees, Brady Grant, 35, of Coral Springs is now a 
suspect in the theft of the laptop, said Detective Kathy Collins, a Fort 
Lauderdale police spokeswoman. Police have interviewed the other man, 
Steven Williams, 47, of Fort Lauderdale, but they don't have evidence he 
was involved in the thefts, Collins said.

The inspector general with the state's Department of Children & Families 
also will investigate what happened, DCF spokeswoman Leslie Mann said.

Missing from ChildNet are $8,000 in Wal-Mart gift cards and a laptop 
with personal information for about 12,000 people, including foster 
parents and employees.


The gray Dell Latitude laptop contained personal information, including 
driver's license numbers, home addresses and Social Security numbers, 
Balitsaris said. The computer was used to gather information for 
background checks, including fingerprint scans.

Each person whose information was in the laptop will be notified by mail 
of what happened and how they can protect themselves from identity 
theft, Balitsaris said.

The pair worked in building maintenance and had no contact with 
children, Balitsaris said.

Both men were hired four years ago when DCF hired ChildNet to manage 
foster care services in Broward. At the time, ChildNet was in ''full 
hiring mode,'' Balitsaris said.

ChildNet had the two men's criminal records in its files. Balitsaris 
said he knew Grant had past troubles but until recently no idea of the 

''The real knowledge of their backgrounds came to be known after the 
gift cards,'' Balitsaris said. ``I have since read his whole file and 
was shocked at what it said.''


Changes have been made in the system since the men were hired, he said. 
A new person took over human resources three years ago. The agency also 
is reviewing the records of other employees hired at that time.

The gift cards were stolen first, about a month ago. There was no 
evidence of forced entry at the office. ChildNet officials told police, 
and the pair's criminals history arose during the investigation.


Grant was sentenced to prison in 1995 for manslaughter in Palm Beach 
County and again in 2001 on a cocaine conviction, according to the 
Florida Department of Corrections.

Williams' convictions included burglary in 1988 and battery in 1992, 
both in Tampa, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

On Friday, police were called about the stolen laptop, which was used to 
collect information for background checks on prospective foster parents 
and employees.

No information about children was stored there, Balitsaris said.

There were no signs of forced entry.

The laptop usually was kept behind two locked doors, Balitsaris said.

By Friday, both men were suspended, Balitsaris said.

ChildNet fired both men on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, a roomful of 22 employees spent the day re-entering 
information from paper backups to ChildNet's computer system.

''We don't know that was the reason the computer was stolen, but we have 
to assume the worst,'' Balitsaris said.

An inventory after the second theft found nothing else missing.

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