By Diana Moskovitz
dmoskovitz (at) MiamiHerald.com
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,
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
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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