Prosecutor: Children services provider accepted bribe to 'look the other way' before boy's death

CLEVELAND - A family services worker accepted a bribe to "look the other way" before a 5-year-old boy was found buried in the backyard of a Cleveland home last month.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors said that, had the family services worker been doing her job, she would have been in the home, witnessing the deplorable conditions. 

Watch the news conference in the media player above.

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The prosecutor also announced Wednesday the arrest of a second person in connection to 5-year-old Jordan Rodriguez's death. The boy's mother, 34-year-old Larissa Rodriguez, was already charged with murder. Now her boyfriend, Christopher Rodriguez, is also facing a murder charge.

Rodriguez was in the Medina County Jail at the time of Larissa's arrest for an unrelated case.

News 5 previously reported that five of Larissa's other children — ages 1 to 12 — were found in "deplorable and unsanitary" conditions after Jordan's body was found. Authorities said the house was filled with rats and cockroaches and one of the woman's children was seen eating a sandwich with cockroaches in it. 

The children were removed from the home when Larissa was taken into custody.

According to the prosecutor's office, the family services worker would report to the home but, rather than going inside, she would accept a food stamp card from Larissa. The family services worker — identified as Nancy Caraballo — would then go and purchase goods with the card and return the card to Rodriguez afterward. Authorities say Caraballo purchased the food stamps, that were meant to feed the children, for 50 cents on the dollar.

Prosecutors said the fraud lasted from July 2015 to December 2017. 

Rodriguez and Caraballo have been charged with illegal use of food stamps, grand theft telecommunications fraud, money laundering and bribery.

Caraballo was also charged with twelve counts of tampering with government records.

Caraballo worked as a Parent Educator for Bright Beginnings, an agency that provides educational services and referrals to families with small children.

She was employed by Catholic Charities, who was contracted by Bright Beginnings.

"We were very disturbed to hear about the situation," the director for Bright Beginnings said, in part. "We have been cooperating with public safety officials. Bright Beginnings is committed to serving families and children and will provide an update when more is known."

Catholic Charities sent the following statement to News 5 regarding the allegations:

Today a former employee of Catholic Charities was indicted on charges alleging food stamp trafficking. Upon learning of allegations of misconduct Catholic Charities responded swiftly and terminated her employment. 
 
Catholic Charities was contracted by Bright Beginnings to provide home visitation services that includes visits up to twice per month, averaging 60 minutes each. Catholic Charities maintains strict standards and provides extensive training on ethics and appropriate boundaries with clients. We are shocked and disappointed that this former employee violated our policies and failed to adhere to the standards required of all employees at Catholic Charities. 
 
Catholic Charities remains dedicated to its core values and will continue its mission of serving the most vulnerable throughout Northeast Ohio and furthering the healing work of Jesus.

 

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