Sandra Marti, a Broward County, Florida child protection agent, was arrested Wednesday after she was accused of lying about meeting with some of the children she was appointed to, news sources report. Marti, 57, was booked into the Broward County Main Jail on multiple counts of falsifying reports. She has since been released on a $5,000 bail bond . It is unclear whether Marti has hired a criminal defense lawyer.
According to reports, Marti started out working in the county’s pre-trail department. She was promoted to the position of child investigative specialist in July 2010, sources say. Marti’s duties included investigating the wellbeing of children who were reported as being either abused or neglected. Such investigations have to be performed in person because non-verbal indicators are often the most obvious signs of abuse or neglect.
A DCF spokesperson commented on the matter, reportedly saying, “Clearly, when you’re talking to a person [such as an abused or neglected child], you’re oftentimes taking in more than the words. You’re looking at other aspects, the behavior, the demeanor and the circumstances that brought you to the person in the first place.”
The department has since suspended Marti without pay pending the outcome of the investigation. “The falsification of official records, and the potential risks that any kind of falsification could pose for children, will not be tolerated,” a Department of Children and Families (DCF) spokesperson reportedly said in regards to the arrest. “We have gone back and made sure that all of those kids were safe, and the original allegations had been addressed.”
Marti failed to investigate at least five children she was assigned to in person, instead asking the parents or guardians to send her a picture of the purportedly abused or neglected children, sources allege. The incidents date back as far as January 2012, reports say. That month, Marti allegedly filed a statement indicating that she had met with a child in person while investigating an unspecified case. However, that child’s mother claimed that Marti had not met with her son. She apparently backed this up with a sworn statement.
In December 2012, reports say Marti was supposed to interview a seven-year-old girl at Fort Lauderdale’s Croissant Park Elementary School, sources say. Marti allegedly wrote in an arrest report that she had personally visited the child at school. School officials later denied that claim, sources say.
In April of this year, Marti was reportedly supposed to meet a 16-year-old boy. Instead, detectives allegedly say she met his mother and asked her to send a picture of the teen. The teen reportedly said he took his own picture and sent it to Marti’s email address.
The latest incident appears to have occurred on June 13, 2013. Marti purportedly filed a report indicating she had met with a child. Like before, the child’s mother reportedly claimed that Marti did not see the child in person, but did request a cellphone photo of the child.
Following Marti’s arrest, the county sheriff’s office said it would look into Marti’s past cases to ensure they were properly dealt with. A DCF spokesperson reportedly said the department “will work with [sheriff’s] investigators to ensure the integrity of other cases which involved this investigator.”