Cleveland, OH – In exchange for $10,000 in food stamps, a social worker is accused of agreeing to ignore the abuse of a 5-year-old special needs boy, whose body was later found buried behind a house, prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Nancy Caraballo, 45, allegedly bought thousands of dollars in food stamps for 50 cents on the dollar from the boy’s mother, Larissa Rodriguez, 34, beginning in July, 2015, until December, 2017, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told WJW.
She has been charged with trafficking in food stamps.
Larissa, who has nine children and is currently pregnant, has been charged with trafficking in food stamps, murder, felonious assault, endangering children, and offenses against a human corpse, WJW reported.
Her boyfriend, Christopher Rodriguez, 36, was already in jail for an unrelated offense when he was charged with murder, felonious assault, endangering children and gross abuse of a corpse.
Caraballo was employed as a parent educator for Catholic Charities, which was contracted by Bright Beginnings to provide in-home services as part of the county’s Educational Services Department, The Plain Dealer reported.
The social worker was assigned to Larissa’s family, and was required to visit the home to teach the children once per month since at least 2014, O’Malley said.
According to the prosecutor, Caraballo, who was required by law to report abuse or neglect, filed false reports to conceal the fact that she had skipped at least 11 home visits.
The body of 5-year-old Jordan Rodriguez was found buried in the back yard of a residence on Dec. 19, after Christopher’s brother, Scott Rodriguez called police from Pakistan, WOIO reported.
Scott told investigators that Jordan, who had special needs and was unable to speak, had been found unresponsive two months prior, and that he was buried in the back yard.
He had not been seen alive since September of 2017, WJW reported.
Cleveland police officers searched for the boy’s body for two days. His battered body showed multiple signs of abuse, to include broken ribs.
Investigators believe he died around Sept. 22, 2017, The Plain Dealer reported.
Prosecutors said that Jordan suffered from multiple ailments and Larissa had failed to get him medical attention.
Police said they discovered “deplorable and unsanitary conditions” at the family’s home, which was infested with rats, bedbugs, and cockroaches.
Social workers found one of the children eating a cockroach-filled sandwich when they entered the home, court documents said.
Four children who were living at the residence were taken into emergency custody.
Child welfare case workers first began working with Larissa in 1999, and the agency has opened 13 abuse or neglect investigations involving her since that time, the Plain Dealer reported.
Because Caraballo deprived the little boy of food stamps intended for his meals, she could face additional charges if the medical examiner determines that malnourishment played a role in his death, O’Malley told The Plain Dealer.
“Selfish criminal acts such as these, take the food from the children who cannot provide for themselves, making them the true victims of these crimes,” Ohio Department of Public Safety Investigative Unit Agent Greg Croft told WJW.
“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 said in a statement, adding that they had fired Caraballo when they learned of the charges against her.
The formal social worker pleaded not guilty on Friday. The court ordered that she be held on $100,000 bond. If convicted, she faces up to 50 years in prison for her current charge.