CLEVELAND - A Cleveland mother charged in the death of her 5-year-old son allegedly sold more than $10,000 in food stamps over several years to a social worker who was tasked with monitoring the woman's children each month.
Nancy Caraballo, a family caseworker, who worked for Catholic Charities, allegedly paid Larissa Rodriguez 50 cents on the dollar for the food stamps. Prosecutors claim that Caraballo did not report the "deplorable" conditions inside Rodriguez's home or check on her children.
“The home was infested with bedbugs and cockroaches and it was a very disgusting, unlivable situation,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said. “As a mandatory reporter she [Caraballo] would’ve been obligated to report these gross abuses that she [Rodriguez] was committing upon these children.”
Last month, a tip from Larissa Rodriguez’s boyfriend’s brother led to the discovery of her 5-year-old son, Jordan, in her backyard. The boy was developmentally disabled. His corpse showed signs of abuse, including broken ribs.
Rodriguez, a mother of nine, was living in Cleveland’s Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood.
After the body was found, Rodriguez was charged with murder and on Wednesday her boyfriend, Christopher Rodriguez, was also charged with murder.
Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Harold Pretel described the situation as “despicable.”
“The system put in place was taken advantage of and those who were supposed to benefit from the system, those children, ended up on the short end here,” he said.
Caraballo currently faces up to 50 years in prison for food stamp trafficking. If prosecutors can prove her purchases contributed to Jordan’s death, she could face more charges.
Social workers once revealed in court documents they found a child eating a sandwich filled with cockroaches inside Rodriguez’s home.
“If in fact we can tie this deprivation in food to this child, if we can tie that to his homicide,” O’Malley said.
On Wednesday, Catholic Charities confirmed to Channel 3 News that Caraballo had been terminated.
In a statement, a spokeswoman clarified that her position required “visits up to twice per month, averaging 60 minutes each,” and added “We are shocked and disappointed that this former employee violated our policies.”
Prosecutors say they are looking at whether she may have purchased food stamps from other families too and say she began buying from Rodriguez as early as 2015, perhaps earlier.
O'Malley told The Cleveland Plain Dealer that Caraballo was essentially bribed with food stamps.
“This food stamp transaction is a bribe,” O’Malley said. “(Caraballo) was being bribed to look the other way.”