Fired Miami social worker gets 1 1/2 years in prison for extorting families of refugee children

As a newly hired employee for a Miami social services agency, Leslie Rubero Padilla’s job was to reunite unaccompanied refugee children with their parents or legal guardians in the United States.

She was supposed to charge the families only for transportation, such as airfare. But authorities say Rubero shook down more than a dozen of them by insisting they had to send her additional money or the reunification with their children would be delayed — or, worse, they would be deported back to their native country in Central America.

“This case is just so shocking because this defendant preyed on the most vulnerable people,” federal prosecutor Daniel Bernstein said at Rubero’s sentencing hearing on Friday. “Why is it so offensive? She calculated that these are people I can rip off because they are not going to report it.”

The prosecutor asked U.S. District Judge Darrin Gayles to send Rubero, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud in September, to prison for four years. Bernstein pointed out that she not only exploited the poor parents and guardians for a total of $11,100, but also noted: “She had legal custody of their children.”

A version of this column originally appeared in:

New Film Exposes Shaken Baby Syndrome Myth – Opponents Want to Silence it at Film Festivals

A new film exposing the corruption behind much of the Shaken Baby Syndrome diagnosis used to remove children from the custody of their parents, and in some cases put parents behind bars, is currently making its way through the film festival circuit. The Syndrome is a film produced and directed by Meryl Goldsmith, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who teamed up with her cousin and investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith as the co-producer and editor. It is Meryl Goldsmith’s feature directorial debut, according to the film’s website. Included in the cast are doctors and law professors.

Lauren Kirchner, writing for the Pacific Standard Magazine, recently interviewed Susan Goldsmith and discussed the opposition the film has received from the medical community:

Many of the film’s subjects have dedicated their professional lives to gaining attention to updated research on child injuries, and to defending accused abusers in court. For this, they have faced a huge backlash from the doctors and prosecutors who disagree. The filmmakers knew they’d get swept up in that, too. Many film festivals that considered including the film were threatened with litigation, and accused of promoting child abuse, the filmmakers said in a recent interview.

“This is a theme in our film—how the proponents of shaken baby syndrome and abusive head trauma have tried to silence their critics,” Susan Goldsmith says. “And that theme is extending to here and now, to our documentary. I was expecting it. We thought we were helping by uncovering these other medical conditions that can look like abuse, but are not [abuse]. It actually threatens the entire shaken baby syndrome working group and industrial complex.”

Kirchner writes that those who support Shaken Baby Syndrome in the medical field are part of a powerful and influential group, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. Before the film’s first screening, they tried to get the Kansas International Film Festival to block the film, calling it “dangerous” even though they had not viewed it.

Here is a description of the film from the film’s website:

Audrey Edmunds, mother of three, spent 11 years in prison for killing a baby she never harmed. And she is not alone. What happens when widely held beliefs based on junk science lead to the convictions of innocent people?

The Syndrome is an explosive documentary following the crusade of a group of doctors, scientists, and legal scholars who have uncovered that “Shaken Baby Syndrome,” a child abuse theory responsible for hundreds of prosecutions each year in the US, is not scientifically valid. In fact, they say, it does not even exist.

Filmmaker Meryl Goldsmith teams with Award-winning investigative reporter Susan Goldsmith to document the unimaginable nightmare for those accused and shine a light on the men and women dedicating their lives to defending the prosecuted and freeing the convicted.

The Syndrome uncovers the origins of the myth of “Shaken Baby Syndrome.” It unflinchingly identifies those who have built careers and profited from this theory along with revealing their shocking pasts. Shaken baby proponents are determined to silence their critics while an unthinkable number of lives are ruined.

Last year (2014) law professor Deborah Tuerkheimer, who is featured in Goldsmith’s film, wrote a an article for Slate about 43-year-old Jennifer Del Prete, a former Illinois day care worker who had served 10 years of a 20 year prison sentence over Shaken Baby Syndrome, but was then released by a federal judge. Tuerkheimer’s article, Finally, a Judge Calls Shaken Baby Diagnosis an “Article of Faith”, stated that the ruling was “one of a growing number that reflect skepticism on the part of judges, juries, and even prosecutors about criminal convictions based on the medical diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome.”

Tuerkheimer went on to write:

The case is also a critical turning point. The certainty that once surrounded shaken baby syndrome… has been dissolving for years. The justice system is beginning to acknowledge this shift but should go further to re-examine and perhaps overturn more past convictions. (Read the full article.)

Shaken Baby Syndrome Can be Evidence of Vaccine-Induced Rickets

Christina England has written about the work of Dr. David Ayoub, a practicing radiologist from Springfield, Illinois, who has linked healing fractures found on x-rays of children, used to a mistakenly diagnosis Shaken Baby Syndrome, to infantile rickets.  Dr. Ayoub believes that it is not only a poor diet and the lack of sunshine that is responsible for the growing number of children suffering from rickets, but also the growing number of vaccinations containing the adjuvant aluminium.

Dr. Ayoub, an expert on the subject of infantile rickets, has been involved in hundreds of cases of misdiagnosed rickets worldwide and has testified on the behalf of many innocent parents charged with Shaken Baby Syndrome. (Read more about Dr. Ayoub here.)

Support The Syndrome Film!

Do not let the medical industry intimidate and block the message of The Syndrome! False Shaken Baby Syndrome charges are ripping children away from their parents and putting innocent people behind bars! The message of this film must reach the public!

Here are the upcoming screenings, and we encourage you to attend and support this film:

Geneva Film Festival—this Thursday 3/12 9 p.m. and Saturday 3/14 3 p.m. @Dodson Place, 416 South 2nd St., Geneva, IL

(In)Justice For All Film Festival–Monday, April 13th 6:30pm @ Northwestern University Chicago, IL

Arizona International Film Festival–April 9-26th (TBA) Tucson, AZ

For more times and showings at future dates, be sure to visit the film’s website:

Happy National Foster Care Month – Waukesha foster father sentenced for possessing child porn

A 45-year-old Waukesha man accused last summer of possessing hundreds of images and videos of child pornography was sentenced April 24 to three years prison.

Daniel Lomeli, 2025 Oaklawn Ave., will be required to register as a sex offender and will serve three years extended supervision after his release from prison. He will also be required to perform 60 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $1,018 in court fees.

Lomeli was charged June 28 with one count of child sexploitation and 10 counts of possession of child pornography. He faced an effective life sentence if convicted on all counts.

Lomeli was held in Waukesha County Jail on a $30,000 cash bond until Aug. 8, when his bail was reduced to $15,000. Lomeli was not allowed to bring foster children into his home while on bail, according to court records.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Juech prosecuted the case. He said last year that there was evidence that Lomeli's family had taken in foster children in the past.

Lomeli pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in January, and the other counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. The three-year prison sentence was the minimum sentence allowed for the offense.

Judge Michael Bohren handed down the sentence.

Read more at: Waukesha foster father sentenced for possessing child porn

A version of this column originally appeared in:

In Loving Memory of Daisai Derzon Who Died in Foster Care Aged 3

In Loving Memory of Daisai Derzon Who Died in Foster Care Aged 3Daisai Derzon

  • Age: 3 yrs.
  • Born: Aug 11, 2004
  • Died: Jan 12, 2008
  • Location: Grand Lake
  • Suspect in death: Michelle Baber, foster parent

Daisai Derzon was a 2-year-old in Cortez when her biological parents went to prison, their parental rights terminated, and Daisai and her two siblings were placed in a foster home. Within two months, the children were moved to another foster home across the state in Grand County where Daisai would die of a severe blow to the head within a year.

As new foster parents, Michelle and Robert Baber had received glowing reports from a court guardian and social services workers. About a half year after they took in Daisai and her brothers, the Babers were approved to adopt the children.

Before that adoption could be finalized, Michelle Baber called 911 in January, 2008, to report she found her then-3½-year-old foster daughter, who“does weird stuff in her sleep,” pounding her head against a wall. Three days later, Daisai was dead of a closed-head injury after being removed from life support.

For weeks, Michelle Baber stuck to the“sleepwalking” story before adding theories that Daisai might have hurt herself when she slipped in a bathtub or that Baber might have dropped Daisai while carrying her. Fifteen days after Daisai died, Michelle Baber finally admitted that she had struck Daisai in the head.

At her sentencing — 16 years in prison for child abuse resulting in death — Michelle Baber‘s attorney said her client suffered from a major depressive disorder.

After Daisai‘s death, questions were raised by the state Child Fatality Review Team about the appropriateness of Daisai‘s placement and the supervision of the foster parents by a contracting agency working with the Montezuma County Department of Social Services. That agency shut down two weeks after Daisai‘s death before the state could complete an investigation of the agency. Another contract agency took over the child placements in that part of the state.

The review team found no violations on the part of the county child protection workers.

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Just Ask My Children

Just Ask My ChildrenBrenda (Virginia Madsen, Candyman, Dune) and Scott Kniffen (Jeffrey Nordling, TVs Once and Again") are accused of child molestation and physical abuse. Without a shred of evidence, the authorities arrest them and take their two young sons into protective custody.

The boys are lead to believe that if they give the "right" testimony, they will be returned to their parents. Through relentless badgering, the impressionable children are coerced into testifying against their parents. After an agonizing nine-month trial The Kniffin's are sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes they did not commit. While their sons are tormented by uncertain memories and obscure recollections, Brenda and Scott face many horrors in prison.

Based on a True Story.

Run Time: approximately 91 minutes