A former child protective investigator with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested after officials say more than half of the cases he investigated last year were falsified.
Steven Urban, 29, who had been working as a child protective investigator at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for six years, was arrested at his Largo home Thursday, according to the sheriff’s office. He faces 10 felony charges of falsifying records. Urban previously resigned from his position on Jan. 18.
Of the 142 investigations he was assigned between Jan. 1, 2017, and his resignation, officials determined Urban falsified 75, or 52 percent, of them, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in a press conference Thursday, calling Urban’s actions “gross misconduct.” The majority of the falsified cases were re-investigated.
In 29 of those 75 cases, Gualtieri said Urban did “no work whatsoever.”
“This guy needs to go to prison. ... He needs the harshest of consequences that anyone can get for his actions because he put kids in harm’s way when he’s charged with making sure no harm comes to kids. So he failed everybody, he failed the community, but he failed these kids and there’s no room for that,” Gualtieri said.
The sheriff’s office became aware of issues with Urban when another child protection investigator was assigned in January to look into an allegation that a child was in danger due to domestic violence in the family, Gualtieri said. The investigator found that Urban had investigated the same family in November for a previous allegation, but became concerned with discrepancies when reviewing Urban’s report.
That included, Gualtieri said, some people Urban reportedly interviewed denying they knew about the November investigation at all. One of the people featured in the report died years before the report was filled out.
When confronted about the discrepancies by supervisors, Urban denied falsifying the report, Gualtieri said. Urban resigned when he was told there would be an internal investigation.
Gualtieri said Urban’s actions ranged from “flat-out lies,” to misleading information, to claiming he conducted an investigation when he did not. The sheriff’s office system did not catch it earlier because Urban was lying to supervisors. He added there was “no way” supervisors would have known Urban was lying.
“He knew what to do and how to do it,” Gualtieri said. “He made it up and lied.”
After reviewing his cases, investigators removed children from two homes Urban was assigned to investigate. Officials are now reviewing more of Urban’s cases from past years.
Now, the sheriff’s office has built in a safeguard to keep this from happening again, although Gualtieri repeatedly noted that this incident is “an anomaly.”
There is now a policy in place where supervisors will pull five random cases a week and will contact people involved to ensure contact was actually made.
“It’s imperative that we do everything we can to make sure this never happens again. But when you have someone that is a liar, a cheater and is scamming the system, it’s very difficult to detect it when everything appears on its face to be valid,” Gualtieri said.