State bent its rules to license abusive foster father

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Date: 2006-07-26

State bent its rules to license abusive foster father

July 26, 2006
By CLAUDIA ROWE

Relying on recommendations from police detectives, as well as a court commissioner's signature certifying that Enrique Fabregas had been "rehabilitated," Washington state bent its own rules and licensed the admitted cocaine addict as a foster parent, despite his extensive criminal past.

The Department of Social and Health Services released documents Tuesday in response to media requests about Fabregas, who was arrested and jailed last month after police discovered hundreds of pornographic photographs in his home. Many of them depicted children in his care engaged in sexual acts with the 53-year-old.

The documents fill out the picture of how Fabregas was permitted to keep custody of three girls despite repeated allegations of abuse. On Tuesday, the Seattle P-I detailed the extensive history of complaints, relying on records obtained independently of the state.

Since the mid-1990s, Fabregas, a sometime waiter, has cared for three girls -- one, now 12, whom he adopted as a baby, and two teenagers, Ruth and Estera Tamas, ages 18 and 19, who became his foster daughters from 2002 to 2004.

Both foster daughters have agreed to let the P-I use their names.

Almost from the start, neighbors, teachers and other onlookers alerted the state to the oddly sexual manner Fabregas displayed toward the three.

His file shows more than two dozen complaints about possible sexual or physical abuse of the children.

Yet state licensers kept recertifying him as a foster parent -- even as he moved from apartment to apartment, owing rent and leaving several landlords in the lurch.

For money, Fabregas cobbled together a series of restaurant jobs and said he'd also worked as a dance teacher and model for Jay Jacobs clothing. But the longtime addict was proudest of his work as a drug informant for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and various local police agencies. He told state licensers that he set up numerous drug buys, earning 10 percent of the take each time a dealer was busted.

The job was so obviously dangerous -- and unstable -- that a Snohomish County judge, evaluating Fabregas' home as a prospective court placement for children, demanded that he cease immediately. It is unclear from the documents how quickly that occurred.

In recent interviews, the Tamas girls have described their former foster father as a master manipulator, and many state caseworkers were apparently taken with the Spanish-born bon vivant.

Elaine Lipson, the Tamas girls' social worker, is quoted in licensing files as describing Fabregas as an "exceptional caretaker" with "great follow-through."

But other officials clearly had sneaking suspicions.

In her evaluation of Fabregas as a potential foster parent, licenser Kellie Walker wrote: "Mr. Fabregas reported that he completed high school. However, he could not provide the licenser the name of the school, the location of the school, or the year he graduated."

Later, Walker learned that he had attended a private high school in Miami, but neither graduated nor earned a GED.

He said he had attended the University of California-Davis to study wine.

But that, too, turned out to be a stretch. In fact, Walker wrote, Fabregas had taken a correspondence course.

"He seems nervous and anxious during meetings with the licenser," she observed in her report.

"This behavior appears to stem from a fear of being judged, an eagerness to be seen as doing the right thing."

For Fabregas, image was indeed important. Even as his life as a foster and adoptive parent unraveled -- with ever more allegations and increasing police inquiries -- he scrambled to maintain an upstanding public image. At Overlake Christian Church, he sang in the choir. When asked by state workers to take a sexual deviancy evaluation, he had a lawyer write an official-sounding letter on his behalf, denying the state's request as "unfair treatment."

P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or claudiarowe@seattlepi.com.

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