$45 million claim filed against state over foster dad charged with abuse

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Date: 2007-02-01

$45 million claim filed against state over foster dad charged with abuse

February 1, 2007
By VANESSA HO

Three daughters of a foster father charged with child sexual abuse have filed a $45 million claim against Washington state, accusing authorities of negligently letting the man be a foster parent, despite a criminal record and numerous complaints against him.

For nearly a decade -- between 1997 and 2006 -- the state Department of Social and Health Services received 28 allegations that Enrique Fabregas was abusing his daughters or violating licensing rules. None of the abuse charges was ever substantiated.

Despite the pattern of complaints, state authorities granted the sometime waiter four separate foster licenses. They also overlooked his long history of drug use and other crimes when they gave him his first license in 1998.

By the time Fabregas was arrested in June, police found hundreds of pornographic videos and pictures in his Redmond home.

According to court documents, some depicted two of his daughters in sexual acts and poses. Others showed Fabregas dressed in false breasts and women's underwear.

The oldest daughter told investigators that Fabregas began behaving sexually toward her when she 13 or 14 and giving her cocaine and having sex with her by the time she was 17.

King County prosecutors charged Fabregas with one count of possessing child porn and three counts of sexually exploiting a minor. They have not been able to file child rape charges, because of the statute of limitations and the difficulty in pinpointing exactly when Fabregas had sex with her.

"DSHS licensed, relicensed and continued to support a sexual predator for almost a decade," said the daughters' attorney, David Moody. "It is difficult to imagine a more bungled case."

A state spokeswoman for the agency said she cannot comment on pending litigation.

The daughters are now 14, 18 and 21. Fabregas began caring for the youngest daughter in 1996, after meeting her mother in a drug-treatment program.

The complaints began soon after, when the girl, then 3, told day care workers about her father's "bad touch." He later legally adopted the girl.

In 1997, Fabregas began fostering two other girls, sisters Ruth and Estera Tamas, who moved into Fabregas' home in 2001, when Ruth was 13 and Estera was 14. The Seattle P-I normally does not identify victims of sexual assault, but the sisters told their story publicly last year.

While Ruth and Estera lived with Fabregas, child-welfare workers received eight sexual-abuse complaints against him. None of the claims was sustained, mainly because the sisters repeatedly recanted, a DSHS spokeswoman said last year.

In 2004, DSHS revoked Fabregas' license, after he refused to undergo sexual-deviancy evaluation. The same year, the Tamas sisters also moved elsewhere. But state social workers allowed the youngest girl to remain in the house.

The claims, typically a precursor to a lawsuit, are asking that the state pay $20 million for the youngest girl, $15 million for Estera and $10 million for Ruth.

"These girls are scarred for life," Moody said. "DSHS never believed these children, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of abuse."

P-I reporter Vanessa Ho can be reached at 206-448-8003 or vanessaho@seattlepi.com.

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