Alleged victim of sex abuse says threats bought silence

Relates to:
Date: 2006-06-13

Alleged victim of sex abuse says threats bought silence

June 13, 2006
By Maureen O'Hagan
Seattle Times

Enrique Fabregas bought the silence of his eldest foster daughter with drugs and fancy clothes, according to court papers, on occasion resorting to threats that his gangster friends would kill her if she told.

He isolated his adopted daughter, now 12, from social contact, police say, keeping her home from school regularly and having her sleep in his bed.

And he kept handy a stack of letters of praise, which he would present to the child-welfare workers and police officers who repeatedly came to his door to investigate allegations of sex abuse.

This, according to court papers, is how Fabregas managed to abuse the girls for years despite eight prior sexual-abuse investigations.

Fabregas, 52, an unemployed restaurant worker and a member of the choir at Overlake Christian Church, was charged Monday with three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography. If convicted, he faces seven to 10 years in prison. He is being held in the King County Jail on $1 million bail.

Despite prior drug offenses, Fabregas was licensed to be a foster parent in 1998 and in the next year adopted the daughter of an ex-girlfriend. His license later lapsed, but he was licensed again a few years later to take custody in 2002 of the two daughters of another ex-girlfriend, who went to prison.

Between 1996 and 2004, Fabregas was the subject of 23 complaints to state child-welfare workers, including the eight related to sexual abuse. Investigators closed the sex-abuse cases as inconclusive or unfounded, leaving the two foster daughters and his adoptive daughter in his care for several years.

Kathy Spears, a spokeswoman for the state Children's Administration, said the alleged victims recanted their allegations so there was never enough evidence to remove the children from the home.

The repeated allegations, however, did prompt the state to ask Fabregas to take a sexual-deviancy exam. When he refused, in 2004, he lost his foster-care license. The two foster daughters were removed shortly before this, one on her own request, the other during a sex-abuse investigation. The adopted girl was placed with a foster family in February, after Redmond police Detective Jennifer Baldwin got involved.

According to a search warrant obtained in February, Baldwin initially leaned toward believing Fabregas' story: that the girls' mothers had orchestrated false charges against him. But after speaking with Estera Tamas, the eldest foster daughter who is now 19, Baldwin had a change of heart. Tamas told her how Fabregas gave her drugs and sexually abused her for years, and that she had photos to prove it. Even though Tamas was no longer living in the house, she came forward to protect the younger adoptive girl, who she suspected was also being abused.

"My opinion ... is that she is broken and wounded with the grooming and then rape and molestation that she came to know as a lifestyle," Baldwin wrote in court papers. "She never cried on her own behalf but when she related any concerns about [the younger girl] her eyes flooded with tears and splashed onto her lap or the table."

With the photos as evidence, Baldwin obtained a warrant to search Fabregas' house. Police found numerous photos, videos and computer files depicting child pornography and the exploitation of Tamas, according to a spokeswoman.

The Times does not usually name victims of sex crimes, but Tamas consented to her name being used.

Estera Tamas' sister, 18-year-old Ruth, said it's about time Fabregas was charged with a crime, though she said she herself was not sexually abused.

Two years ago, she said, she found a videotape showing Fabregas sexually abusing Estera.

"I didn't want to believe it, but I saw it with my own eyes," Ruth Tamas said.

But even after she told authorities about the videotape, her complaint was deemed inconclusive.

"He knows how to work the system," she said. "That's why nobody believed us."

Maureen O'Hagan: 206-464-2562 or mohagan@seattletimes.com

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