Corrections staff accused of taking crack pipe into jail

Victor Berroteran was charged with bringing contraband into a prison

By Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Albuquerque Journal

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A juvenile jail worker became the third CYFD employee arrested this month after he allegedly tried to bring a crack pipe to work.

According to a criminal complaint, Victor Berroteran, 48, a youth care specialist at the Youth Diagnostic and Development Center in Albuquerque, brought a blue backpack to work Wednesday although only clear bags are allowed.

Another employee searched his bag and found a glass pipe in his backpack.

The employee called a supervisor, and State Police came to the jail, where they arrested Berroteran.

State Police Sgt. Tim Johnson said no drugs were found, but the pipe was sent to be analyzed to determine what, if any, drugs had been smoked in it.

New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Yolanda Berumen-Deines said she doesn't know whether any of the children Berroteran worked with had ever been exposed to any drugs through him.

He has worked at YDDC since 2007 and will be placed on paid administrative leave after he is released from jail. He was charged with bringing contraband into a prison.

Berumen-Deines addressed what she called the "rash" of CYFD employees getting arrested lately, but said the public should have confidence in the department.

"We're taking strong action to improve our processes in the department and ensure that we earn and keep the public trust. The majority of the people who work in the department show up every day and work hard to keep kids safe and protect our communities," she said. "Like any large organization, there are sometimes serious employment challenges."

Berroteran worked directly with kids at YDDC. He is one of several department employees recently accused of breaking the law.

On Saturday, CYFD caseworker Justina Romero, 2 9, was arrested and charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor after State Police broke up a party at her Las Vegas home where underage kids had been drinking alcohol and using drugs.

And earlier this month, another YDDC youth care specialist, Richard Bradberry, was charged with criminal sexual contact, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, false imprisonment and voyeurism after police said he groped three underage female inmates.

In July, YDDC youth care specialist Robert Flores was arrested after allegedly opening fire on a package liquor store in Socorro. He was charged with shooting from a motor vehicle and DWI. He is also on administrative leave. And in March, Martin Garcia, a nurse at YDDC, was arrested on drug charges after police pulled him over for a traffic infraction and discovered pills he allegedly stole from the YDDC pharmacy, as well as some methamphetamine, in his car. Garcia has since been fired.

Berumen-Deines said the department has strict procedures for hiring, including FBI background checks, drug screenings and psychological tests, and said she's determined to get rid of employees who aren't behaving properly.

"I've told my staff, if you're doing the right thing for the right reason, and you're taking care of kids and families, you can be assured that I'm going to have your back," she said. "On the other hand, if I find out that you are not doing the right things for the right reasons and not upholding our standards of ethical comportment, then I'll be the first one to push you in front of the train."

Berumen-Deines said she had talked with Gov. Susana Martinez about the number of employees getting in trouble with the law.

Martinez's press secretary Greg Blair said the governor told Berumen-Deines the department needs to take a serious look at its employee screening and evaluation process in order to ensure that similar problems are avoided in the future.

"Protecting and caring for New Mexico's kids is one of the governor's top priorities, and anything less on the part of CYFD employees will not be tolerated in this administration," Blair said.

Copyright 2011 Albuquerque Journal

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