Social worker speaks out after foster parent accused of sexually abusing 7 boys in Ridge

Stacey Sager Image
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Social worker speaks out about foster parent accused of abusing boys on Long Island
Stacey Sager has the story.

RIDGE, Long Island (WABC) -- A foster parent on Long Island is accused of sexually abusing the kids in his care, and now a social worker is saying she alerted authorities, but nobody would listen.

"You have so many agencies supervising these kids, that there is no way this should've happened," said Debi Edwards, a social worker.

As a social worker at the Longwood Middle School, Edwards is now talking about how she found herself closer than ever to an alleged pedophile, in what has fast become one of Long Island's most horrific cases.

"How come you're talking to us now?" Eyewitness News Reporter Stacey Sager asked.

"Because now it's concrete and it's real," Edwards said.

So real, it's sickening. A 17-count indictment earlier this month alleges that 59-year-old Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu sexually abused seven foster boys in his care and even had sex with his dog.

All of it allegedly happened inside his home in the small Suffolk County community of Ridge.

But investigators suspect there are far more victims. Gonzales-Mugaburu fostered some 140 boys there over 20 years.

"But you didn't know they were being sexually abused?" Sager asked.

"I had a feeling. I never felt professional support to pursue that feeling," Edwards said.

But she did confront Gonzales-Mugaburu about other problems with the three boys living there.

The first time, a 16-year-old, more than a decade ago, was kicked out for having a girlfriend.

"He came to me and said he had nowhere to live and nowhere to go," Edwards said.

She filed a complaint that went nowhere with the state's central registry.

Then 4 years ago, there was another complaint about an 11-year-old at Longwood who looked malnourished, afraid, and couldn't see very well.

For a second time she called Gonzales-Mugaburu herself.

"And Cesar's response to me was, 'What, you think I should drop my pants for you?' And I felt that was a really odd response," Edwards said.

Lastly, there was another 11-year-old boy who Gonzales-Mugaburu wanted in Special Education at the school, because all the subsidies added up to $18,000 a month.

"Because it would guarantee money for him, and victims," Edwards said.

Because Edwards had confronted Gonzales-Mugaburu, she says he threatened to sue. He also complained to her bosses at the Longwood District. The end result, Edwards says, is that she was prohibited from ever speaking to Gonzales-Mugaburu's foster boys again.

"I'm ashamed that I wanted to keep my job instead of helping, I'm sorry," Edwards said.

"But you cared about these boys," Sager said.

"Yeah, but I should've done more," Edwards said.