Authorities have accused a nanny of running a five-year scheme in which she agreed to care for children in two mid-city neighborhoods but then dumped them off at an unlicensed day-care center in a Hollywood apartment.
Roxana Villamarin, 38, was charged Tuesday with seven misdemeanors, including grand theft, intimidating a witness and making annoying phone calls, after she tried to prevent a continuing investigation, said prosecutor Will Rivera of the Los Angeles city attorney's office.
Investigators say they believe Villamarin worked as a nanny between 2002 and 2007 and was given charge of children ranging from 6 months to 7 years old. She created fake credentials to gain parents' trust, telling the parents of twin infants that she was an expert on twins, and telling a family with an autistic child that she was an expert on autism, according to the city attorney's office.
The case names five families, each with two children they placed in her care. But authorities said they believe as many as 30 children could be involved.
Villamarin allegedly told parents she wanted to “expose” children to various cultural activities such as museum visits, libraries, the aquarium and farmers markets in Los Angeles. Once she received permission to take the children out, she dropped them off at an apartment in Hollywood and would go work at the Chinatown farmers market selling fruit. Sometimes she picked up children from multiple families during the day, Rivera said.
When she returned for the children at the end of the day, Villamarin paid the woman – a neighbor running the unlicensed day-care apartment – between $5 and $10 for each child, according to prosecutors. Villamarin was paid between $12 and $16 an hour for each child, Rivera said.
“The families would pay her when they were on vacation,” Rivera said. “They gave her vacation, they gave her paid time away to go see her family every year for the holidays. It's a total breach of trust.”
Last May, Villamarin decided she wanted to have Thursdays off while working for one family with 6-month-old twins, so she negotiated the hiring of an “assistant” nanny, whom she had met at a Jewish community center, Rivera said. Villamarin told the assistant nanny, “Tell them I'm your cousin, let me do the talking, we'll get you hired, and you'll work for them on Thursdays,” Rivera said. “So it was deceitful from the beginning.”
The assistant nanny did not drop off the children at the unlicensed day-care apartment, but eventually learned what Villamarin was doing. In October, the assistant nanny sent the parents an e-mail telling them what was going on. The following day she took the parents to the apartment, where they found the twins propped on the couch with several other children, according to the city attorney's office. The woman who ran the unlicensed facility is cooperating with authorities as a witness, and she will help identify the children who were left in her care, Rivera said. No charges have been filed against her, he said. As many as 30 children were dropped off at the apartment in one day by Villamarin and by parents.
Once the scheme came to light and the investigation began, prosecutors allege, Villamarin tried to dissuade the assistant nanny from cooperating with authorities by leaving threatening messages and making annoying calls. Villamarin does not have a criminal history, according to the city attorney's office.