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Division of Child Protection Caseworker Charged With Improperly Accessing and Disclosing Private Information

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Union Township NJ, acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced that criminal charges have been filed against a caseworker with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) who allegedly used her access to the DCF database to obtain and improperly disclose confidential information about an individual’s family.

The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) yesterday charged Kristan T. Bell, 41, of Union Township, N.J., a family service specialist or caseworker with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, by complaint-summons with these criminal offenses:

Computer Theft (3rd Degree)

Unlawful Access and Disclosure (3rd Degree)

On June 25, 2020, Bell allegedly used her official position and password to access the DCF database to view confidential Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit (IAIU) records related to the victim’s family, without any legitimate work-related reason or justification. Bell then allegedly disclosed information that she obtained from the confidential database about the victim’s family to another person who previously had a relationship with the victim and is the biological father of the victim’s son.

“Government agencies and officials have a duty to protect the confidential personal information of our residents,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “If they breach that duty, we will hold them accountable.”

“By aggressively investigating and prosecuting those who abuse their official positions, we’re working to enforce a culture of integrity in government and build public trust,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “We will not tolerate this type of misuse of confidential records.”

The charge is the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Corruption North Unit. Deputy Attorney General Michelle McBrian is prosecuting Bell for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.

The Department of Children and Families cooperated fully in the criminal investigation.

“DCF has clear protocols in place to monitor the use, and to detect the mis-use, of clients’ confidential information,” said DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer. “The Department does not tolerate violations of privacy standards.”

Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $15,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption. The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: https://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.

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