Fake sign language interpreter: Woman has record of arrests for fraud

Posted at 2:25 PM, Dec 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-05 14:28:20-05

Unbeknownst to law enforcement officials giving an update at a news conference about recent killings in Seminole Heights, Florida, a woman was acting as an interpreter for the hearing impaired and she was not relaying their message.

"Most of the time it just looked like she was signing but not using actual signs," said USF professor Rachelle Settambrino. "When she was spelling words out, she wasn't spelling anything at all. They were just gibberish more than anything."

Tampa police say the woman who was tapped as the interpreter just showed up and it was assumed she had been sent by a pre-paid contractor. 

It's a bizarre situation: Derlyn Roberts is the woman who pretended to interpret the news conference. Police say she can't be charged with anything because what happened is not a crime — it's an ethical violation.

Roberts has a criminal history, according to WFTS in Tampa — she has several fraud arrests on her record and a conviction that landed her in a state prison.

Tampa Police say they had a different interpreter the next morning at another media conference, someone legitimate employed by the contractor.

A Tampa Police spokesperson says he doesn't know why Roberts posed as an interpreter. WFTS reporters went to Roberts home to speak with her, but no one answered the door. 

"She was standing there twisting her hands back and forth. I could tell automatically that interpreters don't do that," said Betti Bonni, a certified deaf interpreter.

Monica Hoffa's mother, whose daughter was one of the victims, was at the presser relying on that interpreter.

"I know the deaf mother of one of the victims' of the serial killer, she was standing there. She was standing right there and the interpreter was signing in a way that was incomprehensible," Bonni said.