G4S Arrests: Three former Department of Juvenile Justice employees arrested for multiple felonies

AVON PARK, Fla. - Three Former Department of Juvenile Justice/G4S Highlands Youth Academy staff members were arrested on Thursday for multiple felonies.

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Those arrested are:

Norma Wynn, 56, of Sebring. Wynn is the former Facility Administrator of the G4S Highlands Youth Academy. She was arrested in Sebring and booked into the Highlands County Jail. She is no longer employed by G4S.

Her charges are:
*       3 counts Destroy/Tamper with Evidence (F-3)
*       2 counts Fail to Report Child Abuse/Neglect (F-3)
*       3 counts Use of Public Record to Commit Felony (F-3)
*       1 count Tampering in Felony Proceeding (F-2)
*       2 counts Willful Neglect of JV Offender (F-3)
*       1 count False Info to LEO (M-1)

Jose Sanchez, 63, of Sebring. Sanchez is a former Assistant Administrator of the G4S Highlands Youth Academy. He was arrested in Sebring and booked into the Highlands County Jail. He is no longer employed by G4S - he retired.

His charges are:
*       2 counts Destroy/Tamper with Evidence (F-3)
*       2 counts Fail to Report Child Abuse/Neglect (F-3)
*       2 counts Use of Public Record to Commit Felony (F-3)
*       2 counts Willful Neglect of JV Offender (F-3)

Johnny Hart, 40, of Okaloosa County. Hart is a former Assistant Administrator of the G4S Highlands Youth Academy. He was arrested yesterday at the Okaloosa Youth Development Center in Crestview, FL, where he is a Facility Administrator. He was booked into the Okaloosa County Jail. He is no longer employed by G4S.

His charges are:
*       1 count Destroy/Tamper with Evidence (F-3)
*       1 count Child Abuse (F-3)
*       2 counts Use of Public Record to Commit Felony (F-3)
*       2 counts Willful Neglect of JV Offender (F-3)

The Highlands Youth Academy (HYA) is a Department of Juvenile Justice non-secure residential commitment program located in unincorporated Polk County near Avon Park.

In April 2013, PCSO responded to a large riot at the facility, after which 61 residents were criminally charged. A subsequent, but unrelated investigation was conducted in 2015 regarding numerous escapes by residents. These escapes were never reported by HYA staff to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. These facts and others ultimately led to a condemning grand jury presentment in 2015.

On June 26, 2015, the Grand Jurors of Polk County returned a presentment regarding HYA conditions. Among the findings by the Grand Jury were:

*       "The Highlands Youth Academy is a failure of the DJJ Mission and is
symptomatic of a much larger problem in our state."
*       "The existence of (HYA) in its current state is a disgrace." 
*       "(HYA) should cease to exist." 
*       "DJJ should require that its contractors put in place strong policies
requiring that law enforcement be immediately contacted to investigate felony crimes taking place in their facilities."

The Department of Juvenile Justice did not shut down the facility and continued to employ G4S to operate the facility.

In November 2015, Detectives received tips regarding alleged wrongdoing and criminal activity occurring at HYA that wasn't being reported. These allegations included sexual activity between staff and residents and juvenile residents battering staff members without action being taken by HYA administration.

Because of these allegations, and more information developed during a subsequent investigation, PCSO detectives conducted an in-depth investigation into all alleged criminal activity occurring at the facility.

In May 2016, detectives arrested HYA youth care worker, Deidre Baucom. During a post-Miranda interview, Baucom confessed to having sexual contact with juvenile residents. Baucom ultimately reached a plea deal with the State Attorney's Office, and left the state of Florida.

As a result of the Polk County Sheriff's Office investigation, detectives determined that all three of those arrested intentionally destroyed or tampered with evidence, failed to report child abuse, and willfully neglected juveniles under their care.

More information about the investigation will be provided at 1:00 p.m. on Friday by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a press conference.

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