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Caseworker of Fla. Girl Charged

October 18, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ The social worker assigned to monitor a girl whose disappearance was not noticed for a year was arrested Thursday on charges of official misconduct and theft.

Deborah Muskelly is accused of working as a substitute and adult education teacher at the same time she claimed she was working for the Department of Children & Families, said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office.

The fraudulent time cards were filed from January 2000 to February 2002, investigators said. Muskelly, who turned herself in to authorities Thursday, was charged with official misconduct, grand theft and petty theft. Bail was set at $20,000, and she will have an arraignment in 21 days.

Tony Pineda, special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, said Muskelly’s arrest does not assist the search for Rilya Wilson, who is now 6.

Muskelly resigned from DCF in March. She was terminated from Miami-Dade County’s school district two months later.

Muskelly’s attorney, George T. Pallas, said the charges stem from a civil dispute over money between and employer and an employee.

He said DCF withheld about $3,500 from Muskelly’s last paycheck to compensate for wages that they believed she had not earned.

``It’s a pathetic attempt to distract the public’s attention from law enforcement’s failure to solve the disappearance of a little girl,″ Pallas said.

Muskelly made the last of what were supposed to be monthly visits to Rilya in January 2001. She later filed false reports on the girl’s well being.

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