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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Responding to the case of a 5-year-old girl in state care who was missing for 15 months before welfare workers noticed, Gov. Jeb Bush signed a bill that makes it a felony for state workers to falsify records.

Under the new law, falsifying documents related to children, the elderly or disabled in state care would be punishable by up to five years in prison. If the person is seriously hurt or dies because of the records fraud, it would be a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The bill that Bush signed Wednesday was introduced during a special session this month in response to the case of Rilya Wilson and accusations that a Department of Children & Families caseworker falsely claimed to be keeping up with the girl who vanished in Miami months ago.

``To falsify records, which is a part of the case of Rilya Wilson, won't happen again without penalties,'' Bush said.

No one noticed for 15 months that Rilya was missing because her caseworker falsified reports about monthly visits to make it appear that she had visited the girl and her caretaker, Geralyn Graham, officials say.

Graham claims someone who identified herself as a state welfare worker picked up the girl 16 months ago for an evaluation. The state reported Rilya missing April 25.

Despite the troubling case, the governor expressed confidence in the agency and its workers, saying the alleged falsification was likely isolated.

``There are thousands of really, really good public servants that work in the Department of Children & Families,'' said Bush, who was joined by case workers at the bill signing. ``This is a difficult job.''