Investigators in Marion County say George Fout, a 26-year-old former Boy Scout abused his position of trust for years and confessed to molesting and raping boy scouts within his troop.
Earlier this year, Fout was arrested and charged with molesting five boys. Police say some of the cases go back as far as 2005 and at least one of the victims was as young as 8.
One of the lessons investigators took away from the case is that parents should ask more questions about the adults who watch over their kids.
"He did it in such a clever way," Marion County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Dan Kuhn said. "None of the parents thought twice about it, and so the lesson from all of this is for parents to ask questions."
With school coming to an end, many families will be using summer camps or other services to keep the kids occupied.
"In the case of George Fout, he had been screened by the organization that owned and operated the Cub Scout pack and Boy Scout troop. He had a criminal background check, he had met all of the screen requirements associated with the organization that found no evidence to prevent him from being a scout volunteer," said Jack Sears, CEO of the North Florida Boy Scouts of America.
Fout didn't have a prior record, so the comprehensive background check didn't turn up any red flags.
Channel 4 Crime Expert Ken Jefferson agrees with Marion County investigators.
"Parents have got to take charge," Jefferson said. “Always ask the question, 'Do you run a background check on your employees?’ [If they don’t] then don't get your children involved with it because you don't know what you're dealing with."
Parents can use the Internet to do their homework. Here are some examples of background-check search sites:
- Public Access to Court Electronic Records (www.pacer.gov) will find criminal convictions in the U.S. District Court system.
- Many state and county conviction and arrest records are available online. You can find links to most of these sites through virtualchase.justia.com or publicrecords.searchsystems.net
- The National Sex Offender Registry (www.familywatchdog.us)
- For a fee, criminalsearches.com claims to search the criminal records of all 50 states and Washington D.C.
"It is a constant area of concern for us, child safety," said Warren Grymes, head of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Grymes said men and women who want to mentor not only have to pass an extensive background check, they also have to pass a series of in-depth interviews.
"I hate to say this, but you don't trust anybody that's coming to your program. You question why they're coming to your program," Grymes said.
John Harrell with the Department of Children and Families said the state runs background checks every year for people who work at youth summer camps.
"We encourage parents to go to these summer camps themselves. Check it out. See how the children are being treated," Harrell said. "We urge children to make sure they've got open dialogue with their children, [make sure] their children can talk with them if they think there's anything suspicious or inappropriate going on."
How often are volunteers rescreened?
- The Boy Scouts of America says it will re-administer a background check when they find out there's been a policy violation, a complaint, or if an individual moves to a new troop in a different location.
- Big Brothers and Big Sisters says it generally will run background checks on mentors once a year.
- John Harrell with DCF says volunteers who want to work at summer camps are screened every year before they are allowed to work with children.