For Immediate Release: May 26, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
Office of Public Integrity and Accountability
– Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced a former case worker for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families pleaded guilty after he made unwanted sexual advances toward women and tried intimidating women under investigation or supervision of DCF into engaging in unwanted sexual conduct with him.
Gilberto Ortiz, 53, of Woodbury pleaded guilty on May 16, 2023 to one of the five counts of the indictment against him, second-degree pattern of official misconduct. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of five years in state prison with no parole eligibility. The plea agreement also includes a forfeiture order banning him for life from holding public office and public employment in New Jersey.
“This defendant deliberately targeted vulnerable women who feared coming forward because of the perceived control he had over their families and children,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “He tried to exploit his position of power and capitalize on the difficult circumstances in their lives. These victims are now seeing a measure of justice after being subjected to this criminal behavior, which was antithetical to this defendant’s role as a public servant.”
“Mr. Ortiz leveraged his official position and used veiled threats to try to compel these victims to submit to his sexual advances,” said Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. “He engaged in a pattern of predatory and inappropriate behavior. This type of public corruption and abuse of authority is completely unacceptable.”
Formerly a bilingual family services specialist with DCF, Ortiz was originally charged on March 18, 2020, stemming from an investigation by OPIA that began with a referral from DCF. Ortiz was suspended by his employer and subsequently resigned from his job.
The OPIA investigation initially found Ortiz, while assigned to investigate a case involving a woman and her young child, made sexual advances on the woman during home visits in February 2020, while warning her she was involved in a serious case of negligence. Ortiz allegedly indicated he would “help her” if she had a relationship with him. During one visit, Ortiz allegedly touched the victim’s breasts and genital area without consent, and pushed her hand against his genitals. Later Ortiz allegedly sent her texts including a video of himself masturbating and sexually explicit photos of himself.
OPIA became aware of other victims as the investigation progressed. Investigators learned Ortiz had pursued an unwanted romantic relationship with another subject of a DCF investigation and her sister in May 2019, inappropriately touching both sisters, including attempting to kiss them.
The investigation further revealed how in another case from March 2019, Ortiz began calling and texting a woman after being assigned to her DCF case, asking her to go out to eat with him or go on dates. He would comment on her appearance and sometimes embrace the victim all while frequently pairing his requests for dates with reminders that he represented DCF and that her children could be taken from her custody.
The DCF Code of Ethics, to which all employees must adhere, prohibits department employees from establishing any improper relationship with a person who is being supervised, regulated, or investigated by the department.
Ortiz is scheduled to be sentenced July 14, 2023, in Camden County Superior Court before Judge David M. Ragonese.
The plea was accepted by Deputy Attorneys General Brian Uzdavinis and Niccole Sandora of OPIA, who were prosecuting the case under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione and OPIA Executive Director Tom Eicher.
Defense attorney: David Nufrio, Esq. of Tonacchio, Spina, and Compitello, Freehold, N.J.