Seminole County

9 Investigates: Plea agreement details red flags inside Sanford foster home

SANFORD, Fla. — A plea agreement is giving us a clearer look at how many children were victimized at the hands of a Sanford foster father, and the red flags those children witnessed before they knew they were being recorded for child pornography.

9 Investigates has been pushing the Florida Department of Children and Families for answers since February about Justin Johnson Sr.’s history as a foster parent, after he was arrested and accused of creating child pornography featuring the children in his care.

DCF has not cited an exemption for those records, and will only respond that the request is being checked. Federal investigators, however, were able to interview those former foster kids, and several of them said there was inappropriate behavior in the home before the videos were discovered.

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Johnson will serve prison time under the terms of a plea agreement announced by federal prosecutors, after he promised to plead guilty to charges of creating child pornography children inside his Sanford home.

Now we know that although those children had no idea they were being photographed or recorded in places like their rooms or the bathroom, there were red flags several of them reported to investigators.

Those red flags included that Johnson would allegedly give them “sleepy medicine” or melatonin each night before bed, that he would rub their backs and under their clothes, pull back the shower curtain while they were bathing, that he would allegedly call them into his room while he was naked and that he walked around the home naked.

Read: 9 Investigates: Florida’s foster care failures - Why the system is so hard to change

We can’t say whether that information was ever relayed to DCF case workers during his time as a foster parent, because the records we requested more than four months ago about his time caring for children still have not been released to 9 Investigates.

In an email dated Feb. 28, 9 Investigates requested a copy of his application to become a foster parent, any records of DCF site visits or home inspections, and any records of follow-up interviews or visits with children in his care.

To date, no exemptions have been cited to prevent the release of the public records. We also asked for general information about how many children had been in Johnson’s care since becoming a foster parent, along with their ages and genders.

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The plea agreement showed there are at least 13 child victims who have been identified, ranging from an 18-day-old infant to teenagers. One non-foster child lived with Johnson dating back to 2017, and others as recently as January of this year. At least one was a friend visiting one of the foster children in his care.

Some of the videos depicted the molestation of the young victims, but the court records don’t definitively say that it’s Johnson carrying out the actions in those videos.

There were other adults who lived in the house, and were told that is still under investigation.

Read: Florida’s red flag law: Is it making a difference?

Johnson’s sentencing is set for October and he faces a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison on each count.

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Karla Ray

Karla Ray, WFTV.com

Karla Ray anchors Eyewitness News This Morning on Saturday and Sundays, and is an investigative reporter for the 9 Investigates unit.