‘It’s very troubling’: Sanford foster father now facing federal child porn charges

SANFORD, Fla. — A former foster father is facing new federal charges after investigators say a child living in his home found a hidden camera in her bedroom.

“This happened to these kids who were put in a position where they should have been protected,” Sanford major crimes investigator David Thomas said.

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Police now have the gut-wrenching task of going through tens of thousands of videos and pictures to try to identify victims. As that work gets underway, 9 Investigates is pushing Florida’s Department of Children and Families for information about Justin Johnson Sr.’s time as a foster parent, and how this could have gone under the radar for so long.

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Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray has asked DCF for information about the number of kids that were in Johnson’s care at one time, and whether any additional home visits were done after his divorce a year into becoming a foster parent.

The ages of the children in his care ranged from a 2-week-old infant to teenagers, according to court records.

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Both Sanford police and the FBI have charged Johnson Sr. with crimes related to the production of child pornography, and court records confirm the subjects in videos recovered are the foster children he was supposed to protect.

“Children, they can’t choose who their parents are, who their caretakers are,” Thomas said. “That’s why there are necessary steps that are supposed to be taken to make sure they’re placed in a safe place.”

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Since 2019, police say Johnson has had 20 foster children through his home. However, Thomas says the videos date back even further; more than a decade, and likely include many more victims who were not in the foster system.

“I’ve never seen anything like this at all, all the videos that have been recorded, it seems as if it was on a constant basis for however long he’d been doing it,” Thomas said.

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Court records show Johnson was married at the time he first became a foster parent. Investigators say his wife was a licensed provider, too. The two divorced in June of 2020. It’s unclear whether that change in marital status could have impacted the number of kids he was allowed to care for.

9 Investigates asked DCF for any records of site visits, home inspections, or follow-up interviews of the children in Johnson’s care to see if any red flags may have been missed, putting children in harm’s way.

“For somebody to be able to exploit them or take advantage of them, emotionally, physically, it’s very troubling,” Thomas said.

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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.