ISLANDIA, Long Island - A teenage babysitter on Long Island was arrested along with her boyfriend and her mother after police say they left a 9-month-old child at a casino Monday night.
Authorities say the sitter, hired from SitterCity.com, claimed to be 18 but was actually only 14.
"People may assume that when they go on a website like this, that the babysitters have been vetted in some manner," Suffolk County police Chief Stuart Cameron said. "Obviously that clearly was not the case here. The babysitter purported to be 18 years old."
According to police, when the baby's 21-year-old mother failed to arrive to pick up the child at the designated time after an overnight stay, the caregivers called police at approximately 6:40 p.m. But when patrol officers responded to their home on Johnson Avenue in Ronkonkoma, they stated that they had resolved the issue and had arranged to meet the baby's mother, apparently at Jake's 58 Hotel and Casino on Express Drive North in Islandia.
But after an apparent dispute regarding pick-up arrangements and payment, authorities say the three decided to leave the child on a bench when the mother failed to arrive. The 16-year-old boyfriend allegedly left the child in a carrier on an outside bench and walked toward the car, before returning to the bench, picking up the child, and taking the baby inside to a security member.
The 16-year-old teen reportedly told security personnel he found the child on the bench, then left in the car with his girlfriend and his girlfriend's mother.
After reviewing surveillance, officers recognized the 16-year-old from the previous call on Johnson Avenue. They returned to that location and arrested the three caregivers, charging them with endangering the welfare of a child.
The mother was identified as 44-year-old Dejuana Stewart, while the other two were not identified due to their ages.
Neighbors on Johnson Avenue said police spend a lot of time at the suspects' house, and that neither Stewart nor her daughter should have made the cut for any babysitting website.
"They don't come out, they stay inside, windows open, fight 24-7," neighbor Lequita Johnson said. "The little girl fights with her mother. They're crazy. They need medication."
The 14-year-old, speaking from behind her closed door, said she's hiring a lawyer.
SitterCity released the following statement:
Safety for sitters and families is the top priority for Sittercity. In addition to providing a full suite of tools and resources for families through our Trust & Safety Center, we verify the identity of sitters through Experian. As a policy, we do not allow sitters under the age of 18 to register. We understand that the sitter in this case used a false birth date when registering because she was under 18 years old. We immediately removed her from the site as soon as we learned about this matter, and we are grateful to know that the baby is safe at home.