TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For seven years, Marco Romero, a certified nursing assistant, was accused of inappropriately touching disabled and elderly patients across assisted living facilities in Sarasota County. Each time, there were no charges—until now.

Some nursing home advocates say the state and police dropped the ball. Investigator Mahsa Saeidi is looking into their response.

8 On Your Side tracked down some of Romero’s alleged victims. The families are too distraught to speak. At least three tell 8 On Your Side, they weren’t even aware of the allegations.

“This represents a total system failure,” said Michael Brevda, an attorney who has sued nursing homes.

But does it? Let’s rewind two months.

Sarasota police released Romero’s mugshot and said he inappropriately touched a patient who couldn’t speak, repeatedly. He was charged with a felony.

Police said they believed there may be more victims and that Romero had been accused of molesting patients since 2016.

There were seven years of complaints, however, there were no charges until now.

Sarasota police spokeswoman Cynthia McLaughlin spoke with reporters after the agency announced his arrest in July.

“These victims that have been assaulted at these care facilities, they’re unable to talk or report the crime,” said Ms. McLaughlin.

But the crimes were reported. 8 On Your Side obtained copies of prior complaints. Patients, staff and witnesses at assisted living facilities reporting alleged inappropriate behavior by Romero.

The Sarasota Sheriff’s Office and Venice Police Department were both called twice. Sarasota police responded four times.

After a public records request, we obtained audio of a 2021 police interrogation.

“I told the (indiscernible) what can I do? I’m not going to have to clean people now because every time I clean somebody, they accuse,” Romero told a detective.

“Something happens, I know,” the officer said.

“When it’s a woman, it’s not a problem but it’s a man, they always, you know, complain,” Romero responded.

Like the other times he was accused of wrongdoing, Romero was not charged after that incident.

Mr. Romero wasn’t home when 8 On Your Side stopped by his residence.

On Friday, he was set to be arraigned on charges in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court, but did not appear. Instead, he pled not guilty in a court filing.

Michael J. Brevda says this goes way beyond police.

“DCF was either directly involved or made aware of each one of these instances,” Brevda said. “The concept that he’s still able to work in these facilities knowing that he’s faced so many accusations of molestation in such a short time span, it’s shocking, he never should’ve had access to these victims.”

Fifty days ago, 8 On Your Side contacted the Florida Department of Children and Families, which has been looking into the allegations for years. They are mentioned in police reports. As of Friday, they haven’t given us a comment or any documents.

The Florida Department of Health says CNAs pass an initial background check.

Mahsa will stay on this story. If you have a tip, comment or question, email Mahsa at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.