The ex-partner of the former embattled Aurora police chief, already charged criminally with falsely reporting that a vocal critic of the chief sexually abused her son, now is under investigation by the FBI on new allegations of manipulating the child protective system where she worked to gain the upper hand in her own child custody battle. Robin Niceta is being investigated for faking an attack by a former partner.
Lawyers also are gathering up evidence for a potential class-action lawsuit against Arapahoe County’s Department of Human Services and Niceta, alleging that Niceta engaged in systemic fraud while working as a case worker investigating child abuse for the county.
Niceta until recently was romantically involved with the former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson, who was fired in April.
“So far, several parents have come forward to let us know that they also had their children taken away from them as a result of Robin Niceta’s actions related to their cases whether by what they believe to be false testimony during court or what they believe to be false reports,” said Elliot Singer, the lawyer preparing the class-action lawsuit, and a former Colorado assistant attorney general who dealt with civil rights issues.
“We’re very concerned about the pattern that is forming regarding Robin Niceta while she was a case worker at the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, and we’re asking all parents who were affected to come forward,” Singer said.
A married couple who had their 14-year-old daughter placed in foster care for a year also filed a federal lawsuit last week against Niceta, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, the director of that agency, a supervisor there, two other child abuse case workers and the county commissioners.
The parents allege “false testimony” from Niceta, who was a county social services case worker at the time, caused a judge, who later resigned after facing her own allegations of impropriety, to continue to keep their child in foster care when no reason existed to do so.
Five people familiar with the FBI investigation disclosed details of it. They asked that their names not be revealed due to the sensitivity of the matters involved.
The FBI is probing whether Niceta filed a false police report against her former partner and also whether she manipulated the child protective system and used undue influence to gain custody of her former partner’s child, according to those familiar with the FBI investigation. The FBI has interviewed witnesses multiple times and gathered evidence, those familiar with the details said.
Niceta could not be immediately reached for comment. A person answering her listed cell phone number hung up. When called a second time, the person said the number no longer was Niceta’s. Niceta did not respond to additional messages left at other phone numbers or emails tied to her. Her lawyer in the past said Niceta was looking forward to having her day in court. She has new lawyers who did not respond to new requests for comment.
“Except in rare circumstances, the FBI cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation,” said Vikki Migoya, a spokesperson for the Denver FBI office, stressing that sometimes FBI work also results in referrals to state and local law enforcement officials when it’s determined there are no federal law violations.
She added: “During the course of a review or investigation we might speak with numerous individuals, but to protect the privacy of people who report information to the FBI, we cannot confirm or deny any particular contact.”
Arapahoe County officials said state officials also are reviewing Niceta’s child abuse case work that she conducted for the county before her resignation from the county human services department in May.
“In July, the Colorado Department of Human Services agreed to Arapahoe County’s request to conduct an independent review of Ms. Niceta’s professional conduct,” said Luc Hatlestad, an Arapahoe County spokeswoman. “We made this request to help evaluate if there are broader concerns about her case work. We have been cooperating with the State and are awaiting the outcome of the review before we determine next steps”
Hatlestad added, “The County takes allegations of intentionally false reporting seriously – especially when they involve employees. Our case workers routinely serve those most vulnerable within our community with the highest levels of professionalism and compassion. We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior, which undermines the critical work of our team.”
Niceta reported to Aurora police that her former girlfriend, Kristin Nichols, now 36, broke into her home on South Oswego St. and brazenly attacked her during the early morning hours of Aug. 27, 2021.
At the time of the attack, Niceta, now 40, had a powerful ally. Her romantic partner at that time was Vanessa Wilson, then the chief of the very same Aurora Police Department that investigated Niceta’s allegations of an attack.
Police reports show that Wilson talked to the Aurora police officers under her command while they were investigating the case hours after Niceta’s 911 call. The police chief met with the officers after driving Niceta home from the hospital. The chief reported to the officers that prior to calling 911, Niceta called her four times to report she had been attacked, waking the chief on the fourth call.
Wilson “expressed concern” to the investigating officers that Nichols was dangerous and told them she knew of other incidents involving Nichols, the records show. Wilson did not respond to emails and phone messages seeking comment for this article.
Niceta alleged to the investigating officers that Nichols likely had entered the home through the garage after 3 a.m., probably by using a garage door opener she had never returned. She said Nichols then came up to the bedroom where Niceta was sleeping. Niceta told the officers Nichols startled her awake, knocked her unconscious by hitting her over the head with an unknown object, strangled her, ripped a necklace the chief had given her from her neck and tore up a greeting card, police records state.
Niceta said she had cleaned up the blood left by the attack by the time officers arrived. After giving the details to responding police officers, Niceta went to a UC Health hospital where she was treated and released and where officers continued interviewing her.
Within 16 hours of the 911 call from Niceta alleging the attack, Nichols was arrested by the Aurora Police Department. Nichols faced a minimum of 15 years in prison on criminal charges that eventually included assault with bodily injury, burglary and domestic violence.
Prosecutors dismissed the charges in June, nearly two months after DNA testing cleared Nichols, who had steadfastly maintained she was asleep in her own home at the time Niceta said she attacked her. The DNA testing detected DNA on the necklace from two individuals but found that Nichols was not a contributor of the DNA.
As the allegations from Niceta wound their way through the court system, Nichols lost her fulltime job as a nurse treating arthritic patients due to all the court hearings she attended for the criminal case as well as a child custody case she was fighting with Niceta.
A county district court judge also sharply curtailed Nichols’ parenting time with her 6-year-old daughter, deeming the child was safer with Niceta, who helped raise the child when Niceta and Nichols were a couple. The judge ruled that Nichols could only see her daughter for less than two hours a week, and only while supervised by a therapist, who would bill Nichols for the costs of that supervision.
Niceta suddenly reversed course on the child custody battle in July and signed court documents returning the child back to Nichols, saying she was moving to New Mexico.
“It’s indescribable when someone goes after your kid,” Nichols said in an interview. “My main job as a mom is to protect my daughter, and then something like this happens, and she is taken from me, and I can’t protect her. I knew damage was being done, but there was nothing I could do about it, all because Robin had all the power.”
This wasn’t the first time Niceta had alleged abuse by Nichols. Aurora police arrested Nichols on January 10, 2021, for alleged domestic violence assault that occurred when the two struggled after Nichols was picking up some of her items after breaking up with Niceta. A jury acquitted Nichols, who claimed Niceta was the aggressor.
In March of 2021, Niceta called Aurora police again and reported that she believed Nichols had left her a threatening note in her mailbox that read, “I WANT YOU TO DIE SLEEP SOUNDLY.” The note had been made from clippings out of a magazine that were taped to a piece of paper. Niceta pointed out to police that a strand of hair that looked like her former partner’s hair was attached to the tape, but police declined to test for DNA or to bring criminal charges.
Nichols, in an interview with The Gazette, adamantly denied leaving that note. She also denied breaking into the home and attacking Niceta in August of 2021 and maintained that she was asleep at her own home that night. Still, Nichols said, child protective workers in Adams County viewed her as unfit to be a mother. They had been called in to handle a child dependency and neglect petition filed by Niceta. That case was being heard in Adams County because Niceta worked as a child abuse case worker in Arapahoe.
Nichols said judges viewed her with suspicion. She felt powerless. Aligned against her were the word of Niceta, a case worker whose job it was to investigate child abuse allegations, as well as the police chief of a major suburban police department, she recalled.
“The amount of power she had was unbelievable,” Nichols said of Niceta. “There are no other words to describe it.”
While she fought for her child’s return, Nichols missed her child’s birthday. She was excluded from her child’s first day of kindergarten and had to go without seeing her child on holidays. Nichols’ father was murdered during that separation, but Nichols was barred from bringing the child to the funeral.
“She has told me that she is mad at me and upset that I missed all this time with her,” Nichols said of her child.
She added that she believes Wilson, the police chief, should have sent the investigation into Niceta’s allegations of an attack to another law enforcement agency because the chief was a partner of Niceta’s and therefore had a conflict of interest. She said she believes she was arrested because Niceta was the chief’s partner and because authorities were predisposed to believe Niceta since she was a child abuse case worker.
“They had no evidence, no proof that I was there,” she said. “Not a thing. Just what Robin said.”
Police reports state that Nichols’ 6-year-old child was sleeping that night in the home where Niceta said the attack occurred. The child reported to police hearing the dog, Bella, snoring that night but didn’t hear any physical altercation. She told police that her mother had visited that night and talked with Niceta, but police concluded the child likely said she heard the two conversing because Niceta told the child that had occurred, police reports show.
“Because Robin is a child protective services worker, they took her word for everything,” Nichols said. “They took her word as gold. She kept alleging all these awful things. It was all lies. It destroyed me in every way.”
Now, the balance of power has changed dramatically. The Aurora city manager fired Wilson, the Aurora police chief, in April, saying she had not effectively managed the police department or built morale in the wake of the death of Elijah McClain, who died after an arrest.
About two months after Wilson’s firing, a media maelstrom developed in June when investigators arrested Niceta and charged her criminally for allegedly falsely reporting child sex abuse allegations against a vocal critic of Wilson who had pushed for Wilson’s firing.
The arrest affidavit states that Niceta made an anonymous call to a child abuse hotline on Jan. 28 alleging that she saw Aurora City Councilwoman Danielle Jurinsky inappropriately touching Jurinsky’s son. Jurinsky had gone on a radio talk show the day before and called Wilson, the police chief, “trash.”
An Arapahoe County Department of Human Services child abuse investigation cleared Jurinsky of any wrongdoing. Jurinsky told investigators she thought the tip was retaliation for her comments about Wilson. In an affidavit seeking Niceta’s arrest, investigators with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department said that the call came from Niceta’s personal cellphone. The affidavit also stated that Niceta’s laptop computer had a browser search history seeking the child abuse hotline number as well as Jurinsky’s address.
Niceta denied making the call. She resigned May 4 from her job as a child abuse case worker for the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, a day after being questioned by law enforcement investigators. Niceta and Wilson have since broken up, according to Nichols.
The lawsuit filed against Niceta in U.S. District Court in Denver last week states that Arapahoe County’s Department of Human Services had deficiencies in training and supervision of intake staff, which was where Niceta worked investigating child abuse allegations.
Kamel and Maria Leghouini allege in the lawsuit that on August 14, 2020, Niceta and two other Arapahoe County child abuse intake case workers and two plainclothes police officers, armed with handguns, removed their 14-year-old daughter from the home, separating the child from her parents and three brothers.
The removal was based on the case workers’ belief that the daughter’s cousin, who did not reside at the home, had raped her months earlier, and their fears the daughter would be returned to Africa and stoned to death if she reported the rape.
The rape actually never occurred, and the case workers did not conduct a state-required safety and risk assessment of the family, the lawsuit states.
Niceta alleged in a dependency and neglect filing that the mother was deceptive and confrontational and had “difficulty taking accountability for her actions and parenting techniques,” according to the lawsuit. Niceta said that as a result, the child’s phone usage would have to be restricted by the foster family, which would review “incoming and outgoing text messages.”
Niceta added that the father “did not show concern” about the child’s trauma or why she was being removed from the home, the lawsuit further states. “Father began yelling and would only discuss his religion when asked about his lack of concern,” the lawsuit quotes her filing as stating.
Based on the testimony of Niceta and her statements in the petition, then-Arapahoe County District Court Judge Natalie Chase ordered the child’s continued out-of-home placement, according to the lawsuit. Chase would later resign and accept public censure after she used the N-word with court employees, who are black, made other insensitive comments and directed her law clerk to do legal research on a personal and family issue.
The Leghouinis had their daughter returned to the family in August of 2021. The dependency and neglect case filed in juvenile court was closed in March of 2022.
“The family was plunged into the nightmare of a court-involved case to get custody of their child returned,” the lawsuit states. “This unlawful removal caused profound distress to the family.”
“I am concerned that Arapahoe County continually looks the other way,” said Ruchi Kapoor, the lawyer representing the parents who sued. “Is there a system for dealing with complaints? What is the accountability for case workers who are misbehaving in this way?”
Other parents similarly have complaints.
Another married couple hired a lawyer, and the parents contend that Niceta, in her work as a social services case worker, falsely reported that their daughter told Niceta she was sexually assaulted by the father. In all other interviews, which were recorded, the daughter denied any sexual assault by her father. Still, the daughter was removed from the family home after Niceta testified that the daughter made a sudden declaration to her, when nobody else was present, that the father raped her. The statement was not recorded.
The daughter was placed in foster care for about year, and then later returned to her family. She maintains she was never sexually assaulted by her father.
A GoFundMe page also has been launched to assist a single mother, Blanca Salomon, 32, who claims Niceta, while working as a child abuse case worker, falsely alleged that Salomon punched her four children.
The two oldest children were placed with Salomon’s mother, and the two youngest were placed with their fathers. Their removal from Salomon hinged on a dependency and neglect filing with the Arapahoe County District in which Niceta claimed Salomon’s mother had reported to Niceta having to intervene to protect the children from beatings. Salomon’s mother now claims she never made those statements, according to Salomon.
Salomon added that she almost missed the initial court hearing that led to the removal of her children because Niceta was evasive about when the hearing would be held. Salomon, who works two jobs as a janitor and as a receptionist supervisor for a medical facility, said her struggles to reunify the family have left her financially devastated.
Salomon said the children have asked to be returned to her care, but the child protective system continues to block reunification because authorities say more time is needed to ensure the family is safe.
“All I know is that my kids want to be back home,” Salomon said. “I don’t know what else I need to do to get my voice heard. I don’t know.”
Another past partner of Niceta’s, Brooke Pulsinelli, said she also wants to talk to the FBI and alleges that Niceta falsely reported her for domestic violence twice when she broke up with Niceta in 2017. She said in the final case, Niceta knew her password to her computers and hacked her email. Pulsinelli said Niceta then sent fake emails from Pulsinelli’s email account to Niceta making it seem as if Pulsinelli had threatened Niceta’s life.
Pulsinelli said prosecutors dismissed the domestic violence cases. She said the court and police records have been sealed, but she said she still lost her job working at a homeless shelter in Denver because of the criminal charges.
“She’s insane,” Pulsinelli said of Niceta. “She manipulates the system. She manipulates people. If she wants something, she’s going to get it. I live in fear. I lock the doors and windows. She scares me. We never know what she is capable of doing.”