TX: Child support fraud sweep nets two more (update 1)
Guillermo Contreras reports:
Two San Antonio women who are among 13 people charged with diverting child-support payment money to themselves instead of the rightful recipients were released on bond Tuesday.
Christine Aguirre is among the six former employees of Texas’ child-support payment processing contractor, Affiliated Computer Services Inc., who are accused of wrongfully diverting state-sanctioned debit cards to themselves or associates.
Among the associates was Jeanette Solano, 31, who like Aguirre, was released after making a first appearance in federal court Tuesday. Officials said the 13 suspects diverted a total of more than $275,000 from the child-support program. All face charges including mail fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Seven others arrested Monday were released that day, while two are scheduled for bail hearings Wednesday.
Authorities are still looking for Jose Arnoldo Serrano, 30, and Crystal Vigil Cervera, 29.
Six employees were engaged in this? I’d like to know more about this one — like for how long it went on, how it was detected, and what the state agency’s and ACS’s explanations are for how their security controls failed to prevent this.
Update 1: The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued the following press release:
United States Attorney John E. Murphy, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Secret Service Acting Special Agent in Charge Kevin Pain announced today the indictment of 13 San Antonio residents in connection with separate but similar schemes to defraud the state child support program.
The defendants include: 30 year-old Jose Arnaldo Serrano, 40 year-old Leticia Robles, 36 year-old Maria Guadalupe Sandoval, 32 year-old Christine Aguirre, 32 year-old Maria Del Puerto, 35 year-old Irene Gomez White, 58 year-old Clarita Hernandez, 31 year old Jeanette Solano, 52 year-old Mary Jane Urbina, 41 year-old Carla Garcia Cervera, 29 year-old Crystal Vigil Cervera, 30 year-old Rosie Shular, and 26 year-old Kandie Pope.
On July 21, 2010, a federal grand jury returned a total of six indictments in this case which were unsealed today following the arrest of nine defendants. The various charges include mail fraud, aggravated identity theft and access device fraud.
As part of its child support program, the Texas Office of the Attorney General collects child support funds from non-custodial parents and distributes the funds to qualified child support recipients. To administer part of the child support program, Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. (“ACS”) had a contract with the Texas Office of the Attorney General to distribute the collected Texas child support funds by providing debit card services to qualified child support recipients. As part of the administration of the child support program, ACS provided debit payment cards to qualified child support recipients. These debit based cards also function as branded MasterCard or VISA credit cards. This debit payment card system allowed ACS to disburse the Texas Office of the Attorney General’s collected child support funds to qualified child support recipients by putting the funds in the appropriate accounts. The qualified child support recipients then could access the child support
funds to provide for their children.
The indictments allege that on various dates between October 2008 to June 2010, Serrano, Aguirre, White, Urbina, Robles and Shular–all of whom were ACS call center representatives–inappropriately accessed the ACS computer system, obtained client information, and either: 1) fraudulently shared that information with other associated defendants so that these other defendants could call in, impersonate child support recipients, and change the address to which debit cards were sent; or 2) fraudulently sent out debit cards themselves to addresses of their choosing.
After taking possession of the cards sent to the addresses in San Antonio, various defendants would activate the cards and begin obtaining money in the respective child support accounts. As a result of these separate but similar schemes, the indicted defendants were involved in fraudulently obtaining more than $275,000.00 in child support funds. ACS has reimbursed the individual child support debit cardholders for the losses suffered as a result of the actions of the defendants in this case.
Upon conviction, the defendants face up to twenty years in federal prison on each mail fraud charge; up to ten years in federal prison on each access device fraud charge; and, a mandatory two years in federal prison on each aggravated identity theft charge consecutive to the underlying fraud charges.
This case is being investigated by special agents with the United States Secret Service and investigators with the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Assistant United States Attorney Tom Moore is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
An indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.