An Albuquerque man has been sentenced on his guilty plea to defrauding a food stamp program.
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An Albuquerque man has been sentenced on his guilty plea to defrauding a food stamp program.
ALBUQUERQUE BARBER PLEADS GUILTY TO
DEFRAUDING FEDERAL FOOD STAMP PROGRAM
ALBUQUERQUE – Joshua Moya, 33, of Albuquerque, N.M., entered a guilty plea this morning to defrauding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as the Food Stamp Program. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Moya will be sentenced to six months of imprisonment followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Moya also will be required to pay $2,444.00 in restitution.
Moya is one of six Albuquerque residents charged with defrauding the Food Stamp Program in a 32-count indictment that was filed in Aug. 2014. The indictment alleged that between Dec. 2006 and Feb. 2010, Joseph Martin Padilla, 33, conspired with Moya, Sergio Escobedo, 36, Veronica Hernandez, 44, Justin Quintana, 28, and Wilfredo Lopez, 46, conspired to defraud the United States through the unauthorized use of Food Stamp benefits, which are currently called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. During this time, Padilla worked as a Family Assistance Analyst for the Income Support Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department where he allegedly was responsible for determining applicants’ eligibility and benefit level for SNAP benefits.
According to the indictment, SNAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is administered by the States. The program was created to alleviate hunger and malnutrition, and permits low income households to obtain more nutritious diet by increasing the food purchasing power for eligible households. In New Mexico, individuals qualify to participate in SNAP based on income and need by completing an application with the Income Support Division of the New Mexico Human Services Department. Once an applicant is deemed eligible for SNAP benefits by a Family Assistance Analyst, the Analyst establishes a SNAP account in the applicant’s name and electronic benefit transfers (EBT), which are determined based on income, resources and household size, are deposited into the account on a monthly basis.
Count 1 of the indictment alleges that Padilla abused his position as a Family Assistance Analyst to conspire with his co-defendants to defraud the United States through the unauthorized use of SNAP benefits. It alleges that Padilla used names and personal identifiers he obtained from his co-defendants to establish fraudulent SNAP accounts, sometimes in exchange for cash or other things of value. Count 2 alleges that Padilla established a fraudulent SNAP account and used the account to fraudulently obtain approximately $1,468.00 in SNAP benefits for himself. Counts 3 through 27 of the indictment allege that Padilla fraudulently established 25 separate SNAP accounts through which the United States was defrauded of approximately $45,263.00 in SNAP benefits. Counts 28 through 32 allege that Padilla, aided and abetted by his co-defendants, fraudulently established SNAP accounts that were used to fraudulently obtain an aggregate of $12,705.00 in SNAP benefits.
During today’s change of plea hearing, Moya entered a guilty plea to Count 31 of the indictment and admitted that he fraudulently obtained SNAP benefits to which he was not entitled. In his plea agreement, Moya admitted that in early Dec. 2009, Padilla approached him while he was working in an Albuquerque barber shop and provided him with an application to obtain food stamps. Moya admitted knowing that Padilla worked for the State of New Mexico and had the ability to register him for SNAP benefits. Moya completed the application and returned it to Padilla for processing even though he knew that he was not entitled to SNAP benefits. Moya admitted unlawfully receiving $866.00 in SNAP benefits. Moya also admitted providing another application for SNAP benefits to a family member and that his relative unlawfully received $1578.00 in SNAP benefits.
Padilla and his four remaining co-defendants have entered not guilty pleas to the charges in the indictment. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This case was investigated by the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the New Mexico Human Services Department Office of Inspector General, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean J. Sullivan.
Eleven individuals have been indicted on charges of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Fraud.
Joseph Padilla, Sergio Escobedo, Veronica Hernandez, Justin Quintana, Joshua Moya, and Wilfredo Lopez were indicted in Federal court for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Fraud, Conspiracy to Commit SNAP Fraud, and 29 counts of Aiding and Abetting SNAP Fraud. Each count carries the maximum possible penalty of 5 years in Federal prison.
In addition to the Federal indictments, five individuals were indicted in New Mexico District Court.
Daniel Pebley, Jeannie Tatro, Rene Rubio, Mark Salazar, and Christopher Perez were indicted for Failing to Disclose Facts or Change of Circumstances to Obtain Public Assistance, Conspiracy to Commit Failing to Disclose Facts or Change of Circumstances to Obtain Public Assistance, Fraud, and Conspiracy to Commit Fraud. Each state charge carries a maximum possible penalty of 18 months in state prison.
Total value of overpaid assistance issued due to fraud was calculated at $235,045.00. If found guilty, defendants will be responsible for payment of restitution to the State of New Mexico.
A 33-year-old Bloomfield woman appeared in court Thursday to answer charges that she defrauded two federal low-income assistance programs.
Leah Collette was charged Sept. 11 in Aztec Magistrate Court with two counts of third-degree felony fraud and four counts of perjury. She was expected to appear at a preliminary examination on Thursday, but the hearing was delayed.
Collette's attorney, Mark Curnutt, could not be reached for comment.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said that his office offered Collette the opportunity to participate in its pre-prosecution program on Thursday. Participants must pay full restitution to victims and meet with a program officer regularly during their enrollment, among other requirements, O'Brien said.
Prosecutors agree not to pursue charges against participants who complete the program, O'Brien said.
"It's a big tool for us to get victims paid back," he said.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, agents from the New Mexico Office of Inspector General began investigating Collette in 2010 after she applied for assistance through the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program.
The program, funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, provides grants to local agencies for projects that improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families, according to the program's website.
Collette applied for aid through Los Amigos ERC in December 2009, claiming in the application that she supported her two children on an annual income of about $13,338. However, Collette failed to acknowledge that her husband was living with her at the time, the affidavit states.
Her husband was earning about $27,373 annually, according to the affidavit. A Los Amigos ERC administrative services director confirmed for investigators that Collette would not be eligible for weatherization assistance if her husband's income exceeded $27,000, the affidavit states.
Anthony Roybal, executive director and primary founder of Los Amigos ERC, said his agency discontinued the weatherization assistance program because of a lack of funding.
He said that program applicants were required to provide their Social Security numbers and pay stubs to verify their identity and income, but the agency could not verify with complete accuracy the number of persons listed as living at a residence.
"Usually our guys are pretty good about seeing if there are other family members there," he said. "But we are not investigators. We just go in and do the work as best we can."
Roybal said he is glad that investigators discovered the alleged fraud.
"It hurts the folks that are applying for this and are honest, because it was a good program and helped a lot of people," he said.
Investigators questioned Collette regarding the income discrepancy and she allegedly confessed that she withheld information in order to qualify for the weatherization program, according to the affidavit.
She also admitted to omitting her husband's income when she applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Investigators determined that Collette received about $2,858 dollars worth of benefits from the program between November 2009 and October 2010.
Collette is scheduled for a preliminary examination hearing on Jan. 8.
HSI arrests NM couple charged in connection with food stamp cash-back scheme
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A husband and wife, who were allegedly using food stamp cards fraudulently, were in federal court following their arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
According to an indictment handed up April 24, the couple is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and fraud against the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Fund, commonly referred to as food stamps. Between April and December 2012, the couple conspired with each other and other individuals for their personal gain.
Montaño-Salas owned and operated the Valencia Trading Post, a grocery store in Farmington, N.M. The business was authorized to accept payments for groceries from customers using an electronic benefit transfer card issued under the authority of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.
Montaño-Salas and Salas were involved in a cash-back scheme involving the use of food stamp electronic benefit transaction cards, or EBT cards. The couple conspired with food stamp card holders to redeem cash back from grocery transactions, which is illegal.
Salas, a citizen of Mexico, was living illegally in the United States.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, New Mexico Human Services Department Office of Inspector General and Region II Task Force also participated in this investigation.
Anna Montano Salas pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and three counts of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Fraud
Miguel Salas pleaded guilty to Misprision of a Felony. Salas was remanded to the custody of the US Marshal for deportation to Mexico.
New Mexico Human Services Office of Inspector General's cover photo
Updated: NM food stamp rule changes draw opposition
A plan to reimpose and broaden work-related requirements for as many as 80,000 New Mexico food stamp program recipients drew criticism at a public hearing today for being punitive and ill-advised.
About 100 people attended today’s hearing in Santa Fe, which had been moved to a different state government building in anticipation of a large crowd.
Opponents of the proposed work requirements said many New Mexico food stamp recipients already want to find work but have been unable to do so due to the condition of the state economy.
“If we’re serious about this, we need to help people find employment, not take food off their table,” said Sen. Michael Padilla, D-Albuquerque.
Human Services Department officials have defended the proposed rule changes by saying a 2009 waiver of the work requirement was never intended to be permanent.
They have also pointed out most other public assistance programs feature a work requirement of sorts.
If adopted, the new regulations would mean a reinstatement of a 20-hour-a-week work requirement for childless adults to get food stamps. On-the-job training and community service could be used to help meet the work mandate.
In addition, a new job search or community service requirement would be imposed on low-income parents — of children ages 6 and older — and other caregivers. Pregnant women, students enrolled in school and individuals participated in drug or alcohol treatment programs would be among those exempted from the requirement.
The Human Services Department is expected to decide whether to adopt, tweak or scrap the proposals after receiving a Sept. 15 hearing officer’s report. The new requirements would take effect in October.
SF Co. woman charged with 33 counts of public assistance fraud
An Edgewood woman has been charged with 33 counts of fraud, perjury and failure to disclose facts to obtain public assistance from the state Human Services Division and the federal Social Security Administration, according to a Santa Fe County Grand Jury indictment released this morning.
Emma Baros, 51, was arraigned Monday in First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe, pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a jury trial in February 2015, court records state.
The alleged crimes took place between April 2009 and March 2010, the indictment states. The indictment outlines 11 counts of fraud, 11 counts of perjury and 11 counts of failure to disclose facts to obtain public assistance.
A jury found Miroslava Girard guilty of one count of Failing to Disclose Facts to Obtain Public Assistance, which included Food Stamps, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Medicaid and cash from 2008-2012 totaling over $95,000.
Girard violated New Mexico State Statutes by failing to report the income of her live-in boyfriend, who is the father of her child, and the fact that her son was covered under his medical insurance policy.
This 2nd degree felony verdict carries a maximum exposure of 9 years incarceration. Her sentence is pending from Judge Fernando Macias, District Court Judge.
New Mexico Human Services Office of Inspector General
8909 Adams St NE, Ste A
The Office of Inspector General investigates allegations of public assistance fraud. Anyone with information regarding public assistance fraud is encouraged to contact the OIG Hotline at 800-228-4802, email [email protected], or message this profile. Callers can ask to remain confidential to involved parties, however providing contact information will aid in the investigation.
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