13 accused in scam that officials say stole $275,000 in child support funds
Thirteen people from San Antonio, half of them former employees of a company that processes child support payments for Texas and 15 other states, have been charged with diverting thousands of dollars of those payments to themselves.
Federal and state authorities arrested 11 of the suspects Monday, charging them with taking advantage of an $18.2 million contract the state has with Affiliated Computer Services Inc. to issue debit cards to Texans who are due child support.
Agents with the Secret Service and the Texas attorney general’s office were searching for two who remained at large.
According to six indictments unsealed Monday, the defendants diverted some of the cards to friends, relatives or associates and used them to buy things for themselves. At least $275,000 may have been wrongly diverted from childsupport payments, though the firm and the attorney general’s office said ACS, which was recently acquired by Xerox, has reimbursed
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The indictments allege the 13 acted in separate but similar schemes devised by six employees of ACS’ call center in San Antonio — Jose Arnoldo Serrano, 30; Christina Aguirre, 32; Irene Gomez White, 35; Mary Jane Urbina, 52; Leticia Robles, 40; and Rosie Shular, 30.
Between October 2008 and June 2010, the indictments said, the six then-employees inappropriately accessed the ACS computer system, obtained client information and sent debit cards to addresses of their choosing or shared the stolen information with associates. The associates could then call in, impersonate child support recipients and get debit cards sent to them, the indictments said.
The other suspects are Maria Guadalupe Sandoval, 36; Maria del Puerto, 32; Clarita Hernandez, 58; Jeanette Solano, 31; Carla Garcia Cervera, 41; Crystal Vigil Cervera, 29; and Kandie Pope, 26. All but Crystal Cervera and Serrano were arrested Monday, and most — except Pope and Shular — were released on unsecured bond after federal court hearings Monday.
The indictments include charges of mail fraud, access device fraud and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison, while aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory two years on top of whatever they may get on the other charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Moore said.
“The Office of the attorney general acted quickly to ensure ACS provided full payment to the affected child support families,” spokesman Jerry Strickland said.
ACS said it could not comment on the ongoing investigation but said it worked closely with law enforcement to identify those involved and will assist in their prosecution.
“Most importantly, no child support recipients were denied benefits,” spokesman Ken Ericson said. “The affected cardholders have been notified and are receiving free credit monitoring to ensure their protection, and we have also reviewed and upgraded our internal security procedures. The debit card system continues to be safe and reliable, and ACS is proud to serve more than a quarter-million cardholders in Texas.”
ACS has plans to hire about 300 workers over the next 18 months to add to its more than 500 current employees.
The City Council last year approved a $300,000 incentive to keep ACS from moving its operations out of San Antonio.
Last year, ACS said it processes more than $8.5 billion in child-support payments every year. On Feb. 5, Xerox announced it had acquired all of the outstanding equity of ACS.