13 ac­cused in scam that of­fi­cials say stole $275,000 in child sup­port funds

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By Guillermo Con­tr­eras

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

Con­tin­ued from B the vic­tims.

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.