Trust, But Verify

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26630523 - closeup of social security cards and money

How well do you know your neighbors? Would you entrust them to look after your house, pets or bring in the mail while you are on vacation? Would you give them a key to your domain and feel confident that they would have your best interests at heart? A Salinas, California woman took advantage of a neighbor’s request to forward important documents after the neighbor’s deportation. She took advantage of the situation and used those documents to commit food stamp fraud.

The deported woman asked her neighbor, today’s fraudster, to forward some important documents to her regarding her children. (Such as birth certificates and social security cards.)

While the neighbor honored the deported woman’s request to forward these important documents, they were eventually returned as undelivered. Two years after receipt of the undelivered documents, the neighbor fraudulently used the documents to apply for food stamps. (I’m guessing she claimed her neighbor’s children as her own to increase the amount of benefits she could receive. She probably thought no one would notice, especially the neighbor who had been deported.)

Over approximately three months, the deceitful neighbor defrauded the Monterey County Department of Social Services of $3,811 by using the personal documents of the deported woman’s children. (However, the father of the children figured out they were enrolled in the food stamp program.)

The 44-year-old Californian pleaded guilty to felony welfare fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced. She will most likely receive a sentence of supervised probation and will have to pay full restitution in the amount of food stamp benefits she stole from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

This food stamp fraud case is a prime example of why you should “trust, but verify” before handing over the keys to your kingdom. Even though this criminal stole benefits under $4,000, the government takes this type of crime seriously. (A little fraud here and a little fraud there adds up to a lot.) She betrayed the trust of her neighbor and took advantage of a system that is set up to take care of vulnerable people who need to put food on their table. (Perhaps she should also be banned from the SNAP program until she can be verified as trustworthy.)

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on a press release entitled, Salinas woman guilty of welfare fraud,” published by The Californian on September 13, 2017.

A Salinas woman defrauded $3,811 from the Monterey County Department of Social Services by using personal documents of a neighbor who was deported.

In 2013, a neighbor of Juana Zaragosa, 44, was deported, and Zaragosa agreed to forward important documents, such as birth certificates and social security cards belonging to the neighbor’s two children, to the woman, according to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.