Brainwashing is basically extreme emotional manipulation that makes logical thinking difficult. (Although cults are most frequently associated with brainwashing techniques, advertisers, news media and political parties have also been known to use the subtle method to control a particular outcome.)  A Cleveland, Ohio social services worker claimed she was brainwashed by a client who manipulated her with food stamps. Together they committed food stamp fraud, and now, the mother is about to go on trial for the death of her five-year-old son.

The social services worker in today’s fraud article was employed as a parent educator at an agency that contracted with Catholic Charities. She was assigned to the family of a mother with five kids. The social worker’s job was to visit their home on a monthly basis and report any abuse or neglect to authorities. (She was supposed to advocate for the five children, but somehow, she lost track of the youngest one, who was later found buried in the back yard.)

The mother received between $800 and $1,000 per month in food stamp benefits to cover the nutrition needs of her family. The mother worked out an arrangement with the social services worker where $200 to $350 would be left on the benefits card at the end of the month. The social services worker paid the mother 50 cents for each dollar left on the card. (The mom used the extra cash to pay her cellphone bills, buy gas and visit her boyfriend, who happened to be in jail.)

Meanwhile, the social services worker was supposed to visit the home each month to check on the kids and their living conditions, then file a report. (But, investigators discovered that she was not fulfilling her duty as an advocate for the children.) Cellphone records and text messages showed that the social services worker did stop by the home 12 times, but only to pick up the food stamp card. She did not inspect the home as required. (Furthermore, surveillance camera footage showed the social services worker using the mom’s food stamp benefit card to buy groceries at Sam’s Club, Walmart and other grocery stores in Parma and Brooklyn.)

During a voluntary interview, the social services worker told investigators that she had not seen the child for several months before the five-year-old’s body was discovered in the back yard by police. (A tip had been called in from Pakistan.) Her lawyer said that if there had been any evidence of abuse, she would have reported it. (But, the fact remains that she visited the home one week before the body was found, but did not report the child missing.)

In court, the social services worker claimed the food stamp fraud scheme was orchestrated by the mother. She claimed she was brainwashed into believing she was helping the mother through the food stamp fraud scheme.

The mother pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud, telecommunications fraud, grand theft and money laundering. She was sentenced to six years in prison and is currently facing charges of aggravated murder with her boyfriend in the death of her son.

The social services worker also pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud, grand theft and tampering with records. She received a three-year prison sentence for her illegal acts. (And, probably a lifetime of guilt for not reporting the missing child.) Both women will pay a combined $10,000 in restitution to the Department of Jobs and Family Services. They have also agreed to cooperate with investigators to determine how the child died. (Cooperation is a really good idea.)

To sum it up, the social services worker withheld reports of child neglect in exchange for the mother’s food stamps. She allowed greed to impact her authority in a position of public trust and tragically, she betrayed the very person she was supposed to protect.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article entitled, Cleveland social services worker, mother of slain boy get prison time in food stamp fraud case,” posted on on April 2, 2018.

CLEVELAND, Ohio –A social services worker embroiled in a food stamp scam along with a woman who is also accused of killing and burying her own son learned Thursday that she will spend time in prison.

Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy Margaret Russo sentenced the mother, Larissa Rodriguez, to six years in prison and the social services worker, Nancy Caraballo, to three years in prison for the food stamp scheme that Russo called “selfish” and an affront to taxpayers who help fund services for the less fortunate.

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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.