Three Texas Employees Charged in Alleged Welfare Fraud Scheme

Three Texas Employees Charged in Alleged Welfare Fraud Scheme

41-year-old Irene Hernandez, 51-year-old Ester Sanchez, and 36-year-old Joleen Garcia of Edinburg, Texas were recently arrested in relation to an alleged food stamp fraud scheme, according to local reports. The three women allegedly took advantage of their status as employees at the Texas Department of Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to conduct the scheme over a span of two years, according to a local Fox affiliate. 

As advisers at the Texas HHSC, Hernandez, Sanchez, and Garcia would review and accept cases for individuals who wished to receive various government benefits, according to the report. 

According Fox2, the women allegedly collected over $200,000 by accepting cash in exchange for approving reportedly ineligible recipients for government welfare. Prosecutors claim that Hernandez received a total of over $142,00 while Sanchez and Garcia received about $30,000 each. 

A tip from an anonymous caller ultimately led to officers halting the alleged scheme. The three were fired from their positions at the Texas HHSC on January 24, according to local press. The McAllen Monitor reported that on March 21, Justice of the Peace Bobby Contreras charged them each with one count of organized criminal activity and one count of theft by a public servant. 

This is just the most recent case in a string of Texas-based incidents involving welfare fraud. 

Earlier this year, Breitbart News reported on Dallas convenience store owner Kamardeen Ogunleye and manager Robert Gordon, who were charged with running a food stamp scam that cost taxpayers $1.9 million.

Ogunleye and Gordon reportedly bought food stamps from numerous citizens enrolled in the program. They would allegedly give the recipients 50 percent of the food stamps’ cash value and then keep the remaining amount for themselves. The scheme took place over a span of three years. 

In an effort to reduce welfare dependency, Texas Congressman Randy Neugebauer (R-Lubbock, Big Spring, Abilene) recently proposed that Texas take part in a pilot program for food stamp reform. The program is part of a larger effort to help families find work in the private sector while decreasing dependency on food stamps, Breitbart Texas reported.

“Spending on SNAP has grown tremendously over the past few years. Instead of just bandaging the problem, we should focus on creating genuine opportunity that will improve the quality of life for the families who need it most,” Neugebauer wrote in a letter to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate