She had lots of imaginary kids to take care of

The fake children child care fraud

Stephanie Luna Vega, 38, worked a government job in the office of education in Riverside, California. She was a child care liaison whose job was to issue federal and state money to child care providers.

When she was 30, she discovered a weakness in the system.

If she created fake child care providers who cared for nonexistent children, she could issue checks to them. So she changed birth certificates and payroll stubs and funneled the stolen money to her relatives.

Her father, for instance, was caring for nine imaginary children, and received $314,000.

Ms. Vega also had another worker in her office in on the scam, and they would cover for each other when the other was away from the office.

Eventually the scheme was discovered. She and six others, four of whom were her relatives (her father, mother, step-mother and sister-in-law), were charged with fraud. They stole more than $500,000.

Ms. Vega faces a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

She was caught when her husband, in the process of getting a divorce, found altered documents and cash in a closet, which led to an investigation.

The office of education has since changed some of their procedures.

DA: 7 arrested in $500,000 child care fraud, The Press-Enterprise>>

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