Former Tulare County employee sentenced for welfare fraud, embezzlement

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Yvonne Hernandez plead no contest to 31 counts of embezzlement and 18 counts of welfare fraud earlier this year. (KFSN)

Yvonne Hernandez shielded her face with a sheet of paper during her sentencing Tuesday morning.

Earlier this year, Hernandez plead no contest to 31 counts of embezzlement and 18 counts of welfare fraud-- 18 for the number of fraudulent accounts she opened while working as a self-sufficiency counselor at Tulare County Health and Human Services, or HHSA.

"(HHSA was) very good about reporting it to us so we could investigate," said Tulare County Assistant District Attorney David Alavezos. "Their concern obviously is the funds going to the people who actually need it as opposed to somebody like this."

Between 2009 and 2013, prosecutors say Hernandez stole more than $78,000 in cash aid, and $66,000 in food stamp benefits. She was arrested in early 2015, after Alavezos says an aid recipient reported some discrepancies in their application.

"This money is a safety net for people who need it most, and when you're taking from that pool of money, you are stealing from the people who need it most," Alavezos said.

In a statement, Tulare County Human Services Director Juliet Webb said:

"At HHSA, we take program integrity very seriously, working with the district attorney to refer all suspected cases of potential welfare fraud for investigation. We are pleased that Ms. Hernandez will be held accountable for her deplorable actions. Although Ms. Hernandez is a former HHSA employee, her behavior in no way reflects the commitment and values of our TulareWORKs staff."

This isn't the first HHSA employee convicted of fraud. Earlier this year, former self-sufficiency support assistant Carmen Villarreal was sentenced to 210 days in county jail for stealing $1,000 from the agency.

Because of changes to credits under Proposition 57, Alavezos says Hernandez will likely only serve 16 months of her four-year sentence. She will be remanded into custody on September 25th, and will have to pay all the money she stole.

Related Topics:
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