DOUGLAS (Tuesday, May 22, 2012) -- Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne today announced the conviction of married couple, Fernando Tomas Garcia and Anay Ariana Becerra in Cochise County Superior Court for offenses related to AHCCCS fraud and money laundering.
The investigation revealed that in a span of two years, over $200,000 in cash was deposited into various bank accounts belonging to the couple. Neither Garcia nor Becerra had reported any income to the state for at least three years. When interviewed by police, Becerra admitted that much of this income was the proceeds of illegal drug trafficking. She also admitted to making various false statements on applications to the state for public benefits.
"It is unconscionable for people to fraudulently apply for and accept benefits they are not entitled to," Horne said. "My office is dedicated to not only putting a stop to this kind of abuse, but also to making sure that these criminals pay back every cent they fraudulently took from the State. These crimes are especially egregious considering that much of the money was the proceeds of drug trafficking offenses."
During this investigation, law enforcement uncovered that Becerra and Garcia owned two homes in the Douglas area and various vehicles as well as two businesses. Law enforcement seized two homes and nine vehicles that were eventually forfeited to the State. The forfeited property is estimated to be worth approximately $250,000. In addition, both businesses shut down as a result of the investigation. As part of a plea agreement, Becerra and Garcia will pay the State over $60,000 in restitution for fraudulently received benefits in addition to approximately $10,000 in fines and fees.
Garcia and Becerra were charged in October of 2011 with various counts related to money laundering and fraud. On May 21, 2012, Garcia was sentenced to 3 years probation and Becerra was sentenced to 5 years probation. Garcia pled guilty to two counts of securing the proceeds of an offense and Becerra pled guilty to one count of money laundering and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices.
This joint investigation conducted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Douglas Police Department, and AHCCCS Office of Inspector General centered on allegations that Becerra and Garcia were laundering the proceeds of offenses through their bank accounts while applying for and receiving public benefits such as AHCCCS, food stamps and housing benefits.
This case was prosecuted by the Border Crimes Enforcement Section of the Arizona Attorney General's Office.