PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced the sentencing of a Phoenix husband and wife who engaged in the unlawful use of food stamps. George Cortez and Robin Cortez were sentenced to 6 months in jail, 3 years supervised probation, and ordered to pay more than $94,038 to the State of Arizona. George and Robin Cortez both pled guilty to two counts of unlawful use of food stamps and one count of fraudulent schemes and artifices following an investigation by the Arizona Department of Economic Security and its Office of Inspector General.
“Anyone who lies to obtain public benefits is stealing from the taxpayers of Arizona,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “This is a great example of the partnership we’ve built between our office and DES."
"This case illustrates my steadfast insistence that DES will continue to vigorously fight to protect the integrity of the programs we administer,” said DES Director Timothy Jeffries. “We will not let criminals steal money from those who are in dire need of benefits. The amount recovered is significant. I am gratified these individuals will serve time for the crimes they committed. Justice has truly been served."
In 2010, George Cortez applied for food stamps and AHCCCS benefits for himself and his two children. In the applications, he claimed that his wife, Robin Cortez, lived in a separate residence. As a result, Robin Cortez’s income was not used to determine eligibility for benefits. Several years later, DES received an anonymous tip that George and Robin lived together and likely were ineligible for benefits. An investigation revealed that Robin Cortez lived in the same home as George Cortez and that her income made the family ineligible for benefits. The evidence in this case included:
- Lease agreements signed by both George and Robin Cortez
- MVD records
- Neighbors’ statements
- Coworkers’ statements
- Facebook photos that depicted the Cortez family on vacations at SeaWorld and LegoLand
- Home surveillance
- Robin Cortez’s admission
Robin Cortez was indicted because she authored letters that she signed as George Cortez’s purported landlord. These letters were submitted in support of George Cortez’s applications.
"I am extremely proud of the investigators who worked this case,” said DES Inspector General Juan Arcellana. “Their dedication and diligence are exemplary. The Office of Inspector General will continue its tireless efforts to investigate fraud and protect those in need."
George and Robin Cortez are both jointly and severally liable for $94,038.95: $23,856.00 to DES and $70,182.95 to AHCCCS. George Cortez was remanded into custody after his sentencing. Robin Cortez will also serve 6 months in jail, which will commence on September 1, 2016. The court staggered the jail terms so that each parent could care for the children while the other is in jail.
Assistant Attorney General Michelle Hogan prosecuted this case.
For additional information, members of the media may contact Mia Garcia, Director of Media Relations at (602) 339-5895 or Mia.Garcia@azag.gov.
Full copy of the Plea Agreement.