RIVERSIDE – A fraud investigation that began 16 months ago concluded last week with the arrest of two people, bringing the total number of those implicated in the $500,000 child care scheme to seven.
The final two defendants named in the fraud case surrendered Thursday, said police. Alberto Luna, 60, and his wife Camilla Luna, 61, are the father and stepmother of Stephanie Luna Vega, 38, who is being called the ringleader of the alleged scheme. All three are from Riverside.
Vega and another defendant, Esmeralda Garcia Martinez, 37, of Riverside, were both employed by the Riverside County Office of Education, which dispersed child care money.
Vega was in charge of approving and issuing checks through the county to needy families for child care services.
According to the allegations, phony documentation was created for non-existing families to get child care money. According to officials, two defendants lied about their income to qualify for the money.
In his statement to the media, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco said four of the defendants are Vega’s relatives.
Seven defendants will face charges of embezzlement by a public officer, grand theft and conspiracy to commit fraud between a span of eight years, 2001 through 2009.
Other defendants include Sylvia Avila, 61, of San Bernardino; Vega’s sister-in-law Toni Catherine Luna, 39, of Riverside; and Brenda Acosta, 31, of Lake Elsinore. They were arrested Dec. 3.