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Fraud Nets 16 Month Sentence

 The Albuquerque Journal, U.S.A., by Carolyn Carlson, Journal Staff Writer, Friday, October 6, 2006

A woman who orchestrated an elaborate ruse using fake DNA and forged Social Security, birth and baptismal records to create an imaginary child received 16 months in federal prison Thursday for filing a false tax return.

Viola Trevino, 53, murmured to U.S. District Judge M. Christina Armijo that she would rather have five years' probation so she can be employed in order to begin restitution payments to the Internal Revenue Service and to her ex-husband Steve Barreras. She owes more than $2,000 to the IRS and more than $26,000 to Barreras. "I do have to pay this money back ... That is the most important thing," Trevino said to Armijo. "I am really sorry for everything that has happened."

Trevino's public defender Alonzo Padilla argued that justice would be served if Trevino received probation instead of 10 to 16 months in prison. He said Trevino has a long employment history and would not have trouble finding a job. Armijo did not agree. "I feel her employment history is negligible," Armijo said. She said incarceration is appropriate. "I can't ignore the fact that you have lived a life of deception for many, many years," Armijo said. "In the interest of justice, you must be held accountable for your actions."

Trevino was taken into U.S. Marshal custody immediately following the sentencing. Shelly Barreras, the current wife of Trevino's ex-husband, was in the courtroom and said the prison sentence is good news. "At least we will have 16 months of peace," she said. "We figured with her luck, she would just get probation."

Trevino was indicted in May on six counts of filing a false return, according to court documents.The documents say she filed fraudulent returns for the years 1999 through 2004, claiming an imaginary child, Stephanie R. Trevino, as a dependent.

Trevino received more than $20,000 in tax refunds during those years, much of it through the head of household deductions, earned income and child tax credits. Trevino pleaded guilty to one count and will have to pay the IRS back more than $2,200 plus interest and penalties. In addition, she will have to pay her ex-husband more than $26,000 in child support, lawyer's fees and other costs. The bizarre case began when Trevino and Steve Barreras were legally divorced in August 1999. No minor children or pregnancy were mentioned in divorce papers. They had two children who were older than 18.

Court records show Trevino had a tubal ligation in 1978 and Barreras had a vasectomy in 1998. In December 1999, Trevino was in court asking for child support and told the judge she had given birth to Barreras' child in September. To persuade a Children's Court judge to order the child support payments, Trevino concocted fake DNA evidence and forged documents to obtain a Social Security number and birth and baptismal certificates, court records show.

They also show that both DNA tests ordered by the courts were done by a friend of the couple's daughter, who might have provided the DNA for the paternity tests. Because of the DNA matches, the Child Enforcement Division garnisheed Steve Barreras' paycheck for child support. In December 2004, state District Court Judge Linda Vanzi ordered Trevino to physically produce the child in court.

But instead, Trevino picked up a 2-year-old girl and her grandmother from a South Valley street, promising them a trip to see Santa Claus, lunch and $50. Trevino took the child into Vanzi's courtroom, leaving the grandmother in the car. When the grandmother followed her into court, Trevino had to admit that the child was not hers. Vanzi ruled Stephanie Trevino did not exist.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Thursday her office is waiting for Read More ..formation from other state agencies involved in the case in order to file charges.

In April 2005, Gov. Bill Richardson said child welfare workers must sign affidavits saying they have actually seen the children they work with. Richardson called this "one of the most egregious examples of a bureaucracy abuse and negligence" he had ever heard of.