MODESTO -- A judge on Tuesday ordered a former Stanislaus County sheriff's lieutenant to stand trial, but reduced his criminal charges from felonies to two misdemeanor counts of welfare fraud.
Mario Cisneros is accused of defrauding $833 from the county's In-Home Supportive Services program. Authorities say Cisneros fraudulently claimed payment for the care he provided his mother, who had suffered a stroke.
The county program pays caretakers $9.38 an hour for providing care to people who need help at home, such as getting in and out of bed, getting groceries, picking up medical prescriptions or going to the doctor.
In Cisneros' preliminary hearing, welfare fraud investigator Martha Gutierrez testified that she questioned Josefina Cisneros at her home. Gutierrez said suspicions were raised when Cisneros' mother couldn't be specific about when her son provided the in-home care.
Investigators conducted surveillance at Josefina Cisneros' north Modesto home over several months, using five camera positions to monitor who went in and out of the home.
Gutierrez testified that Cisneros claimed he spent nearly 100 hours taking care of his mother, but he was not at the home during that time. She said the defendant's mother would get groceries and do other routine tasks on her own.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing ended Tuesday morning before Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden made her ruling. The judge said a felony charge has to stem from a claimed theft of at least $950. McFadden reduced Cisneros' charges to misdemeanor counts of filing a fraudulent report with the intent to defraud and filing a fraudulent claim.
McFadden scheduled Cisneros to return to court Nov. 30 for a pretrial hearing so the attorneys can agree to a plea deal or proceed to scheduling a trial date.
If Cisneros had been convicted on the felony charges, he would have faced a maximum sentence of five years of incarceration. If Cisneros is convicted of the misdemeanor charges, he could face six months to a year in jail.
The defendant had worked for the Sheriff's Department for 20 years when he was charged with the crimes. He no longer works there.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.