Plea deal in ex-lieutenant's welfare case denied

01/07/2013 11:15 AM

06/26/2013 2:29 PM

The Stanislaus County district attorney's office has rejected a plea deal offer from an attorney representing a former sheriff's lieutenant ordered to stand trial on 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 caregivers $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 prescriptions or going to the doctor.

Robert Forkner, Cisneros' defense attorney, on Monday morning told the judge the district attorney's office rejected his proposal for a plea deal.

After the hearing, Forkner said his offer would have resulted in Cisneros paying some type of restitution to the county, which is a typical punishment for a misdemeanor charge.

"Any citizen would get a civil compromise," Forkner said. "For some reason, Mr. Cisneros is being singled out."

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden scheduled the attorneys to return to court Jan. 29 for another pretrial hearing, in hopes there can be some resolution in this case. The judge has not scheduled a start date for the trial.

Initially, prosecutors filed felony charges of welfare fraud against Cisneros. At the conclusion of his preliminary hearing in early November, McFadden reduced Cisneros' charges to misdemeanors based on the evidence presented.

The defendant had worked for the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for 20 years when he was charged with the crimes. Cisneros has since left the department.

Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or (209) 578-2394.

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