Agency Culpable In Child Support Scam by Wendy McElroy

© 2004 Wendy McElroy

Reproduced with permission of the author


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Fox News

December 17, 2004 — Last week, Viola Trevino carried her 5-year-old "daughter" into an Albuquerque court to satisfy a judge's demand to produce the child.

Complications arose.

One: Trevino had kidnapped the child moments before to pass off as her daughter.

Two: the "real" daughter never existed.

Three: the "father" and ex-husband Steve Barreras had paid $20,000 in child support.

Four: the system finally noticed Trevino was lying.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has asked the state's Human Services Department for a full report.

Specifically, he wants to know how several government agencies became not only unwitting partners in the fraud, but also resisted efforts to correct it.

Gov. Richardson deserves a tip of the hat for taking responsibility. The official response to child support or welfare debacles is usually silence.

Sometimes a finger of accusation is pointed at specific individuals as though the abuse resulted from a few "bad apples" in an otherwise clean barrel. Richardson is acknowledging there is a problem with the system itself.

The system is broken. In recent years, heartbreaking stories from every state have flooded the media. Often they focus on the plight of children who are abused or neglected by those assigned to protect them. But just as often they highlight the abuse of parents — especially non-custodial fathers — who are processed as paperwork, not people.

With Trevino, several government agencies processed papers. Trevino falsified a paternity test by using a sample from an adult daughter who is Barreras' child and then had a family friend process it at the lab. On the basis of the test, Trevino obtained a court order for child support.

Trevino also obtained a Social Security card, a Medicare card and a birth certificate for the "daughter."

When a fraud is so blatant, there is a tendency to blame the victim for somehow facilitating his or her own victimhood. But Barreras, who works as a corrections officer in law enforcement, attempted repeatedly to expose the fraud and to protect himself.

His petition for a restraining order was denied. Evidence that his vasectomy, conducted a year prior to the child's "birth," had left him with a zero sperm count, was ignored. Phoning and writing to New Mexico's child support agency to have them verify his daughter's non-existence resulted in a letter. The child enforcement worker stated, "your daughter does exist, as I am sure you already knew."

Barreras went so far as to hire a private investigator to expose the scam. Indeed, without his persistent refusal to be victimized, the fraud would have probably never come to light. It would have remained just one more injustice tucked away and protected by the system's closed file.

Richard Farr of the family-oriented KRightsRadio has spearheaded an investigation of the matter. [For an interview on this topic with Barreras' second wife, click here. ] Farr calls the case "an egregious example of an overzealous child support agency who apparently ignored the alleged father's repeated cries...Unfortunately, too many child support agencies are virtually accountable to no one."

Reports from an investigative journalist at KOBTV, Albuquerque, finally brought enough pressure to bear that Trevino was ordered to produce the child in court. On the day of her hearing, Trevino went to a mall, where she convinced a grandmother and her 2-year-old granddaughter that they should all go to see Santa Claus. Instead, Trevino took them to the courthouse, snatched the girl, and tried to pass her off as the missing daughter.

The panicked grandmother could not keep up with Trevino and got left behind in the parking lot. She stated: "I thought I was never going to see my baby girl again. It's the scariest thing."

Gov. Richardson's question keeps rising: How could this happen?

A partial explanation is that the child welfare system seems to automatically favor the claims of custodial mothers over non-custodial fathers.

Consider one scenario. A custodial mother swears under oath to have given birth and perhaps provides false documents. In many states, if she also swears that the absent father is violent, her statement can result in a restraining order that de facto terminates the father's visitation rights. If a subsequent order to pay child support is delivered to an invalid address, which is often provided by the mother, then the father may not respond within the window of time provided for a protest. Now he must pay, go to jail or endure a process similar to the one Barreras suffered.

But why did the child support enforcement system not follow up despite complaints? Farr suggests an answer:

"[S]ome officials see child support agencies as revenue-generating agencies. States make money off the collection of child support while the taxpayers lose money at the federal level overall. Too often, this money-mindedness does not give incentives for agencies to do the right thing for children and families."

The stakes are higher than money, however. If Barreras had fallen behind in support payments, he would have been sent to jail. His life might have been destroyed.

Barreras is reportedly suing to recover the $20,000. There is some indication he may also sue other individuals who "perpetuated" the fraud. According to Barreras' attorney: "the parties that were involved in this fraud will be sought. We've played defense. Now, it's time to play offense."

It's about time.


Wendy McElroy is the editor of and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century. She lives with her husband in Canada.


Mother of child that never existed gets 18 months in prison from federal judge by Richard Farr


© 2006 KRights Radio

October 5, 2006 — A U.S. Federal Judge handed down an 18 month sentence to Viola Trevino, the woman who received $20,000 from Steve Barreras in child support for a child that never existed.

In an elaborate scheme, which included false DNA and a birth certificate obtained with fraudulent documents from the New Mexico Bureau of Vital Statics, Viola Trevino's day in court finally came. The sad irony of the story is she was allowed to continue her reign of fraud through the incompetence of family court judge Debera Davis Walker.

There is no doubt that if Judge Walker had properly heard all the evidence, Viola Trevino would have been stopped years ago. But like most family law judges in America today, who regularly refuse to hear evidence and routinely ignore the right of due process for the litigants.

Such as in this case. The documentation that Steve Barreras was unable to conceive because of a vasectomy and, amazingly, Viola Trevino had undergone a tubal ligation in the 1970s. This crucial evidence was never allowed to be heard by Judge Walker even though Steve had tried in earlier court hearings.

It is a tragedy to think that if Viola had not committed federal income tax fraud, she would still be running the streets and committing crimes against the Barreras as well as members of her own family. Viola had become immune to prosecution by the New Mexico Civil system because her trial would have not only exposed her fraud, but would have ultimately brought a view into another level of corruption and culpability within the state of New Mexico.

But lets not single out New Mexico. What we have seen in this case is only the tip of the real beast that is now trying to strangle and destroy not just the American noncustodial parent but is undermining the very essence of American justice. If nothing else the tale of Viola Trevino and the child that never existed is just another brick in the road to federal investigations.

You would think that the story would end here, but it continues. After a meeting in March 2005, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson committed to see that Steve Barreras would be repaid. Nothing has been seen or heard since from the New Mexico Child Support Enforcement Agency.



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| Chapter 7 — Paternity Fraud Epidemic |

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Added February 1, 2006

Last modified 4/11/15