Two claims examiners in the unit, Ernesto Cardenas and Carmen Lieras, were charged with misdemeanor counts of receiving gratuities for performing official acts. A third employee, Elsa Garcia, was charged with a felony count of receiving bribes. Ben and Elva Medina, owners of Ben Medina and Associates Interpreting Services, were charged with felony counts of giving and offering bribes to the employees.
The charges were filed as a result of a Department of Justice investigation requested by DWC.
"We became very concerned last summer when one of our claims examiners reported receiving a check in a greeting card from Ben Medina and Associates Interpreting Services," said Casey L. Young, administrative director of DWC. "A similar incident occurred with a DWC supervisor in early 1992, who advised Medina at that time, in no uncertain terms, that offering or receiving such payments was inappropriate.
"However, when the second check was reported over a year later, it became apparent this was not an isolated incident," Young continued. "We ordered our claims examiners to stop using the Medina interpreting service, and requested an investigation by the Department of Justice to determine whether any of our employees had been accepting payments. This investigation, which is continuing, led to the criminal charges that have been filed against the three DWC employees."
All three employees were immediately placed on administrative leave when the criminal charges were filed, he said, adding that internal procedures are being reviewed to prevent this from ever happening again.