Cleveland social services worker, mother of slain boy get prison time in food stamp fraud case

April 26, 2018 GMT

Cleveland social services worker, mother of slain boy get prison time in food stamp fraud case

CLEVELAND, Ohio --A social services worker embroiled in a food stamp scam along with a woman who is also accused of killing and burying her own son learned Thursday that she will spend time in prison.

Common Pleas Court Judge Nancy Margaret Russo sentenced the mother, Larissa Rodriguez, to six years in prison and the social worker, Nancy Caraballo, to three years in prison for the food stamp scheme that Russo called “selfish” and an affront to taxpayers who help fund services for the less fortunate.


Rodriguez pleaded guilty to trafficking in food stamps, telecommunications fraud, grand theft and money laundering. She also faces charges of aggravated murder along with her boyfriend, Christopher Rodriguez, in the death of her 5-year-old son, Jordan Rodriguez. The trial in that case is set for July 23.

Caraballo pleaded guilty to trafficking in food stamps, grand theft and tampering with records.

Both women agreed to pay a combined $10,000 in restitution to the Department of Jobs and Family Services and to cooperate with investigators into Jordan’s death.

Caraballo told Russo in court that the scheme was Rodriguez’s idea, and she felt like she got brainwashed into thinking she was helping Rodriguez.

“There’s not a day in my life that I don’t live with this pain,” Caraballo said as she cried.

Rodriguez declined to speak.

Russo told Caraballo that she abused her authority in a position of public trust as someone who worked on behalf of taxpayers who themselves may be living paycheck-to-paycheck to feed their families. 

“I don’t understand how you can be in that position and ever think that this was going to be OK,” Russo told her.

Russo called Rodriguez’s actions a “slap in the face” to taxpayers. 

“This money was for your children and you used it for yourself,” Russo said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen someone quite so selfish when it comes to their children.”

Caraballo, a parent educator at an agency contracted with Catholic Charities, was assigned to Rodriguez’s family and served four of her children. Jordan was not one of her clients, her defense attorney said.

Caraballo told investigators during a voluntary interview that she had not seen Jordan for several months before his body was discovered. But her lawyers said in court filings this week that, had she seen any evidence of abuse or neglect, she would have reported it to police.


The scheme began in 2016 and continued until investigators dug up Jordan’s body in December 2017.

Rodriguez received between $800 and $1,000 per month in food stamp benefits for her and her five children. She and Caraballo struck up an arrangement where Rodriguez would leave between $200 and $350 on the card at the end of the month, and Caraballo would give Rodriguez 50 cents for each dollar left on the card.

Rodriguez used the money to pay for her cellphone bills, gasoline and to visit her boyfriend while he was in jail in Medina County, prosecutors said.

Caraballo was supposed to conduct monthly home visits to check on Rodriguez’s children and living conditions and file a report each time. But investigators subpoenaed her cellphone records and compared text messages between Caraballo and Rodriguez to the reports and found that, on at least 12 occasions, Caraballo simply showed up to Rodriguez’s house to pick up the food stamp card, but filed false reports claiming to have inspected the home.

Investigators also found surveillance camera footage of Caraballo using Rodriguez’s card to buy groceries at Sam’s Club, Walmart, Giant Eagle and other stores in Parma and Brooklyn, prosecutors said.

“Benefits to feed children in need -- including one child found murdered and buried in Larissa Rodriguez’s backyard-- instead went to feed Nancy Caraballo and her family,” prosecutors wrote in court records filed this week.

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