Bernalillo, N.M., Woman Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Wal-Mart and Other Major Retailers
ALBUQUERQUE – Veronica Benavidez, 38, of Bernalillo, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to a federal wire fraud charge under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
During her plea hearing, Benavidez entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging her with wire fraud. The information alleged that from Jan. 2010 through Dec. 2010, Benavidez engaged in a scheme to defraud major retailers, primarily Wal-Mart stores located throughout the country and outside of New Mexico, by falsely claiming that she purchased merchandise from the stores which was mistakenly sent to other customers. Benavidez then requested and obtained refunds for merchandise that she had not purchased and to which she was not entitled. To perpetuate the scheme, Benavidez requested refunds in her own name and several others and requested that the refunds be sent to various locations in New Mexico, including Albuquerque and Rio Rancho, in the form of MoneyGram wire transfers and Wal-Mart pre-paid money cards. As a result of Benavidez’s illegal scheme, retailers transferred approximately $12,599.58 to Benavidez in New Mexico.
In her plea agreement, Benavidez admitted perpetuating the scheme described in the felony information. She also admitted using cell phones to contact the stores to fraudulently claim refunds. More specifically, Benavidez admitted using cell phones to make 26 calls to 26 stores between Jan. 12, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2010, and receiving approximately $12,599.58 in fraudulent refunds.
At sentencing, Benavidez faces a maximum possible sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The plea agreement requires that Benavidez make full restitution to the victims of her criminal conduct, which is estimated at $39,331.70. Benavidez’s sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary L. Higgins.