CORONA: Woman arrested, accused of misusing EBT cards, running illegal store-front at apartment

Corona Police and DPSS officials teamed up to investigate and arrest Lizeth Cortez, who they allege was running an illegal store-front from her Corona apartment using stolen merchandise.

CORONA — City of Corona Police and Department of Public Social Services officials teamed up recently to investigate and arrest a woman they claim was stealing store merchandise with the intention of reselling it.

Officials also allege the woman was misusing State Electronic Benefit Transfer Cards or “EBT’s” for personal use.

The investigation began June 20, when officers with the Corona Police Department arrested three adults for a grand theft that occurred at a Corona area Vons grocery store at 369 Magnolia Avenue in Corona.

During that initial investigation, officers arrested three adults, including a woman who officials identified as Lizeth Cortez, 29, of Corona.

The three suspects were arrested for allegedly stealing over one thousand dollars in store merchandise that consisted of laundry detergent, hygienic soap, baby formula, cleaning supplies, bathroom sundries and other household and childcare essentials.

Detectives determined the suspects were selling the stolen items from their apartment complex in Corona. Detectives also learned Cortez was accepting State EBT cards as payment for the stolen store items and that she and others were misusing the EBT cards for personal use.

Because EBT cards are a component of the State of California’s welfare system, Corona PD detectives requested assistance from Riverside County’s Department of Public Social Services’ Special Investigation Unit.

After a lengthy investigation, on Aug. 3 detectives and DPSS officials served a search warrant at Cortez’ residence, at the Jasmine Springs Apartments in the 900 block of Rimpau Avenue in Corona.

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During the service of the search warrant, detectives located an illegal store-front operation consisting of personal hygiene products and other stolen items.

Authorities seized the suspected stolen items, which they say had an estimated retail value of over $17,000. Officials also located and seized numerous, misappropriated, EBT cards in Cortez’ possession.

Based on their investigation, officials arrested Cortez. She was later booked into jail on suspicion of identity theft, possession of stolen property, illegal possession of state benefit cards and conspiracy to commit theft.

After Cortez’ arrest, Susan Von Zabern, Director of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services explained, “Our County has an active team that investigates all incidences of fraud in our social services programs. We are pleased today to have teamed up with Corona Police Department to identify a perpetrator who is misusing social services that takes away from the truly needy in our County.”

“Perpetrators who commit these crimes pick the pockets of every taxpayer,” Von Zabern continued, “and we will continue to work tirelessly to combat any and all types of fraud.”

Anyone with information about this investigation or any suspected fraud is encouraged to contact the Corona Police Department at (951) 736-2330. Callers can remain anonymous.

 

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 13 – soon to be 14 – grandchildren.

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