Two employees of the Orange County Social Services Agency (SSA) and the mother of one of them are accused of participating in a fraud scheme that cost taxpayers $150,000.
But only Fereshteh Shafiee, 52, of Mission Viejo, was arrested Wednesday. Her co-worker, Nahid Bijaripour Vakilian, a 55-year-old supervisor with the SSA's In-Home Support Services program who had been living in Lake Forest, is believed to have fled to Iran, according to authorities. Iran is also the first name of Shafiee's 72-year-old mother, who also was not in custody Wednesday and, like Vakilian, has an $150,000 warrant out for her arrest.
Between 2002 and 2010, and while working full-time with Vakilian in the In-Home Support Services (IHSS) program, Fereshteh Shafiee is accused of fraudulently claiming she was also the full-time caretaker for her parents, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
Despite not actually providing care for her parents in their Mission Viejo home, Shafiee allegedly billed the program for 509 hours a month. Keep in mind this was in addition to the 173 hours she spent at her real job at SSA, which would mean in a month with a total of 720 hours, Shafiee worked 682 hours–and she isn't even Mexican! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Vakilian approved Shafiee's caretaker hours, knowing they were fraudulent, and received a $150,000 loan from Shafiee, charges the OCDA. While having no medical condition that would require care, Iran Shafiee allegedly signed fraudulent documentation claiming her daughter was her caretaker and that she worked the hours as billed, prosecutors add.
When the SSA reviewed case files of high-hour caretakers in 2010, inconsistencies were discovered in Fereshteh Shafiee's documents, which were forwarded to the OCDA for investigation, say prosecutors.
She was charged Wednesday with felony counts of misappropriation of public funds and medical insurance fraud with sentencing enhancements and allegations for over $100,00 in loss, property loss over $65,000, and aggravated white collar crime over $100,000. Held on $150,000 bail and an order that she must prove money used to post bond comes from a legal and legitimate source, Shafiee is scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Santa Ana. A conviction could send her to prison for up to eight years.
Vakilian, should she ever be brought to justice, faces the same criminal counts, sentencing enhancements and maximum sentence as Fereshteh Shafiee, whose mother Iran Shafiee is charged with felony medical insurance fraud and the same sentencing enhancements as her daughter. If convicted, she could go to prison for six years.
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.