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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- A 35-year-old Willmar woman made her first court appearance Thursday on 14 felony charges for allegedly claiming more than $8,000 in welfare benefits while her husband worked for several Willmar companies.


Dora Elizabeth Sorto faces one charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance and 13 counts of perjury. She was released on her personal recognizance. Her next appearance in Kandiyohi County District Court is Feb. 14.

According to the complaint, Sorto has received public assistance from Kandiyohi County Family Services since 2003. She and Merlin Joel Sorto, 26, had a child in 2006 and at that time she claimed he couldn't work because he was in the country illegally.

A warrant has been issued for Merlin Joel Sorto's arrest as he faces 10 felony charges, also for wrongfully obtaining assistance and perjury and for aggravated forgery.

An investigation revealed that Merlin Sorto had worked for Jennie-O Turkey Store, The Work Connection, G and S Staffing and Lakeside Foods, all in Willmar. That income was not reported to family services, resulting in an overpayment of food support benefits of $8,855.

The couple was interviewed and allegedly admitted to not reporting Merlin Sorto's income. The perjury charges are for signing public assistance documents between February 2008 and February 2009.