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Man charged for $68K in welfare fraud worked under false name

WILLMAR -- A 36-year-old Willmar man made his first court appearance Thursday on a felony charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance for allegedly collecting more than $68,000 in public assistance while also working under a false name.

Unconditional bail was set at $30,000 for Ovidio Ochoa, who is also known as Israel Torres Marrero or Israel Torres.

Conditional release was allowed on his personal recognizance, provided he remain living in Kandiyohi County and check in with probation officials at least three times a week.

His next appearance is Oct. 15.

According to the complaint, Jesus Elizabeth Vasquez, 32, of Willmar, applied for an obtained public assistance for herself and a daughter since 2002. She claimed the father of the child lived in Honduras. As a recipient of welfare benefits, she was obligated to report employment, income and household composition to family services officials.

She claimed that a "friend" named Israel Torres lived in her home. The man's real identity, as Ochoa, who was her husband, was not reported to the county.

An investigation revealed that both Ochoa and Vasquez worked for Jennie-O Turkey Store under false identities. Their income was not reported to the county.

Both were interviewed by investigators and allegedly admitted to lying about their relationship. Ochoa allegedly said they did so to "get ahead." The overpayment of welfare benefits totals $68,368.23 from September 2002 to July 2009, the complaint says.

Vasquez is also charged with five felony charges, for wrongfully obtaining assistance and failure to meet assistance declaration requirements. Her first appearance on the welfare fraud charges is Oct. 1. She is also known as Tatiana Rodriguez Rivera.

Both Ochoa and Vasquez are charged with multiple counts of aggravated forgery and forgery for using false identities to obtain work at Jennie-O and to get identification and driver's licenses from the Department of Vehicle Services.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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