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Couple faces charges for $42K welfare fraud

Jose Vallejo1 / 2
Mariana Vallejo2 / 2

WILLMAR -- A Willmar couple made their first court appearance Thursday on felony charges of wrongfully obtaining assistance - theft for allegedly receiving more than $42,000 in medical assistance funds while they were working and earning up to $5,000 a month.

Jose Angel Vallejo, 41, and Mariana Luna Vallejo, 38, also face additional charges in Kandiyohi County District Court for violating the declaration requirements for public assistance. Unconditional bail was set at $10,000 for both of them. Conditional release was allowed on their personal recognizance. Both are scheduled to make their next court appearance on Oct. 5.

According to the complaint, the couple applied for medical assistance in August 2006 from Kandi-yohi County Family Services . As recipients of assistance, they were obligated to report their income and employment to family services. The complaint notes that they should have been well aware of this obligation as they had received assistance on a regular basis since 1997.

An investigation revealed that both had worked for Labor Choice since October 2006, and that Mariana Vallejo actually was hired by the company to do dispatch work from home. Jose Vallejo assisted her.

The couple received between $3,000 and $5,000 per month from the company, which if reported, made them ineligible for assistance. The overpayment of benefits was $42,559.21 between August 2006 and December 2008.

Both were interviewed by investigators. Mariana Vallejo allegedly admitted she knew she was supposed to report the income, but that if she did, they wouldn't be eligible for the assistance. Jose Vallejo allegedly got upset and tried to take the blame, saying he didn't want the authorities to "go after his wife."

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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