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Willmar woman sentenced in $68K welfare fraud cases

WILLMAR -- Jesus Elizabeth Vasquez, 32, of Willmar was sentenced to a year and a day of stayed prison time, 10 years of probation and 2,080 hours of community service work on felony charges of aggravated forgery and wrongfully obtaining assistance.

As part of her sentence handed down by Judge Kathryn N. Smith in Kandiyohi County District Court, Vasquez was ordered to pay $68,368.65 in restitution in the case. Under a plea agreement, five additional felony charges were dismissed.

Vasquez and her husband Ovidio Ochoa, 36, of Willmar were charged after an investigation by Kandiyohi County Family Services revealed the couple was collecting public assistance while both worked under false names.

Ochoa also pleaded guilty to two felony charges and will be sentenced Nov. 16.

Ochoa is also known as Israel Torres Marrero or Israel Torres.

Vasquez was using the alias Tatiana Rodriguez Rivera.

According to the welfare fraud complaint, Vasquez applied for and 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 a "friend" named Israel Torres lived in her home.

The man's real identity -- Ochoa -- was not reported to the county.

The investigation revealed both Ochoa and Vasquez worked for Jennie-O Turkey Store under false identities.

Their income was not reported to the county.

The overpayment of welfare benefits totals $68,368.23 from September 2002 to July 2009, the complaint states.

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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