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Warrant issued in welfare fraud case

WILLMAR -- An arrest warrant has been issued for a Willmar woman who failed to appear in court Thursday on a charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance.

Jesus Elizabeth Vasquez, 32, is charged for allegedly collecting more than $68,000 in public assistance while also working under a false name. She was scheduled to appear Thursday in Kandiyohi County District Court on the felony charge, plus four additional felony charges of violating the declaration requirements for public assistance.

Vasquez and Ovidio Ochoa, 36, of Willmar, are both charged in the case. He made his first appearance on Sept. 17. Both Ochoa and Vasquez are charged with multiple counts of aggravated forgery and forgery for using false identities to obtain work at Jennie-O Turkey Store and to get identification and driver's licenses from the Department of Vehicle Services. Ochoa is also known as Israel Torres Marrero or Israel Torres, and Vasquez was using the name of Tatiana Rodriguez Rivera.

According to the complaint, Vasquez has 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.

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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