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Couple enters pleas in welfare fraud; overpayment was $108K

Jose Vallejo1 / 2
Mariana Vallejo2 / 2

WILLMAR -- A Willmar couple entered guilty pleas Wednesday to felony charges of wrongfully obtaining public assistance.

Jose Angel Vallejo, 41, and Mariana Luna Vallejo, 39, entered the pleas in Kandiyohi County District Court. Under plea agreements, two additional felony charges against Jose Vallejo and five additional charges against Mariana Vallejo for violating the declaration requirements for public assistance will be dismissed. They will be sentenced May 5.

When the couple first appeared in court on the charges, they had allegedly collected $42,559.21 in medical assistance funds between August 2006 and December 2008. According to the original complaint, 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 completely ineligible for assistance.

A subsequent investigation by Kandiyohi County Family Services revealed that Jose Vallejo had been receiving bi-weekly payments for worker's compensation since November 1998 and received a lump sum payment of more than $74,000 in February 2005. Between those dates, he received more than $180,000 in worker's compensation payments, but did not report such to family services.

Jose Vallejo said during his plea hearing that he had used the $74,000 payment to pay off $40,000 in mortgage payments and to pay his creditors. When questioned by prosecutor Steven Wentzell, he said there was "nothing left" from the lump sum payment. A recalculation of benefits, based on the worker's compensation benefits, found the couple had received an additional overpayment of $65,877.71 for a total overpayment of public benefits of $108,438.92 between Aug. 1, 2000 and Nov. 1, 2009.

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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