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Pennock couple charged with welfare fraud, perjury

WILLMAR -- A Pennock couple made their first court appearances Thursday on welfare fraud and perjury charges for allegedly collecting more than $27,000 in state benefits while they owned property and received workers compensation and Social Security payments.

Norma Vallejo Hernandez, 43, and Rafael Hernandez-Rubio, 42, both face one charge of wrongfully obtaining assistance and seven perjury counts in Kandiyohi County District Court. Both were released on their personal recognizance and make their next appearance on Jan. 24.

According to the complaints against the couple, they had applied for and received public assistance since 1992. As recipients of assistance, they were obligated to report employment, assets and income to Kandiyohi County Family Services.

In June 2010, county officials received a tip that the couple had owned property in Murray County since July 2006. It was determined that they did own the property in Iona, and that it was a "countable" asset that would make the couple completely ineligible for benefits. The property was not reported to family services.

According to Murray County property tax records, the couple owns a home at 550 Main Street which has a taxable market value of $15,100.

The investigation also revealed that the couple had failed to report workers compensation received by Hernandez-Rubio from January to March 2007, with a final payment of $46,976.22, and a Social Security lump sum payment of $38,684 in February 2009.

The total overpayment of food support and health care benefits was $27,317.63. The couple also each signed seven documents from January 2008 to March 2010 without disclosing the assets and income.

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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