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Willmar woman hit with felony charges for welfare fraud

WILLMAR -- Isabelle Ruiz, 36, of Willmar, made her first appearance Thursday on four felony charges of wrongfully obtaining assistance and failing to meet public assistance declaration requirements for claiming $34,687.25 in benefits while her husband worked under a false name.

Ruiz was released on her personal recognizance. Her next appearance in Kandiyohi County District Court is April 11.

According to the complaint, Ruiz has received public assistance the past 18 years and knew the responsibilities of reporting household members' income, addresses and living expenses.

In October, officials with Kandiyohi County Family Services began an investigation that revealed Raul Alberto Deras Melgar was the father of two of Ruiz's children. Ruiz allegedly failed to report that he was the father of the children and that he lived with her from February 2004 to September 2010.

She claimed the father was Juan Manuel Vazquez Monserrate and that he was in Honduras.

The investigation revealed Deras Melgar was married to Ruiz and using the Monserrate name to work at Jennie-O Turkey Store in Willmar and at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in Renville.

Investigators used the man's employment records to determine Ruiz was overpaid $34,687.25 during the six-year period.

Ruiz also signed three assistance documents on July 1, 2008, Oct. 7, 2009 and April 24, 2010, failing to list Deras Melgar as a household member.

On Feb. 2, a CEE-VI Drug Task Force agent stopped a vehicle whose registered owner had a revoked driver's license. The owner was listed as Juan Manuel Vazquez Monserrate. The driver gave his name as Raul Alberto Deras Melgar; the passenger was identified as Ruiz. The man later allegedly admitted using the Monserrate name for work and being married to Ruiz for three years.

Deras Melgar pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a felony charge of aggravated forgery for using the false name. His next appearance is June 6.

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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