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Two St. James women charged with welfare fraud; investigators say $23k in benefits obtained illegally

(St. James, MN) – Two St. James women are facing criminal charges, accused of illegally obtaining welfare benefits from Watonwan County.

Fifty-year-old Elvia Flores Rivas was charged Monday in Watonwan County Court with felony counts of wrongfully obtaining assistance and making a false declaration for public assistance.

According to the criminal complaint, a medical assistance worker requested a fraud investigation on Rivas after she reported to her caseworker she pays a $500 mortgage and other bills but has no income.

An investigation revealed that Rivas’ ex-husband, Juan Flores Resendez, has lived with her in her 2nd Avenue home since 2003.  Flores Resendez has been employed at Tony Downs Foods since 1994.  Rivas admitted to police that her ex has lived in the home with her since 2003.  She failed to report their living situation to her caseworker on multiple applications dated back to 2014, according to the complaint.

Court documents say Rivas obtained nearly $20,000 in public benefits for which she was not entitled.

In another matter, 20-year-old Petrona Ha Juarez was also charged Monday in Watonwan County Court with felony wrongfully obtaining assistance.

According to the complaint, an investigation was started because Juarez never returned a request for financial information sent by the county workers.

During an interview with Juarez, investigators learned her boyfriend and child’s father live with her and the child.  Both adults were working at Smithfield Foods in St. James under false names using false social security numbers, according to court documents.

The criminal complaint says both Juarez and her boyfriend waived benefits available to them through their employer.  Juarez received nearly $4,000 in public assistance for which she wasn’t eligible, according to the complaint.

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