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Defense alleges welfare fraud at Jackson trial

Suit settlement said unreported

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The mother of Michael Jackson's accuser committed fraud when she did not disclose on a welfare application that her family received money from a $152,000 lawsuit settlement 10 days earlier, a county official testified yesterday at Jackson's child molestation trial.

Jackson's lawyers, who are trying to portray the accuser's family as shakedown artists, also called an accountant to show that the family dined, shopped, and ran up other expenses at a cost of $7,000 to Jackson during a week they were allegedly being held captive.

Mercy Manriquez, an employee of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, testified that she handled the mother's Nov. 15, 2001, application for assistance. The application, signed by the accuser's mother, said the woman had no other sources of income and no assets.

Manriquez testified that a person who willfully excludes sources of income from the forms is committing fraud.

Before the mother testified in the trial, she invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on the welfare issue. Judge Rodney S. Melville, allowed the defense to present records and testimony about it.

The jury was shown checks for $769 each in monthly payments that were deposited in the bank account of the woman's thenboyfriend.

The accountant, Mike Radakovich, said he was hired by the defense to analyze records regarding the $152,000 settlement of a lawsuit against J.C. Penney Co. The accuser's family had sued the department store chain, alleging that they were beaten by security.

The mother's share was $32,307, which was deposited into an account for the benefit of one of her sons, who then had cancer, Radakovich testified.

Within days of the deposit, however, most of the money had been withdrawn, Radakovich said.

Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old male in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol, and conspiring to hold the family captive.

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