2 women guilty of welfare fraud | TheUnion.com

2 women guilty of welfare fraud

A jury found two Grass Valley-area women guilty of welfare fraud Friday in Nevada County Superior Court.

Rochelle J. West, 41, and Ellen M. Pond, 51, were each convicted of welfare fraud. West, also known as Rochelle Spears, was also convicted of perjury, but acquitted of providing false information to obtain aid.

They face sentencing May 24.

West received $21,500 in cash and food stamps between December 1997 and October 1999.

She claimed she sold her business, the Baby Bear Boutique in Grass Valley, to Pond for $10 and assumption of unpaid debts a month before receiving aid, according to Deputy District Attorney Kristin Hackler.

“It was a fairly sophisticated scheme, and we did a lot of putting together bank-account records (and other documents) and cross-referenced them to see what was going on,” Hackler said.

She showed jurors evidence that West continued to operate and receive income from the business, a children’s clothing and toy store which grossed $6,000 the month before the transaction.

Pond, in essence, aided and abetted fraud, Hackler said.

Pond’s lawyer, Susan McGuire of Nevada City, and West’s lawyer, Bruce Cormicle of Santa Monica, couldn’t be reached for comment.

West first came under investigation after an eligibility worker for the Department of Adult and Family Services, which dispenses aid, became suspicious, Hackler said.

Later, a woman who boarded horses at West’s McCourtney Road property reported West admitted to an arrangement that let her receive both business income and government aid. She testified at trial, which included six days of testimony.

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