- The Washington Times - Monday, May 23, 2005

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

The singer’s attorneys, who are trying to portray the accuser’s family as shakedown artists, also called an accountant to show that the family members dined, shopped and ran up other expenses at a cost of $7,000 to Mr. Jackson during a week they said they were being held captive by him.

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

Miss 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 and was not required to talk about it. However, Judge Rodney S. Melville allowed the defense to present records and testimony about it to jurors.

The jury was shown checks for $769 each in monthly payments that were deposited in the bank account of the woman’s boyfriend. The two have since married.

The accountant, Mike Radakovich, said he was hired by the defense to analyze records regarding the settlement of a lawsuit against J.C. Penney Co. Inc. The accuser’s family had sued the department store chain, complaining of being beaten by security guards.

Mr. Radakovich said portions of the $152,000 settlement went to the woman’s three children, to her former husband and toward attorneys’ fees.

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, Mr. Radakovich testified. The boy would become Mr. Jackson’s accuser.

Within days, however, Mr. Radakovich said, most of the money had been withdrawn and was used toward a cashier’s check for $29,000 written to a Ford dealership.

The mother testified previously in the trial that she considered buying a car with the money but did not. There was no evidence that the check was cashed.

Mr. Jackson, 46, is accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy in February or March 2003, giving him alcohol and conspiring to hold the boy’s family members captive to get them to make a video rebutting a damaging TV documentary about the pop star.

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