Warrant issued for woman accused of wrongfully obtaining welfare

Published 10:00 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

A warrant is out for an Austin woman who, along with her husband, allegedly received more than $30,000 in welfare benefits for three years while not properly reporting wages.

Natividad Mercado-Quetzecua, 43, faces two counts of aggravated felony forgery and a third felony count for wrongfully obtaining assistance.

The Mower County Department of Human Services originally requested local authorities look into the possibility of fraud last August. DHS was questioning Mercado-Quetzecua’s ability to support a number of people on small welfare earnings.

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Mower DHS Director Julie Stevermer said previously that, due to privacy regulations, she couldn’t discuss the particular case, but said the office is required by the state to report cases that could reasonably be considered fraud.

The referral led to a January search of 1011 Sixth Ave. N.E., which revealed nine people in the home at the time with 31 aliases, including various driver’s licenses and Social Security cards.

One of the people found to be using an alias, Romeo Gonzalez, 27, has also been charged with two counts of felony forgery. A warrant is out for his arrest.

The period in question for the alleged welfare fraud is 2004-2006, when the household had employment records and didn’t report $164,487 in earnings.

During that time, the two earned $30,964 in welfare payments, according to authorities.

A court complaint states that Mercado-Quetzecua and her husband, Heliodoro Silva Mercado, had been working at Quality Pork Processors using aliases.

The complaint also indicates that Mercado-Quetzecua had told DHS that only two other adults and three children lived at the residence with her — not including her husband, who she claimed had moved back to Mexico.