Fraud charges filed against mother of Michael Jackson's accuser

Wednesday, August 24th 2005, 8:33 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The woman whose son accused Michael Jackson of child molestation could face her own criminal trial on welfare fraud charges.

The woman was charged Tuesday with four felony counts of ``perjury by false application for aid'' and one count of ``aid by misrepresentation,'' a violation of the state welfare code.

Prosecutors say she collected nearly $19,000 in welfare payments while hiding the fact she had received a $150,000 settlement from a department store chain she sued and failing to report $637 her boyfriend gave her for rent.

At Jackson's trial, which ended in June with his acquittal, the woman refused to testify about the welfare matter, invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Jackson lawyer Tom Mesereau said of the welfare-related charges, ``In light of the evidence at the trial, I'm not surprised. This is certainly warranted.''

The Associated Press is withholding her name to protect the identity of her son. She has an unlisted phone number and could not be reached for comment.

A criminal complaint filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Bureau of Fraud and Corruption Prosecutions said authorities learned of the fraud allegations through a tip from a private investigator. Authorities said they received the tip on Feb. 2, 2005, just before the Jackson trial began.

The mother of Jackson's accuser was a key witness for the prosecution. Many jurors said her lack of credibility on the witness stand was a major factor in their verdicts of not guilty.

The district attorney's office recommended bail of $50,000 for the woman, who is scheduled to surrender to authorities and be arraigned Sept. 7.

Each perjury charge carries a potential sentence of two to four years in prison. The welfare code violation carries a potential sentence of 16 months to three years.

At the trial, Mesereau portrayed the woman and her family as money hungry grifters who had attached themselves to celebrities before. He said they invented accusations against Jackson in an effort to pull ``the biggest con of their careers.''

The complaint said that between Nov. 15, 2001 and March 31, 2003, the woman received $18,782 in welfare aid to which she was not entitled.