OJAI : Cancun Woman Denies Welfare Fraud

A 24-year-old resident of Cancun, Mexico, pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a charge that she fraudulently obtained about $9,000 in welfare payments sent to an Ojai address by Ventura County officials.

Ileana E. Lizama entered the plea in Ventura County Municipal Court. Judge Art Gutierrez scheduled a preliminary hearing for Sept. 29 and appointed the public defender's office to represent Lizama.

Lizama was arrested Friday during a meeting with county officials to discuss her welfare eligibility. Investigators said Lizama, the wife of a Cancun cabdriver, applied for welfare benefits during a brief stay in Ventura County in November. She then returned to Cancun and continued to receive the payments--amounting to about $845 per month--by having them forwarded from an Ojai address, investigators said.

Lizama told Deputy Public Defender Brian L. Boles that she did not need an interpreter at the arraignment Tuesday. Boles asked Gutierrez to lower her bail to $5,000, but the judge decided to keep it at $20,000 at the request of Deputy Dist. Atty. Scott D. Hendrickson.

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