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Jackson accuser's mom charged with fraud

Woman allegedly obtained more than $18,000 in welfare payments


Michael Jackson

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- The mother of the teenage boy who accused Michael Jackson of sexual molestation was charged Tuesday with five felony counts of welfare fraud.

Jackson was acquitted of all charges in June.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges the mother fraudulently obtained nearly $18,800 in welfare payments between November 2001 and March 2003. The complaint accuses her of failing to disclose to welfare workers, on four separate applications, that she and her family received money from a civil suit settlement and had help paying rent.

She was charged with one count of obtaining aid by misrepresentation and four counts of perjury for making false applications for aid.

An arraignment was set for September 7. CNN is withholding the woman's name so as not to identify her minor son.

Also Tuesday, Jackson's lead defense attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., told CNN that his strategy of getting the mother on the witness stand to challenge her credibility was almost derailed when "certain individuals" prematurely reported the alleged fraud to welfare officials.

"I later learned that for weeks she refused to testify after learning of the complaint," Mesereau said. "Fortunately, the (Santa Barbara County District Attorney's) office spent weeks convincing her to take the stand."

"God was with us."

Why the defense liked this prosecution witness

A key prosecution witness, the mother of Jackson's accuser was called upon to bolster a charge that the pop star and his associates conspired to control and intimidate her family after the airing of a February 2003 documentary featuring Jackson and her son. She was on the stand for parts of five days, longer than any other witness in the three-month trial.

Jackson's defense attorneys, who painted the mother as the manipulative, money-grubbing force behind false allegations against the pop star, repeatedly brought up the welfare fraud allegations in front of the jury.

Many of the jurors said they didn't think her testimony was credible and were put off by her demeanor, which included making offhand comments and snapping her fingers. The jury acquitted Jackson of all 10 charges against him.

She was allowed to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and not answer questions related to the welfare fraud investigation after prosecutors refused to grant her immunity.

Mesereau told CNN on Tuesday that after questioning the woman for three-hours in a pretrial hearing, "I knew she would be a disaster for the prosecution."

"I wanted her to take that witness stand, so I could cross-examine her. I did not want anyone to report her to the welfare authorities until the trial was over," he said.

However, Mesereau said "certain individuals went behind my back and reported her, anyway. In my opinion, this was a supreme act of incompetence and had the potential for severely hurting the defense."

He did not identify who reported the allegations or how the defense might have known about the alleged fraud before welfare officials learned of it.

However, family attorney Brian Oxman -- who had an angry exchange with Mesereau after leaving the defense team in the middle of the trial -- told CNN on Tuesday that he collected the information about the accuser's mother.

He said another attorney assisting the defense team then turned over the material to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office "at Michael's direction, because it's what Michael wanted done."

The complaint filed Tuesday against the mother revealed that an unidentified private investigator tipped off welfare officials on February 2, 2005, less than a month before testimony began in Jackson's trial.

Trial testimony revealed that the mother applied for, and began receiving, welfare benefits without disclosing that she and her family had received a $150,000 settlement in a civil suit against J.C. Penney Co. Inc. That suit alleged that security guards had beaten up the family.

A welfare case worker testified that disclosure of the settlement would have affected their eligibility.

Also during the trial, the woman's husband, who was her boyfriend at the time of the alleged welfare fraud, testified that he had paid rent on her apartment after she deposited welfare checks in his account.

Mesereau on Tuesday said he was not surprised at the charges filed against the woman, "particularly in light of the testimony during the trial."

CNN's Dree DeClamecy contributed to this report.

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