Forest Lake couple Eric and Brittany Vacko may have just gotten busted stuffing their bank accounts with about $115,000 more in welfare benefits than they were entitled to over four years.
The crux of the charges against them: the Vackos pretended to be way poorer than they actually were, and then they created imaginary people to attest to the made-up reasons why they could never get jobs.
Eric and Brittany were married in 2009 and had a son. Shortly after, the complaint alleges, the two started to apply for various public assistance benefits.
According to the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, the Vackos insisted they had no jobs, no income and no bank accounts. They lived rent-free with Eric's charitable grandmother in St. Paul, they said.
But it turns out the couple bought and sold cars through Midnight Auto Sales and had a number of bank accounts. And they didn't live in St. Paul. They'd moved to Forest Lake, where the rental application stated that Eric and Brittany were both employed by an auto company.
Midnight Auto Sales is registered to Edward Vacko, Eric's dad, but investigators allege that documents and interviews with witnesses revealed that Eric and Brittany were the ones in charge of day-to-day business.
Meanwhile, the couple's welfare applications painted a picture of complete helplessness. Brittany claimed that she couldn't work because she needed to care for her son, who has a disability. She submitted a letter from doctor to that effect, but investigators say the letter from "Dr. Sara Brandell" contained a small problem: There apparently is no Dr. Sara Brandell.
Eric likewise provided letters from advisers and student counselors at Anoka Technical College testifying that he couldn't work because he needed to study. Those staff people didn't check out either, and investigators say he never even enrolled at the school.
"Through a pattern of deception, the defendants wrongfully obtained at least $115,000 of public assistance for their own economic gain," says John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney. "This type of fraudulent behavior undermines our important safety net programs in our community, and we are committed to investigating and prosecuting it."
The Vackos will appear in court on April 22. If they're found guilty of all the alleged swindling, forgery and perjury, they'll have to pay it all back.
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