A mother and daughter accused of welfare fraud will have separate trials in Franklin County Superior Court in case they need to be called as witnesses in each other's trials.
Maria R. Martinez, 45, of Pasco, and Belen Alejandra Castro, 21, of Yakima, are accused of lying to the state to get more than $5,000 in food stamps.
Martinez and Castro allegedly filled out forms that said they were not working and had no income, even though Martinez was working for the state Department of Social and Health Services at the time, court documents said.
Martinez worked as a financial services specialist in Yakima and Pasco from March 2009 to March 2010, documents said.
Martinez faces a Sept. 19 trial for first-degree theft by welfare fraud, two counts of second-degree perjury and trafficking in food stamps.
Deputy Prosecutor Teddy Chow added aggravating factors to the welfare fraud theft, alleging Martinez used her position of trust, confidence or fiduciary responsibility to commit the crime.
Chow also sought to join the two cases because Castro is charged with the same four counts and the same witnesses are expected to testify in both cases.
"These two matters are factually nearly identical," he said. "Ms. Martinez was an employee for DSHS, and she was working at the time at the welfare office and applied for benefits."
Chow said Martinez is accusing her daughter of signing one of the forms that said they qualified for benefits, but the investigation showed the signature is Martinez's, he said.
Martinez's attorney, Moe Spencer, objected to having the trials together, saying it prejudiced his client. Spencer also said he's ready for trial, but if the cases were going to be tried together he'd need time to work with Castro's defense attorney.
Peyman Younesi, Castro's attorney, also objected, saying the charges may have stemmed from the same information, but the circumstances are separate.
"Since they're so separate, I'm extremely prejudiced because I cannot use her (Martinez) and put her on the stand to be a witness," he said.
Chow said he didn't know what the defenses are and asked "are they going to point fingers at each other and say they told me to do it?"
Judge Craig Matheson said the court doesn't know that and won't know until the trial if they will testify, so the trials must be done separately.
Martinez will stand trial first. Castro's trial was then set for Oct. 3.
According to court documents, Martinez received food stamps from the state for a year beginning March 2009 and reported she was a single mother living with her daughter and grandson at a home at 8307 Orcas Drive.
Martinez claimed she was not working and had no income and made that assertion to multiple DSHS workers, documents said.
Martinez reportedly signed forms twice under penalty of perjury that her statements were true.
When interviewed by a Washington State Patrol investigator, Martinez allegedly admitted to giving her Electronics Benefit Transfer (EBT) card to her daughter to use, documents said.
Castro, meanwhile, is accused of also falsely telling the state she was not working and no one in her home had income.
Both mother and daughter are accused of each receiving $6,744 in state assistance that they were not entitled to receive.
Pasco man pleads innocent to assault with bottle at bar
A 31-year-old Pasco man is accused of hitting a man with a bottle at a Pasco bar and causing a deep, four-inch cut on the victim's face.
Victor H. Perez-Chavez pleaded innocent Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court to second-degree assault.
His trial is Oct. 10, and bail was set at $50,000.
According to court documents, Pasco police responded to the assault call at 1:15 a.m. July 7 at the La Cabana bar, 605 N. 27th Ave..
The found the victim, Jesus Enrique Miranda-Chavez, and learned he had been struck in the head with a bottle, documents said.
The 30-year-old victim's head was covered in blood, and he was hospitalized. Officers learned the victim suffered a deep cut from his chin to his eye and two other cuts on his face, documents said.
Enrique said the man who hit him had tattoos on his neck and his first name was Victor, documents said. The suspect was not located.
About a month later, on Aug. 4, Enrique spotted Perez-Chavez at a restaurant on North Fourth Avenue and called police, documents said.
Perez-Chavez was stopped and removed from the car he was in. Enrique positively identified Perez-Chavez as the man who hit him with the bottle, documents said.
Officers also noted they saw Enrique now had a large scar next to his left eye, one on his left ear and a scar between his eyebrows, documents said.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; email@example.com