Attorney: County employee accused of wrongfully obtaining medical assistance was helping support parentsA woman who worked as a victims’ advocate in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office was sending money from a second job to her parents and didn’t knowingly break the law when she failed to report that income, her attorney told a St. Louis County jury on Tuesday.
A woman who worked as a victims’ advocate in the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office was sending money from a second job to her parents and didn’t knowingly break the law when she failed to report that income, her attorney told a St. Louis County jury on Tuesday.
Sonia Naomi Bonilla, 42, is charged with one felony count of wrongfully obtaining public assistance in the form of medical assistance that she wasn’t entitled to. Bonilla is accused of failing to report income that would have disqualified her from receiving $10,743.29 in medical assistance from St. Louis County and the state.
According to the criminal complaint, Bonilla falsely claimed in her Minnesota Department of Human Services application and subsequent program renewal forms that she had only one employer: the St. Louis County Attorney’s Office. That allowed single-parent Bonilla and her two daughters to be eligible for medical assistance.
An investigation in May 2010 revealed that Bonilla also was earning regular income through the University of Minnesota Duluth and ARC Northland, the complaint alleges.
Because Bonilla once worked for St. Louis County, the case was referred for prosecution to the Carlton County Attorney’s Office to avoid a conflict of interest. Assistant Carlton County Attorney James Ross is prosecuting the case.
Ross told jurors that if Bonilla had reported the other income she would not have qualified for the medical assistance. He said Bonilla admitted to a Duluth police investigator that she didn’t report her other income.
Cloquet defense attorney Thomas Skare is representing Bonilla.
Skare told jurors that his client didn’t understand the forms she was signing and she relied on the people who prepared the forms. He said she was “inadequately advised by the state.” He said Bonilla is hard of hearing, which results in further communication problems.
Skare said there are mitigating circumstances making his client not guilty of a crime. He said Bonilla didn’t benefit from her ARC income. He said she sent it to her parents. Her father was ill and subsequently died.
He said the question of whether Bonilla knowingly or intentionally committed a crime will be answered during the trial. He said his client had no intention to deceive the state.
Testimony continues today before Judge Eric Hylden in St. Louis County District Court.