S. Minn. couple charged with benefit fraud

Published 4:53 pm Saturday, November 1, 2014

NORTH MANKATO — The Minnesota couple whose daughter’s death prompted a 2011 child care safety law has been accused of concealing assets while they were getting public assistance.

Justin and Jennifer Kozitza of North Mankato were each charged Monday with wrongfully obtaining assistance, a felony. The complaint says the couple applied for food, cash and health care assistance from Nicollet County Social Services for themselves and their other daughter. It says they reported combined assets as $553 in a checking account, two vehicles and their home.

The couple received those benefits from November 2013 to February and also applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, according to court documents.

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A Nicollet County fraud investigator determined in February the Kozitzas were concealing the $960,000 lawsuit settlement they won two years ago after their 4-year-old daughter choked on a grape at a day care center and died. The couple also failed to report a cabin in Aitkin County, several other vehicles, two snowmobiles, a trailer and other possessions, investigators say.

The combined value of the Kozitzas’ vehicles was $54,759, more than $52,000 over the asset limit for the Diversionary Work Program grants and $34,759 over the asset limit for medical assistance, according to the investigation.

Jennifer Kozitza told the investigator she was unaware that she needed to disclose the assets, settlement and other sources of income on the forms she filled out and signed to receive the benefits.

A court clerk couldn’t provide an attorney’s name.