Former Moreno Valley Councilman Marcelo Co pleads not guilty to welfare fraud

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Former Moreno Valley City Councilman Marcelo Co, 64, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to welfare fraud, the Press-Enterprise reports.

Co allegedly improperly collected money for in-home care for his mother from a state program. The charges led to his resignation in August.

As the Press-Enterprise explains:

Co is accused of taking nearly $15,000 in federal aid for about two years for his ailing mother who spent most of that time living in Taiwan and the Philippines.

A 2011 Adult Protective Services report said Co moved his mother to Taiwan in 2010 and later to the Philippines while he continued collecting home care funding in the United States.

He had signed up with the state to be his mother’s caretaker beginning in 2000, according to the Press-Enterprise.

Co previously agreed to plead guilty to unrelated federal bribery charges, alleging that he accepted a $2.36 million bribe. The investigation of those charges led to a raid on the homes of Co and several other council members this past April, and officials said the bribe is believed to be the largest ever except by a U.S. public official in an undercover operation.

Co already faced up to 13 years in prison on the bribery charges, but if convicted of the welfare fraud charges, he could face up to six years in prison, according to the Press-Enterprise. Co is due back in court for his post-indictment arraignment on the bribery charges on Dec. 4.

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