Testimony targets Jackson accuser's mother
SANTA MARIA, California (CNN) -- The mother of Michael Jackson's teenage accuser applied for welfare and food stamps two weeks after she received more than $32,000 in a civil settlement -- without disclosing the money as required, according to testimony Monday in the pop star's child molestation trial.
Mercy Dee Manrriquez of the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services, who processed the mother's application in November 2001, said her failure to disclose the money, which would have affected her family's eligibility for welfare, amounted to fraud.
Also Monday, a forensic accountant who examined the bank accounts of the accuser's family testified that a week after the mother's settlement check was deposited, she withdrew the bulk of the money -- $29,000 -- in a cashier's check made out to a car dealership -- at which point the paper trail of where the money went ended.
"I never saw it going back into any account I looked at," accountant Mike Radakovich told jurors.
Earlier in the trial, the mother testified that she considered buying a car from Hollywood Ford, but she said she changed her mind and didn't go through with the purchase. Radakovich conceded he had no way of knowing if the cashier's check was ever cashed.
Radakovich also testified that the accuser's family was still receiving welfare payments in February and March 2003, at a time when Jackson was spending "several thousand dollars" paying their expenses.
It is during that period, prosecutors allege, that Jackson and his associates conspired to hold the accuser and his family captive, in order to get them to help with damage-control efforts after broadcast of an unflattering television documentary about the entertainer.
Monday's testimony was an effort by the defense to bolster its characterization of the accuser's mother as the force behind false allegations against Jackson. The charges against Jackson were designed to extract money from the entertainer, his attorneys have said.
When she testified earlier in the trial, the mother exercised her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination to avoid answering questions about possible welfare fraud, which is being investigated by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. The prosecution refused to give her immunity.
Also Monday, the defense brought the estranged sister of the accuser's father to the stand to testify about two blood drives she organized, after she said she learned about the boy's cancer from a television news report.
The boy's aunt said his mother told her in a phone call that "she didn't need my (expletive) blood" and that instead "she needed money."
"I think I just hung up on her," the aunt said.
In 2001, the family settled a lawsuit filed against J.C. Penney over a physical altercation in 1998 that began after security guards suspected the boy of shoplifting. The family said security guards roughed them up.
The defense has pointed to the incident to bolster its contention that the family has a history of using false allegations for financial gain.
The total settlement was $152,000; after attorney's fees, the money was divided between the accuser's mother and father and all three of their children, with each party receiving separate payments, according to trial testimony.
Manrriquez said in her application for welfare, the mother did not disclose any of the settlement payments. On her application she also swore -- under penalty of perjury -- that the family did not have medical insurance, Manrriquez said.
Earlier testimony established that the family did have medical insurance, through the father's employer, that was used to pay for the accuser's cancer treatments. In her testimony, the mother insisted that she never told anyone they were not covered by insurance.
Radakovich said his examination of the bank accounts of the accuser's mother and her then-boyfriend, whom she later married, showed that in January and February 2003, she deposited two $769 welfare payments into her boyfriend's bank account. The boyfriend then paid rent on the family's apartment in east Los Angeles from the account, he said.
On March 17, 2003, about five days after the family left Neverland for the final time, the mother cashed another welfare check, he said.
Radakovich said he had examined expenditures made in February and March 2003 directly on behalf of the family by both Jackson and his company, Neverland Valley Entertainment, as well as the costs the family incurred while staying at Neverland ranch.
Radakovich didn't attach a specific dollar amount to the expenditures, but he said he could estimate they came to "several thousand dollars," based on the likely costs. Among the items Jackson paid for were a private jet trip to Miami, an appointment with an orthodontist and a body wax for the boy's mother, he said.
Jackson, 46, was indicted last year on 10 felony counts for incidents that include a lewd act on a child; conspiracy to commit abduction, false imprisonment and extortion; and the use of an intoxicant before the commission of a felony. Jackson pleaded not guilty to the charges.
CNN's Dree De Clamecy contributed to this report.