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Minnesota woman who lied to support family gets full pardon

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Board of Pardons on Monday granted its first full pardon in more than three decades, to a woman who used a fake name and false documents to get a job so she could cover food and housing costs for her family.

Maria Elizondo was convicted in 2012 of wrongfully obtaining assistance and identify theft. She was sentenced to serve 10 years of probation and ordered to pay back $24,758 to the state. She returned $9,750 but her payments dropped off about four years ago after a cancer diagnosis and other health issues.

According to her attorney, the mother of seven — who was unable to support her family on food stamps and other assistance — took a job at a turkey farm in Ada, Minnesota, in 2006 under the pseudonym Natalia Rubio. She used false identifying documents and someone else’s social security number on her employment records, the Star Tribune reported.

“As a mom, and even myself now as a parent, I recognize that she did what she had to do, not to be malicious, but when you have a family there are things you have to do to overcome challenges,” said her son, Jorge Elizondo, who translated for his mother at Monday’s hearing.

Elizondo’s case was brought to light by a group of law students at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota, who believed she was convicted because she was poor and started a GoFundMe to pay off the remainder of her restitution. Elizondo was also facing deportation to Mexico.

Gov. Tim Walz, a member of the pardon board along with Attorney General Keith Ellison and Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, said it was the first full pardon in 35 years.