A Pennsylvania woman has been jailed for committing large-scale welfare fraud.
Sabrina Strothers of Pittsburgh collected approximately $130,000 in welfare benefits for three children who don’t exist, reports the Daily mail. Her charges were announced by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office on Dec. 12.
The 23-year-old Strothers is accused of claiming to give birth to three children in 2008 named Thomas, Tomalyia and Tyreik Wilson, according to officials.
Her cousin reported her to Pittsburgh officials in January. The state’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has a “Report Fraud” section on its website, and also a “toll free welfare fraud tipline.” The OIG defines welfare fraud as being “when an individual uses fraudulent means to receive public assistance benefits to which they were not entitled.”
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When investigators followed up on the cousin’s tip, they discovered that the Social Security numbers for Strothers’ children's actually belonged to people born in 1887, 1945 and 1960.
According to court records, Strothers was charged with two counts each of forgery and making false statements in a welfare investigation and one count of theft by deception, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Strothers reported the birth of triplets to the county Assistance Office in November 2008, and continued to list the children on applications for benefits through 2016.
When contacted by the Office of the Inspector General, Strothers claimed the triplets lived with their father in Georgia, but was unable to provide the father’s address or telephone number. She eventually confessed to investigators that she falsified the information.
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Investigators itemized the fraud as follows: $37,269 in food-stamp benefits, nearly $90,000 in medical assistance and just more than $2,000 in benefits from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
A preliminary hearing for Strothers is scheduled for Dec. 22. According to the Pennsylvania OIG, “If found guilty of committing welfare fraud, a defendant must make full restitution of the overpaid benefits, can receive a sentence that can includes community service, probation or incarceration, pay costs and fines to the court, and be disqualified for a period of time from public assistance benefits.”