A Virginia woman has been accused of collecting more than $100,000 in government assistance, even though her husband was reportedly making $1.5 million per year during at least some of that time.
Police say that they arrested 41-year-old Helen Agbapuruonwu after they determined during a six-month investigation that she collected food stamps and Medicaid in Arlington, Virginia, over the last six years, even though her husband, Fidelis Agbapuruonwu, raked in serious money as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., reports WRC.
The mother of four has been charged with four counts of welfare fraud.
"We hope it sends a message that if you are taking public assistance it's truly intended for those in need, and we're committed to ensuring those who need the most help receive it," Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said, according to WRC.
Fidelis reportedly paid his way through law school in 2001 with the help of the prestigious Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship. He formerly worked for the Mayer Brown firm at the nation's capital. However, authorities believe that the Nigerian immigrant is no longer employed there and has fled the U.S. to stay somewhere in Africa.
Helen's defense attorney did not comment or share her side of the story, although the director of the preschool that her children attended said that she was completely shocked by the reports that the family defrauded the system for so many years.
"I have to believe it's not true," she said.
It is unknown exactly how common welfare fraud is, since the system largely relies upon other people reporting it, particularly in cases where somebody collects benefits in multiple states, according to a 2014 report from WCCO.
"It's hard to know what we don't know," said former Minnesota Department of Human Services Inspector General Jerry Kerber, according to WCCO. "It's hard to know what might be going on under the radar."
The report found that the most common form of welfare fraud was misreporting income, which commonly led to overpayment of anywhere from a few hundred dollars a month to $1,000 a month for some Medicaid recipients. According to Kerber, people frequently do not report to the government if they change to a higher-paying job, start receiving additional income or gain or lose a housemate, which can affect their overall income.
"There's no amount that's OK," said the inspector general, who retired in late 2016 after working in state government for 38 years. "We need to do whatever we can to ensure public trust in these programs."