On Oct. 30, police arrested a woman in New York for allegedly stealing over $200,000 in welfare and housing benefits.
Between Feb. 18, 2011 and Aug. 31, 2015, Amika Land, 37, allegedly underreported her household income to the Nassau County Department of Social Services, reports L.I. Herald.
Within that time period, Land's annual gross income working in a medical billing department allegedly ranged between $38,604 and $76,730, thus legally disqualifying her from receiving benefits.
Yet despite this, Land reportedly received $180,868 worth of Medicaid, day care, public assistance, SNAP and Home Energy Assistance Program benefits.
She also received $26,628 in Section Eight housing benefits from the county’s Office of Housing and Community Development.
"Stealing from programs that provide a safety net for the needy victimizes our most vulnerable neighbors and the taxpaying public, and we will vigorously prosecute this case," District Attorney Madeline Singas said.
However, Land's attorney, Michael DerGarabedian, says she is hopeful that "the public reserves its decision" until all the facts are revealed, reports Newsday.
He also noted that Land is a single mom, raising three children with no outside support. DerGarabedian also argued that her client's annual income was not as reported by authorities.
"This is a good woman," he said.
Authorities charged Land with welfare fraud third-degree, two counts of grand larceny third-degree, and five counts of offering a false instrument for filing first-degree.
If convicted, she faces a maximum of seven years in prison.
News of the case sparked debate on the internet.
Some sympathized with Land's predicament.
"If she is a single mom, I feel for her," wrote one reader on Newsday's article. "She worked and made a mistake, I don't believe she should go to jail and I don't think she should get a felony conviction, doing so would be a sure way for her to qualify for all of these programs, that's the ironic aspect. Affordable health insurance and childcare for working people on long island is non existent."
A few pointed fingers at the system.
"Fraud is a major problem in the welfare system… how do we prevent fraud?" argued one. "Maybe by designing a new system. But this woman had a job but under- reported her income.. ok, it is fraud. But 7 years in jail? no. It is also OUR fault for creating a system that allows such fraud."
However, others accused these individuals of deflecting.
"SHE committed a crime," shot back one woman. "SHE stole our money. STOP trying to shift the blame!!!!"
"Maybe the system could be improved but that, in my view, is NO basis for flipping reality and accountability on its head," she added. "Your proposal would basically nullify all criminal responsibility since one can always point to some external factor that the miscreant exploited. That's NUTS!!"