Pot ‘O Gold

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21041231 - a rubbish bag full of dollars

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Everyone dreams of a windfall at some point in life. (Who wouldn’t like to win the lottery or inherit millions of dollars from a distant relative?) An article published by The Tampa Tribune tells about a woman on government assistance, who found a pot of gold at the end of her own private rainbow so to speak. Even though she became independently wealthy overnight and no longer needed government assistance, she continued to collect federal and state benefits she did not deserve.

The story states that the woman was the recipient of a $396,000 settlement which was split with other members of her family. (Unfortunately, the article does not reveal any details about the case surrounding the settlement.) At the time of the windfall, the woman was living in Section 8 housing while collecting food stamps, rental subsidies and Medicaid benefits for her son. (After receiving the settlement, she bought some property and moved out of public housing.)

The woman made a crucial error when she neglected to notify the government that she had received the law suit settlement. In fact, she continued to certify that she had no income on her government assistance applications. She also failed to report that she received approximately $10,000 a year for several years by braiding hair.

The fraudster, who received Section 8 housing benefits for about 15 years collected about $900 a month for rent and another $100 a month for utilities. On top of that, she received $550 a month by subletting her Section 8 housing. (She was definitely working the system.) Again, she lied on benefit applications swearing that she was unemployed and had no income or assets even though she was making a pretty good income off of the government and her renter.

The 37-year-old pleaded guilty to the theft of government property. She is looking at a 10-year prison sentence and restitution of more than $85,000 to make up for the benefits she stole. (She told the judge she did not dispute the facts in the case; however, she says she only stole about half that amount.) Needless to say, her participation in the food stamp and Medicaid programs has been terminated.

While this woman probably thought her windfall was part of the answer to her problems, she lost perspective on how best to use it. She became greedy and went after the pot of money reserved for those less fortunate and used it as a means to add more money to her pocket. Just as the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow is a myth because in theory a rainbow is actually a circle with no end, this case has come full circle as well. Not only will she have to pay back the money she stole, but she is probably right back where she began. (Only this time, her Section 8 housing benefits will be replaced by a view from inside a jail cell.)

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on an article titled, ”Tampa Woman Pleads Guilty, Contest Amount in Welfare Fraud Case,” published by The Tampa Tribune on September 22, 2015.

TAMPA — When Latashia Green came into hundreds of thousands of dollars five years ago, she bought some property and moved out of her public housing.

But Green kept collecting federal and state benefits, including food stamps, rental subsidies and Medicaid for her son, according to federal court benefits.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.