Calera woman pleads guilty to stealing $120k in welfare, housing benefits in NYC

New York City
New York City(KLTV)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 12:25 PM CDT
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NEW YORK, New York (WBRC) - A Calera woman pleaded guilty in New York City Criminal Court to Welfare Fraud in the 2nd Degree and Welfare Fraud in the 5th Degree.

Prosecutors said Latonja Serling, 57, collected nearly $70,000 in welfare benefits in New York State by misreporting her residency, employment and marriage status and using two different Social Security numbers. Investigators said she also misrepresented her residence to obtain New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) rental benefits in excess of $50,000.

Serling was sentenced to a conditional discharge on both the felony and misdemeanor charges and must repay $50,000 in restitution within the next five years, at which point she will be able to have the felony charge removed. Serling has surrendered the NYCHA residence and one of the Social Security numbers that she used as part of her scheme.

In November 2018, the Office of the Welfare Inspector General (OWIG) received a complaint alleging that Serling was committing welfare fraud and collecting benefits via the New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA).

The investigation included reviewing real estate and employment records, use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, bank records, and Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn account postings.

Prosecutors said the investigation determined that from November 2012 to present, Serling said she lived at 218 West 112th Street in New York City when she actually lived in either Birmingham or Calera, Alabama. Investigators also determined that Serling failed to report her employment income, her marriage, and the income of her spouse – all of which she was required to report to HRA.

The investigation also found that Serling used two different Social Security numbers and she misrepresented her residence to obtain $52,646 in rental benefits through a NYCHA program.

Serling was arrested and arraigned in New York City Criminal Court.

“For years, this individual stole tens of thousands of dollars intended for actual New Yorkers truly in need by lying about her residence, employment and more,” said Inspector General Tagliafierro. “She must repay the funds and give up her NYCHA address as part of her plea. We will continue to hold individuals who steal benefits from these important safety net programs accountable for their actions.”

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