Calera woman accused of stealing $120k in welfare, housing benefits in NYC
NEW YORK, New York (WBRC) - A Calera woman was arrested and charged with several counts after prosecutors said she committed welfare fraud and stole more than $120,000 in welfare and housing benefits in New York.
New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro said 57-year-old Latonja Serling allegedly 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. Prosecutors said she also misrepresented her residence to obtain New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) rental benefits in excess of $50,000.
Serling was arrested and arraigned in New York City Criminal Court before Hon. John Zhuo on two counts of Grand Larceny in the 2nd Degree, one count of Welfare Fraud in the 2nd Degree (C Felonies), and two counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the 1st Degree.
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 is accused of collecting $21,664 in SNAP benefits and $48,240 in Medicaid benefits, totaling $69,904. She also allegedly took $52,646 in NYCHA rental assistance. In total, the inspectors said Serling received $122,550 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
“For years, this individual allegedly lied about her residence, employment and other matters so she could receive more than $120,000 meant for those New Yorkers who depend on these important social safety nets,” said Inspector General Tagliafierro. “We will not tolerate the actions of those who misrepresent themselves in order to steal benefits reserved for others truly in need.”
OWIG has been working on the matter with the New York City Department of Investigation’s Inspector General for NYCHA. Inspector General Tagliafierro thanked the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for prosecuting the case and the Social Security Administration, the NYC Department of Investigation, NYCHA and HRA for assisting in the investigation.
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