Since the Ronald Reagan era, Black people in general, but Black women, in particular, have been synonymous with public assistance. Many have even been labeled “welfare queens.” Despite the data showing how white people make up the majority of welfare recipients, the African American community still has to deal with the stereotype that most Black people not only need welfare but will steal it too.
But a recent bust in New York continues to prove that government officials should really be side-eyeing people of a paler skin tone.
On Friday, authorities in St. Lawrence County, New York arrested 13 white women for welfare fraud with four more arrests pending. According to police, the women stole $104,000 from people who actually needed it.
“Here in St. Lawrence County, our welfare benefits provide vital support to genuinely needy families at great cost to honest hard working taxpayers,” District Attorney Gary Pasqua said in a statement. “Those individuals who gain benefits through deception are stealing medicine, groceries, and other necessary provisions from innocent children, vulnerable seniors, working citizens, and others in need.”
Georgeanna L. Aldous, 47, Kandy L. Butler, 29, Brandi David, 41, Ashley Debiew, 25, Cara E. Dimon, 25, Jessica Driscoll, 29, Crystal L. Lalone, 39, Amber Morrill, 35, Kerry M. Pelo, 36, Star L. Perrin, 39, Lynn A. Ryan, 46, Sherri A. Scott, 51 and Nancy G. Sherman, 27, all stole individual amounts of welfare that ranged from $1,000 up to over $31,000. All the women failed to accurately report their income and have been charged with varying degrees of welfare fraud that ranged from the third and fourth degree. Their arrests, which were the largest sweep in the history of the county, were made possible following an investigation by the St. Lawrence County Social Services Fraud Unit, District Attorney Fraud Investigator and the St. Lawrence County District Attorneys Office.
“[I am] proud of the professionalism and participation of the Sheriff’s Department in carrying out this operation, which is critical to deterring abuse of the taxpayers and ensuring that these critical resources go to those in need,” St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells said.
If convicted the women can face 4-7 year prison sentences, 5 years of probation, a fine and having to pay restitution in the amount of what they stole.
Though the case in St. Lawrence County is frustrating because there are so many people who are actually living below the poverty line that need those resources, it in no way proves that many “welfare reformers” are right about rampant welfare fraud as an excuse to slowly drain funding for programs. According to Lexington Law, 10.6 percent of federal welfare was found to be improperly or fraudulently paid in 2016. In most cases, fraud is found to be improperly filed due to an error made by a caseworker.