"Welfare Queen" Dorothy Woods, who was convicted four years ago of perpetrating what was said to be the largest welfare fraud in U.S. history, is back behind bars--less than a year after being paroled from state prison.
This time she is accused of defrauding the welfare system of nearly $700 by collecting several weeks of aid for a teen-age son who did not live with her, as well as perjury and forgery, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. Trial is set for June 5 in Pasadena Superior Court.
Woods, 45, was convicted in 1983 of bilking the county out of $377,000 in welfare payments between 1974 and 1980 by posing as a dozen impoverished women with a total of 49 dependent children, while she was actually living in splendor in Pasadena--in a mansion with a live-in housekeeper, several luxury cars, mink coats and a swimming pool. She had been in custody since her arrest in 1981, but was paroled last June.
Earlier this year, authorities received an anonymous tip that Woods was carrying out another fraud. Investigators found she had continued to receive funds from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program during a six-week period in which her 14-year-old son was living with his elder brother in San Gabriel while Woods was living in a rented room in Pasadena.
But Woods contends, according to paralegal Kwaku Duren of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which represents her, that the separate living arrangements were only temporary and that she continued to provide food, lunch money and transportation for her son. Soon afterward, when she moved to her sister's Los Angeles home, Duren said, her son rejoined her. Duren said Woods never relinquished responsibility for his care and control.
"It is ridiculous for the county to act precipitously to put her in jail," Duren said. "They should have waited until after a fair hearing to see whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant criminal prosecution."
A civil administrative hearing before a state welfare referee is scheduled for June 3.
"It's because she is who she was that she is being treated in this discriminatory fashion. But Dorothy is not the same person who was convicted four years ago," he said. "She has become active in a church, established a church ministry serving women prisoners with children and enrolled in school." She is majoring in sociology at California State University, Los Angeles.
Woods was rearrested last month for violating the conditions of her parole, based on the fraud allegations, according to district attorney spokesman Al Albergate. She is also charged with forging a rent receipt and with lying to welfare officials.
She is being held without bail at Sybil Brand Institute.
A spokesman for the county Department of Public Social Services, which administers the state welfare program here, declined to comment, saying only that the upcoming hearing is "procedural" and would not affect the criminal proceedings.