A North Hollywood couple, who prosecutors said cheated the welfare system out of more than $100,000 over the last 8 years, were sentenced Thursday to 3 years in prison each.
Walter Ziko, 28, and his wife, Rosie, 26, cried as Van Nuys Superior Court Commissioner Sherman Juster pronounced the sentence.
The Zikos, who authorities said are Gypsies, each pleaded guilty Sept. 16 to one count of perjury and one count of welfare fraud, Deputy Dist. Atty. Leslie M. Kenyon said. The Zikos used several false names and a series of fraudulent children’s names to receive $117,464 in welfare payments, Kenyon said.
In exchange for their guilty pleas, additional counts of perjury, welfare fraud and using a false identity to apply for a driver’s license were dropped, Kenyon said. The statute of limitations had run out on some of those charges, she added.
Both of the Zikos were convicted of insurance fraud in San Diego County in 1983, and Walter Ziko continued to receive the welfare checks even when he was sent to prison to undergo diagnostic studies before sentencing, authorities said. The Zikos each received probation in that case.
The welfare fraud came to light with an anonymous tip, authorities said. The Zikos were arrested July 8 after investigators with a search warrant raided the couple’s apartment, seizing driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, baptismal certificates and other pieces of identification issued in a variety of fictitious names, Kenyon said.
The Zikos’ four children will stay with relatives while their parents are in prison, Kenyon said.