Woman Accused of Bilking Welfare System of $450,000

From Associated Press

A mystery "mom" who authorities say invented 73 children has been arrested on charges of stealing nearly $450,000 in welfare benefits.

For almost seven years, the woman used forged documents to collect city, state and federal welfare benefits for the fictitious children--including 11 sets of twins, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau said Thursday.

As far as authorities know, she doesn't have any real children.

The woman used at least 15 aliases, and "we don't know her true name," Morgenthau said.

The woman, who appears to be between ages 45 and 60, was arrested Wednesday at one of the addresses she used, Morgenthau said. The U.S. State Department tipped city officials after federal agents arrested her for passport fraud and found indications that she might be cheating on welfare.

A grand jury indicted her for grand larceny, forgery and filing a false instrument. Grand larceny is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Morgenthau said the woman ran the scam from February, 1987, at least through December, 1993. At her most frenetic pace in late 1990 and early 1991, she was claiming money simultaneously under eight names for 46 children, Morgenthau said.

Richard Finkelstein, director of the state Human Resources Administration's fraud bureau, said his agency is trying to establish a program to fingerprint applicants in an effort to thwart fraud.

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