May 19, 2021

Alabama Woman Who Claimed to Live in NYC For Nine Years Arrested for Stealing More Than $120k in Welfare and Housing Benefits

Alabama Woman Who Claimed to Live in NYC For Nine Years Arrested for Stealing More Than $120k in Welfare and Housing Benefits

New York State Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro announced the arrest of an Alabama woman who 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.  She also misrepresented her residence to obtain New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) rental benefits in excess of $50,000.


Latonja Serling, 57, of Calera, Alabama, 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).


OWIG’s investigation of the allegation included reviewing real estate and employment records, use of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, bank records, and Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn account postings. The investigation determined that from November 2012 to present, Serling misrepresented her residence as 218 West 112th Street in New York City when she resided in either Birmingham or Calera, Alabama. OWIG 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.


Cumulatively, it is alleged that Serling collected $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, 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.


The defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.