Welfare is a government assistance program that ensures that members of society have the basic human needs like food, housing, and healthcare. Some places also include vocational training and education as well as a host of other services. From its inception, some people have sought to take advantage of the program, and many have done so successfully. Others got their just deserts when they were caught, either having to pay the money back or having to serve prison time. Here are some of the biggest failed welfare scams.
1. Dorothy Woods
Dorothy Woods is one of the most infamous welfare scammers in American history; her actions landed an autobiographical deal approximately 20 years after she was caught. In 1983, Woods was exposed to have claimed over $350,000 in public assistance, using 12 aliases and seeking assistance for 49 non-existent children. She used fake IDs, and birth certificates to collect payments that she didn’t need. Investigators learned that Woods used the funds to support her already lavish lifestyle which she spent 4 years in prison for her crime. Woods holds the record for the longest criminal record for any welfare fraud in history.
2. Linda Taylor
Nicknamed the “welfare queen,” Linda Taylor became an instant phenomenon when it was discovered that she robbed the state of funds for several decades. Even president Ronald Reagan, who opposed welfare programs, used Taylor as the face of his anti-welfare campaign. According to him, she stole over $150,000 a year by using over 80 aliases. With the money, she bought four homes and a brand-new Cadillac. When her antics were revealed in 1976, she was found guilty and sentenced to two to six years in prison.
3. Wael Ghosheh
A few years ago, a man by the name of Wael Ghosheh, the owner of an eatery in Illinois, was arrested for using approximately 3,000 LINK cards (Illinois’ welfare cards) to steal $1 million in government funds. Ghosheh was discovered when the retail warehouse club where he shopped noticed that he used different cards to make purchases. The eatery owner made several purchases and sold them at a marked-up price to smaller stores, essentially running an illegal business using welfare funds. When he was found out, he was arrested, but was later released on cash bail of $50,000.
4. James William Smith
James William Smith was seen as a local hero in his hometown while traveling around the country spreading awareness and raising funds for Alzheimer’s Disease. In James’ speeches, he would often talk about how his early-onset dementia diagnosis completely derailed his life, but it turns out that the entire thing was a lie. It was discovered that he faked having the medical condition by intentionally failing memory tests and altering his speech. Smith earned $6,700 a month during the scam which he used to purchase a hobby farm. He pled guilty to stealing over $140,000 in total.
5. “Lord” Colin Chisolm III (7)
Scottish aristocrat (or so he claimed) “Lord” Colin Chisolm and his wife, Lady Andrea were arrested when investigators found out that they had over $3 million on their bank accounts all the while collecting food stamps. Investigators also learned that they lived on a $1.2 million yacht. The couple faked documentation stating that they needed public aid, both in Florida and Minnesota, collecting over $160,000 in the latter alone. Chisholm ended up serving 21 months in prison, while his lady served 12.
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