The woman who gained the nickname “Octomom” after giving birth to eight children, thanks to in-vitro fertilization, is now facing four charges related to alleged welfare fraud. Prosecutors in Los Angeles are accusing Nadya Suleman, who has fourteen children in total, of failing to disclose certain sources of income when she applied for public assistance and filed periodic reports in 2013. They filed three charges against her in Los Angeles Superior Court in January 2014, and added a fourth charge in February. The charges could result in a prison sentence of more than six years. Prosecutors are seeking restitution of more than $26,000.
Suleman became famous in 2009 when she gave birth to octuplets with the help of fertility specialists. She already had six children, and she struggled as a single parent to care for all fourteen of them. She made many media appearances after the octuplets were born, but still had financial problems. A planned reality television program never came to pass. She filed for personal bankruptcy in April 2012, but the court dismissed the case. She released a single in 2012 and was hired to participate in a debate on parenting for a newly-launched website. Also in 2012, she posed semi-nude for a UK magazine, appeared in an adult video in several scenes by herself, and began working as an exotic dancer in men’s clubs.
In their initial complaint, prosecutors alleged that Suleman did not disclose nearly $30,000 that she received from “video and personal appearances” while receiving public assistance. She allegedly began receiving assistance in January 2013 from CalFresh, California’s equivalent of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and CalWORKS. They accused Suleman of receiving $9,814 in aid from CalFresh and $6,667 from CalWORKS. The felony complaint, filed on January 6, 2014, charged her with one count of aid by misrepresentation, CA Welf. & Inst. Code § 10980(c)(2), and two counts of perjury by false application for aid, CA Pen. Code § 118(a). She pleaded not guilty to all three charges.
In February 2014, prosecutors added a fourth charge, alleging that Suleman fraudulently received about $10,000 in benefits from MediCal, the state Medicaid provider. They also increased their restitution demand from $16,000 to $26,286.29. The charges could result in a maximum jail sentence of six years and four months.
Texas has similar statutes regarding alleged welfare fraud. Fraud involving the federal Medicaid program has its own statute requiring proof that a defendant “knowingly” committed a fraudulent or deceptive act. Tex. Pen Code. § 35A.02. The offense ranges from a Class C misdemeanor for amounts less than $50, to a first-degree felony for $200,000 or more. A person commits perjury in Texas, a Class A misdemeanor, for false statements under oath. Tex. Pen. Code § 37.02. Aggravated perjury, a third-degree felony, occurs when the false statement occurs under oath during an “official proceeding” and is “material” to that proceeding. Tex. Pen. Code § 37.03.
If you are facing a charge for an alleged offense, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand and protect your rights, while preparing the best possible defense for you. Criminal defense attorney Michael J. Brown has fought for west Texas defendants for over twenty years. Please contact us today online or at (432) 687-5157 to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case.
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Texas Woman Convicted in Federal Court of Health Care Fraud, Including Several Conspiracy Counts, Texas Criminal Lawyer Blog, September 27, 2013
Photo credit: By Care_SMC [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr.