Sixteen Philadelphia residents have been charged in a welfare fraud scheme that raked in more than $235,000 and was in the process of going for another $104,000, according to authorities.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced charges Wednesday in connection with "Operation Special Allowances," which probed the welfare scheme originating out of the Philadelphia County Assistance Office.
The investigation started when the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare noticed an unusually high number of "Special Allowances of One-Time Issuance" had been approved in the Philadelphia County office, the attorney general said.
The investigation focused on Kyshima Montgomery, 23, of North Judson Street, a clerical worker at the Assistance Office.
Montgomery is accused of conspiring with the other 15 co-defendants, who allegedly handed over their welfare debit cards so that Montgomery could put money into the accounts. She then withdrew most of the money for herself through an ATM machine.
A grand jury determined the 15 co-defendants would not have been eligible for the one-time welfare payments if not for Montgomery, Kane said.
Montgomery is charged with two counts of theft by deception and single counts of criminal attempt theft by deception, unlawful use of a computer, criminal use of a communication facility, and criminal conspiracy.
Gail Floyd, 22, of Brandywine Street, is charged with nine counts each of theft by deception and criminal conspiracy.
Crystal Mumford, 30, of Queen Lane, is charged with three counts of criminal conspiracy and two counts of theft by deception.
The following defendants are charged with one count each of theft by deception and criminal conspiracy: Tyria Williams, 24, of South 19th Street; Hakeema Brown, 27, of North 53rd Street; Rasheda Alexander, 25, of Ludlow Street; April Barrett, 24, of Brandywine Street; Myesha Williams, 21, of North Garnet Street; Tori Camp, 21, of Brandywine Street; Patrice Cousar, 23, of North Camac Street; and Anthony Thomas, 48, of West Sergeant Street.
The following defendants are charged with two counts of theft by deception and one count of criminal conspiracy: Keith Northington, 47, of West Pacific Street; Karim Whitfield, 34, of Van Kirk Street; Dominique Williams, 25, of North 60th Street; Takara Oates, 35, of Tulpehocken Street; and Demetrius Byrant, 26, of North 19th Street.
Montgomery was charged on Dec. 6, 2012, with multiple counts of theft by deception, criminal conspiracy and other related charges for her role as the alleged mastermind of the scheme. Her trial is scheduled for Dec. 16, 2013.