Long suspicious that a Fridley mother of eight was cheating the state out of various welfare benefits, authorities charged her Tuesday as receiving more than $118,000 in government aid over roughly a 1 ½-year period.
Authorities say that as she collected benefits, Fozia S. Dualeh falsely claimed that the children's father, who was gainfully employed, was not financially supporting or living with the family.
Dualeh, 39, was charged by summons in Anoka County District Court with felony theft ahead of an April 12 initial court appearance.
Dualeh illegally tapped three public benefits from January 2014 to August 2015: $85,582 in child-care aid, $24,176 in food support and $8,996 in medical assistance overpayments, the complaint read.
A search of the home by authorities in late October 2015 led to Dualeh's husband, who's also the children's father, Abdikhadar Y. Ismail, being found in bed under the blankets in the master bedroom, charges said. Men's clothing was in a dresser, and mail and other documents with his name on them were found throughout the residence.
Dualeh's attorney, Nahid Abuelhassan, disputed the criminal charge and said a civil effort last year by Anoka County to collect the money was thwarted by an appeals examiner.
"The preponderant evidence shows that Mr. Ismail was not residing in the home with [Dualeh] and their children during the period [in question]. Therefore, his income would not be counted," Human Services Judge Renee Ladd wrote in her February order.
According to the complaint, Dualeh reported in March 2013 to Anoka County Human Services that Ismail had moved out and was not providing support.
Case workers started looking into whether Ismail had indeed relocated about the time Dualeh was pregnant with her eighth child. Authorities also noted that Dualeh and Ismail made a down payment on a vehicle, providing driver's license and insurance information listing them both at the same address.
Also, school records for their children listed Ismail as living with Dualeh, as did 10 bank accounts, though Dualeh's application for public aid indicated she alone had one account.
Ismail listed the family's address on two vehicles and with his employer, a home health care business. The complaint did not say whether Dualeh was employed.
In October 2015, authorities twice spotted Ismail's vehicle parked in the family's designated spot. Dualeh said Ismail sometimes visited but never slept there or shared meals. Later that month, the search found him under the covers.