A former state worker accused of welfare fraud and forgery is blaming her "evil twin" for defrauding the government out of more than $15,000 meant for the needy.
Janell Athalone-Afrika, 42, falsified her income and forged documents to claim more than $15,000 in government support for child care over eight years, prosecutors claim.
Athalone-Afrika made $16.43 an hour working at the Indiana Department of Education, but she altered her pay warrants, using the signature stamp of her then-boss to show that she only made $8.52 an hour, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said Athalone-Afrika used the altered documents to qualify for more than $15,000 worth of services from the Childcare Development Fund, a program meant to provide affordable day care to needy families, based on income.
Investigators said Athalone-Afrika falsified documents 27 times between December 2002 and December 2010, when she was fired.
When officials with the Indiana Office of Inspector General interviewed Athalone-Afrika about the allegations, she claimed her evil twin sister had stolen her identity.
"It's pretty clear we didn't find any truth in the evil twin sister defense," said Deputy Prosecutor Barb Trathen. "When you have a person who not only has a higher income than reported, but who has a husband's income and actually an additional outside business that they are running, that seems unfair."
The director of the day care where Athalone-Afrika took her son said she never suspected anything was amiss with the family.
"She seemed to be such a wonderful person. She was loving and caring for her child," said Forestene Ford. "She did everything to make sure he would succeed in school."
Athalone-Afrika was appointed a public defender, but the judge indicated that she would have to help pay for the services.
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