Former Teacher Faces Welfare Fraud Charges
WILKES-BARRE — A former Wilkes-Barre Area School District substitute teacher was arraigned Tuesday on charges alleging she lied about her income to collect more than $3,000 in welfare benefits for which she didn’t qualify.
Jennifer Yelen, 35, of 80 Courtright St., Plains Twp., is facing a single felony count of fraudulently obtaining welfare assistance.
According to a complaint filed by the Office of State Inspector General, Yelen applied for public assistance on Dec. 9, 2015, reporting she was employed as a substitute teacher with the Wilkes-Barre Area School District. Based on the income provided, caseworkers determined she was not eligible for assistance.
Then on Jan. 26, 2016, Yelen completed another application and provided verification of her income, and this time was granted Medical Assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, according to the complaint.
The nutrition benefits ended on June 30, 2016, but Yelen continued getting Medical Assistance, the complaint says. In November 2016, caseworkers sent Yelen a renewal letter advising her to check the accuracy of her information.
Yelen did not respond, so the benefits continued, according to the complaint.
In August 2017, Yelen applied for and received the nutrition assistance program once more along with the Cash Assistance Program, based on her statement that her employment ended on June 9, 2017, the complaint says.
But then on March 18, caseworkers got a wage report from the school district showing Yelen had begun working as a full-time teacher. The records showed Yelen had received a large lump-sum back payment on March 10, 2017, and then began receiving bi-monthly payments through Aug. 25, 2017, according to the complaint.
The payments exceeded the federal poverty income guidelines and disqualified Yelen from assistance, the complaint says.
During the period when Yelen concealed her true income, she received $615 in Cash Assistance benefits, $109 in nutrition supplement benefits, and $2,357 in Medical Assistance, the charges allege.
Magisterial District Judge Thomas F. Malloy Sr. arraigned Yelen on the charge Tuesday and released her on $10,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing was set for April 30.
School district solicitor Ray Wendolowski said Yelen had been working for the district as a long-term substitute but that she is no longer working for the district.
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