Rachel Dolezal, white woman who portrayed herself as black, accused of welfare fraud

Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who repre...

Posted: May 26, 2018 12:01 PM
Updated: May 26, 2018 12:01 PM

Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who represented herself as black for years and once headed a local chapter of the NAACP in Washington state, is facing charges of welfare fraud.

Dolezal made headlines in 2015 after her relatives revealed she was born white and had posed as black for years. At the time, she headed the Spokane, Washington, chapter of the NAACP and taught African-American studies.

Dolezal was charged this week with theft by welfare fraud, perjury and false verification for public assistance, court documents show. She is accused of making false statements to get about $9,000 in food and child care assistance.

The Spokane County prosecutor's office said she failed to report her self-employment income accurately, resulting in an overpayment of $8,847 from the Department of Social and Health Services.

CNN has reached out to comment from Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016.

Dolezal caught the attention of investigators from the state's Department of Social and Health Services in March 2017 during her promotion of a book she had co-written, "In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World."

An investigator with the department's Office of Fraud and Accountability recalled reading news articles that Dolezal had received public assistance, prompting him to seek a review of her records. The review showed she was actively receiving assistance and had been reporting her only source of income as $300 a month in gifts from friends, according to court documents.

Scanning a company website, the investigator also determined that the publisher of Dolezal's book typically offered contracts that included advance payments of $10,000 to $20,000, court records show.

A subpoena requesting her self-employment and banking records was served last year, and she complied with it, according to court records. These revealed that $83,294 was deposited in her US bank account between August 2015 and September 2017, the records show.

Another investigator found in internet searches that Dolezal was promoting her book as well as "the sale of her art, soaps, and handmade dolls," according to court documents.

Dolezal later filed a "change of circumstance" that revealed a partial additional income of $20,000, the court documents say.

Investigators met her April 26 for an interview, but she declined to waive her rights and concluded the interview, according to the documents.

She will be arraigned June 6 in Spokane County Superior Court, the court's website shows.

Book and documentary

Dolezal's representation of herself as a black woman sparked a firestorm three years ago. She stepped down as head of the Spokane NAACP chapter over criticism that she portrayed herself as black, even though she was born white, according to her parents.

Some defended her by pointing to her activism as a leader, while others blasted her and said she had diminished the struggles of African-Americans.

Despite the backlash, she maintains that she is a "transracial" black woman.

She has written about her experiences in the book "In Full Color" and also appeared in a Netflix documentary, "The Rachel Divide," which was released last month.

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