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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rachel Dolezal charged with welfare fraud

In this March 20, 2017 photo, Rachel Dolezal poses for a photo with her son, Langston in the bureau of the Associated Press in Spokane, Wash. The former NAACP leader, who was born to white parents but posed for years as a black woman, is facing charges of welfare fraud. (Nicholas K. Geranios / AP)
By Ryan Collingwood Ryan Collingwood The Spokesman-Review

Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who for years passed as black while serving as president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP, is facing charges of welfare fraud.

Dolezal – now Nkechi Diallo after legally changing her name in 2016 – is accused of illegally receiving $8,747 in food assistance and $100 in child care assistance in 2017, according to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services.

Dolezal, who requested assistance for her and her teenage son in August 2015, faces charges of first-degree theft by welfare fraud, second-degree perjury and false verification for public assistance. She is expected to be formally charged in Spokane County Superior Court on June 6.

The allegations stem from Dolezal reporting a monthly income of $300 a month while receiving public assistance. A social services investigation later reported she made nearly $84,000 between August 2015 and September 2017, according to her bank statements.

Dolezal claimed to have been unemployed and unable to find work since resigning from the NAACP in June 2015, when it was revealed that she was born to white parents.

However, a social services fraud investigator learned that Dolezal had reportedly received book advance payments of $10,000 and $20,000 for penning a memoir, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World” – a book released in March 2017 – prompting an investigation. Another investigator found that Dolezal had obtained a business license to promote the sale of her book, along with art, soaps and handmade dolls.

In September, Dolezal was served a subpoena for her self-employment records and complied, according to the social services investigation. The records showed she had received unreported income, according to investigators, and their findings were forwarded to pursue a criminal investigation.

In February, an investigator noted enough evidence to confirm that Dolezal – who the state said was informed on numerous occasions that false income reporting would result in criminal charges – had not reported her income. An interview with Dolezal was scheduled for April 26, in which she appeared, “invoked her rights” and ended the interview.

Dolezal faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and could be ordered to repay $8,887 in restitution.

She was the subject of a Netflix documentary, “The Rachel Divide,” which premiered last month. Netflix released a statement to multiple media outlets in March noting that Dolezal wasn’t paid for the project.