Tampa woman drew public assistance after collecting $396,000 settlement, feds say

A Tampa woman faces 10 years in prison for public assistance fraud.
Published September 18 2015
Updated September 19 2015

TAMPA — For 13 years, a mother getting public assistance swore under penalty of perjury that she had no income or assets. The public paid her rent, provided food money and covered her son under Medicaid — at a total cost of $85,363, according to court records.

Latashia Green failed to mention the $396,000 paid to her from a 2010 legal settlement, or the $10,000 a year she earned braiding hair, or the real estate she bought along the way, federal authorities allege.

Green, 37, is expected to plead guilty in U.S. District Court on Tuesday to theft of public assistance benefits, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. She has no prior criminal record in Florida.

She collected $34,800 in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidies, $22,902 in U.S. Department of Agriculture food subsidies and $27,661 in Medicaid benefits, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Riedel wrote recently.

"Ms. Green never reported this income to any of the agencies listed above and continued to falsely state on applications and recertifications that she had no income," Riedel wrote.

Green, who declined an interview request, acquired money the unfortunate way.

Her mother, Marcella Staten, was killed in 2009 trying to cross Busch Boulevard on foot, Tampa police records show. The driver stopped. He wasn't charged.

The next year in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, an attorney opened a probate case to distribute a private settlement payable to Staten's estate. Green was the personal representative. She and two other family members were named as beneficiaries.

Green's name also turned up on deeds for residential properties in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Instead of reporting a changed financial situation to public assistance agencies, Green sublet her subsidized housing unit to someone else for $550 a month, the prosecutor wrote.

The unit was costing HUD $909 per month in rent and a $100 utility stipend.

Green was benefitting from a housing voucher program commonly known as Section 8. The demand for the vouchers is so great that applicants are no longer accepted on a waiting list. The program is administered by the Tampa Housing Authority, which referred Green to HUD's Office of Inspector General for prosecution in 2013.

Tampa Housing Authority spokeswoman Lillian Stringer credited the thorough efforts of Assisted Housing Director Margaret Jones.

"We take fraud prevention very seriously and we will vigorously pursue every individual case to the fullest extent," Stringer said. "We're hopeful by reporting these incidents, that will deter any other participants from engaging in fraudulent activity."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.