Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who pretended to be black, charged with felony welfare fraud


In 2015, Rachel Dolezal, the head of Spokane, Washington’s NAACP chapter who presented herself as an African-American woman, was outed by a Spokane TV station as a Caucasian by birth. Dolezal’s moment in the media spotlight quickly followed as she made the rounds of national TV talk programs including the Today show. To put it charitably, Dolezal had trouble articulating exactly what she was doing. She lost her job with the NAACP and a position teaching African-American studies at Eastern Washington University. Dolezal faded from view, but last month, she gained attention again with a much reviewed new Netflix documentary, The Rachel Divide, about her life today.

On May 24, the latest chapter in Dolezal’s life became public when it was reported that she has been charged with felony welfare fraud. The story quickly went national. A comprehensive article and coverage were provided by KHQ, the NBC affiliate in Dolezal’s hometown of Spokane:

KHQ has confirmed that Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, is accused of 1st Degree Theft by Welfare Fraud, Perjury in the 2nd Degree, and False Verification for Public Assistance. Her potential punishment under RCW 74.08.331 could include up to 15 years in prison. …

According to court documents, Diallo [Dolezal] illegally received $8,747 in food assistance, and illegally received $100 in childcare assistance. Total restitution, according to the documents, is $8,847, allegedly stolen from August 2015 through November 2017.

The investigation into Diallo’s alleged theft started in March 2017 when a DSHS Office of Fraud and Accountability investigator received information that Diallo had written a book that got published. The investigator said he’d heard Diallo say she was getting public assistance, but also knew that a typical publishing contract included payments of $10,000 to $20,000.

The investigator conducted a review of Diallo’s records and found she’d been reporting her income was usually less than $500 per month, in child support payments. At one point when asked as to how she was paying her bills, she reported, “Barely! With help from friends and gifts.”

However, a subpoena for her self-employment records, which included copies of her bank statements from 2015 to present, tells a different story. The bank records, court documents say, showed Diallo had deposited about $83,924 into her bank account in several monthly installments between August 2015 and September 2017, without reporting the income to the Department of Social and Health Services. The money, according to the case file, had come from authoring her book, ‘In Full Color,’ speaking engagements, soap making, doll making, and the sale of her art.

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