|Born||Martha Miller or Martha Louise White
Tennessee or Alabama
|Died|| (aged 74–77)
Cause of death
|Known for||Welfare fraud|
|3–7 years imprisonment|
|Conviction(s)||Fraud, perjury (March 16, 1977)|
|Imprisoned at||Dwight Correctional Center (February 16, 1978 – c. 1983)|
Linda Taylor (born either Martha Miller or Martha Louise White, c. 1926 – April 18, 2002) was an American criminal who committed extensive welfare fraud and became identified as the "welfare queen". Stories of her activities were used by Ronald Reagan, starting with his 1976 presidential campaign, to illustrate his criticisms of social programs in the United States. Her criminal activities are believed to have extended beyond welfare fraud and may have included assault, theft, insurance fraud, bigamy, the abduction and sale of children, and possibly even murder.
Identity and background
Testimony from a 1964 probate hearing for the estate of Lawrence Wakefield, which Taylor was trying to claim, indicated that she was born around 1926 in Summit, Alabama, under the name Martha Louise White. However, she denied being Martha Louise White. She has been identified from United States Census records as being Martha Miller, born in Tennessee sometime between 1925 and 1927 to Joe and Lidy Miller. In either case she was identified as being white, possibly with some Native American ancestry, although throughout her life she presented herself as being of various racial and ethnic identities, including black, Asian, Hispanic and Jewish. She also represented herself as being many different ages, with one government official stating in 1974 that "it appears she can be any age she wishes, from the early 20s to the early 50s."
Although she became famous under the name 'Linda Taylor', news reports indicated that she used as many as 80 different names, often with false identification documents to match. Her aliases included 'Linda Bennett', 'Connie Jarvis', 'Linda Jones', 'Constance Loyd', 'Linda Lynch', 'Linda Mallexo', 'Linda Ray', 'Constance Rayne', 'Linda Sholvia', 'Linda Taylor', 'Constance Wakefield', and 'Connie Walker'. Her many identities included using the title 'Reverend' and posing as a nurse, a doctor, and a spiritual adviser who used Haitian Vodou.
Arrest and trial
On August 8, 1974, Taylor filed a police report claiming that she had been robbed of $14,000 in "cash, jewelry, and furs". Detective Jack Sherwin, who took the report, recognized her from a similar, previous report and suspected her of insurance fraud. Upon investigating her, Sherwin discovered Taylor was wanted on welfare fraud charges in Michigan. She was arrested at the end of August 1974 for possible extradition to Michigan. Released on bond, she fled the state and was a fugitive until October 9, 1974, when she was caught in Tucson, Arizona.
Upon her return to Illinois, prosecutors opened a 31-count indictment against her for fraud, perjury and bigamy, alleging that she had received welfare and Social Security checks under multiple names. Her attorney, R. Eugene Pincham, managed to delay the trial until March 1977, by which time the charges had been considerably reduced. Initial allegations involving 80 aliases and over $100,000 in fraudulently obtained funds had been narrowed to charges involving just $8,000 obtained through four aliases, and perjury in her testimony before a grand jury. The bigamy charges were dropped. After a trial lasting less than three weeks, the jury deliberated for about seven hours before finding her guilty on March 17, 1977.
She was sentenced to imprisonment for two to six years on the welfare fraud charges, and a year on the perjury charges, to be served consecutively. She began her sentence at Dwight Correctional Center on February 16, 1978.
Later years and death
After being released from prison, Taylor rejoined Sherman Ray, whom she had married prior to her imprisonment. On August 25, 1983, Ray was shot by Willtrue Loyd, in what was ruled to be an accident. Taylor collected on Ray's life insurance. Loyd and Taylor moved to Florida and subsequently married in March 1986. When Loyd died in 1992, Taylor (under the alias 'Linda Lynch') was listed as his next of kin, but claimed to be his granddaughter rather than his wife.
- "'Welfare Queen' Becomes Issue in Reagan Campaign". New York Times. February 15, 1976. p. 51. Reprinted from The Washington Star.
- Levin, Josh (December 19, 2013). "The Welfare Queen". Slate. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
- Demby, Gene (December 20, 2013). "The Truth Behind The Lies Of The Original 'Welfare Queen'". NPR. Retrieved December 21, 2013.
- "Alleged 'Welfare Queen' Is Accused of $154,000 Ripoff". Jet 47 (13). December 19, 1974. pp. 16–17.
- "Welfare Queen Guilty". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Associated Press. March 17, 1977.