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Philly Mom Who Spent $25K on Black Panther-Themed Prom Party Accused of Disability Fraud

In this June 6 photo, Saudia Shuler is seen with the black leopard named "Queen" at the Wakanda-themed prom sendoff in North Philadelphia. Prom sendoffs are the party before the party. (Elizabeth Robertson / AP)
Elizabeth Robertson / AP

The Philadelphia mom who gave her son a $25,000 African-themed prom party replete with camels has been accused of illegally taking tens of thousands in disability payments.

Saudia Shuler, 44, made news last week for throwing the lavish prom party, which included camels, a black panther, and costumed characters from the Marvel superhero film Black Panther.

But after her notoriety, city officials began looking into Shuler’s finances and are now charging her with defrauding the city of tens of thousands in disability payments, according to ABC 6.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney for Philadelphia charged Shuler with wire fraud, theft of government funds, and Social Security fraud.

Prosecutors said Shuler signed up for disability benefits saying she is unable to work, even though she is not disabled. They also noted that she has been working in a fast food business during the time she said she could not work and that she took at least $36,000 in disability payments.

“There’s evidence she defrauded the government, and no matter who you are the government brings charges,” Beth Leahy, deputy chief of Health Care Fraud, told the media.

“When asked about the quality of life, she said that she couldn’t, rarely cook any meals and that her cousin cooked for her. In reality, Ms. Shuler was running a food take-out business for Country Cookin’,” Leahy added.

Shuler’s attorney, Tariq El-Shabazz, brushed off the government’s charges, asserting Shuler had suffered a stroke and was in rehabilitation during the period prosecutors claimed she was running the fast food business.

Indeed, El-Shabazz insisted the business in Shuler’s name proves she was not hiding anything.

“If someone is allegedly participating in and receiving social security benefits, disability benefits indicating they can’t work, I don’t know if they would have a store in their name,” El-Shabazz said in his statement on the charges.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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