Mom who threw lavish prom parties accused of ripping off the government

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania -- A Philadelphia mother who sent her son to prom in "blockbuster" fashion was indicted Tuesday for social security fraud.

Saudia Shuler is best known for putting on lavish prom parties. She donates thousands of her own dollars to do it, spending $25,000 on her son's prom two years ago.

EMBED More News Videos

Dubai-themed prom party in North Philadelphia goes viral. Alicia Vitarelli reports during Action News at 4:30 p.m. on June 5, 2017.

Then this last prom season, she sent 24 deserving students to prom, as well, including a party with a 'Black Panther' movie theme.

EMBED More News Videos

North Philly businesswoman sponsors Black Panther prom sendoff: Christie Ileto reports on Action News at 11 p.m., June 6, 2018

Shuler is also known for her restaurant, Saudia Shuler's Country Cookin.'

But now Shuler has found herself in some trouble. She's facing several charges brought by the federal government.

Prosecutors with the US Attorney's Office on Chestnut Street say, over the last four years, Shuler has been involved in Social Security fraud.

Deputy Chief of Health Care Fraud Beth Leahy said, "There's evidence she defrauded the government and no matter who you are, the government brings charges."

Leahy says, back in 2014, Shuler claimed she was disabled and unable to work, but after Social Security approved the benefits, she continued to operate her restaurant.

"When asked about the quality of life, she said that she couldn't ... 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 said.

Shuler's attorney Tariq El-Shabazz says there's no way the charges are true. He says Shuler was sick.

"Ms. Shuler suffered from a stroke and a result of that she was in rehab she was unable to do anything for two-plus years, around the same time she was allegedly perpetrating this particular fraud," said El-Shabazz.

El-Shabazz said his client is a woman who has done nothing but serve her community, and she has no reason to lie to Social Security nor hide anything.

El Shabazz added, "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."

In total, prosecutors say Shuler owes the government more than $36,000. She faces nine charges, including two counts of Social Security fraud.
Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.