Ten women appeared in the Mthatha magistrates' court on Monday for allegedly defrauding the Eastern Cape government of about R500000 in child support grants.
The scam is said to involve a syndicate that includes staff from the Department of Home Affairs, school teachers and hospital and clinic staff.
It is alleged that the accused accessed the funds by applying for grants on behalf of non-existent children.
They are Nontutuzelo Godlo, 23, Dideka Khata, 29, Nonkubulelo Sinto, 29, Nophumzile Falithenjwa, 31, Nojongile Mhlabeni, 21, Tabisa Mnyaka, 33, Nozibele Mazwi, 30, Nosithile Mbundle, 19, Ntobizanele Nunu, 48, and Yonela Magadla, 32.
Inspector Monde Nonge, the investigating officer in the case, said one of the accused fraudulently collected a total of R159000 over the last three years. He said some claimed for up to three children.
In another bizarre revelation, Nonge said identity documents of dead people left by next of kin at Home Affairs offices were sold to fraudsters.
The accused were released on R500 bail each. Their case was postponed to April 3.
They were not asked to plead.