A wealthy couple living in Seattle, Wash., in a $1.2 million home has been accused of welfare fraud. The couple has been receiving welfare benefits for nearly a decade.
Suspects drew benefits while on vacation in Turkey
A Seattle, Wash., couple has been busted by federal authorities for one of the most egregious alleged instances of welfare fraud in recent memory, according to Washington newspaper the Spokesman-Review. David Silverstein and Lyudmila Shimonova are being sued by the U.S. Attorney’s office to recover more than $135,000 that Shimonova is alleged to have received since 2003 in Federal Housing Authority Section 8 assistance.
Silverstein and Shimonova live in a $1.2 million, three-bedroom property on Lake Washington. Silverstein is known for driving a black Jaguar. The couple, according to the Daily Mail, have gone on weeklong excursions to Moscow in 2003, the Dominican Republic in 2005, Mexico and France in 2009, a 12-day vacation in Israel in 2007 and a two-week stay in Turkey in June.
Disability, housing assistance, TANF
Shimanova, according to ABC, claims to be disabled and receives Social Security Disability Income. Shimonova is alleged to have claimed to be a single mother with two children and less than $5,000 in assets to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as being disabled and having less than $2,000 assets to the Social Security Administration. Shimonova also filed for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits.
Silverstein is alleged to have received $1,272 per month as Shimonova’s “landlord.” Silverstein claims to be married on the website for his chiropractor’s practice and the residence in question is listed as his on his driver’s license. However, his office is claimed as his residence in documents filed with the government, in which he claims to be Shimonova’s landlord.
Besides the $135,000 in benefits the government is seeking to reclaim, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is also seeking to have fines imposed for at least seven violations of the False Claims Act, according to the Seattle Times. The maximum penalty for doing so is up to $11,000 per offense, so if a judge were to impose the maximum penalties, the couple could also have an additional $77,000 tacked on to their bill with attorney’s fees and court costs. It is not known whether criminal charges are forthcoming.
It isn’t known how much in federal or state funding is wasted on outright fraud, but it is into the billions.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Social Security Administration made $6.5 billion in overpayments in 2009, but it isn’t known how much was due to inadvertent errors and how much was due to wanton fraud. According to OregonLive, the Social Security Administration is unable to complete sufficient reviews of recipients to be able to prevent fraud and waste, which would have likely ferreted out Shimanova and Silverstein long ago.
Spokesman Review: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2011/dec/06/feds-couple-claimed-welfare-lived-12-million-home/
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2070787/Wealthy-couple-live-1-2m-home-drive-Jag-claiming-benefits-years.html
Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2016943245_fraudsuit06m.html
Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Latest-News-Wires/2011/0615/Social-Security-payments-6.5-billion-in-overpayments
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