Feds: 6 charged in ‘birth tourism’ scheme on Long Island
Federal prosecutors have announced charges against six people in a “birth tourism”
fraud and money laundering
scheme on Long Island.
According to authorities, the scheme had been going on for
more than three years. They say the international
ring brought pregnant women from Turkey to Suffolk County for something
called “birth tourism.”
“Birth tourism” is basically a trip to the United States
for the purpose of giving birth in this country, which would then grant the
baby U.S. citizenship, officials say. The individuals are accused of promoting
the operation on Facebook with ads.
In total officials say 117 Turkish mothers gave birth to
119 children on Long Island as a result of that scheme. Authorities say the
mothers stayed at so-called “birth houses.”
There were seven of those homes located in communities like
Smithtown, East Northport, Dix Hills, Center Moriches, West Babylon and East
Investigators say the defendants
also defrauded the Medicaid system out of about $2.1 million because they
claimed the mothers were New York residents who had no money. However,
authorities say many of them were wealthy, paying as much as $10,000 each
to take part in the scheme.
Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart says they caught
on to the scheme after a Town of Smithtown employee noticed an irregularity
while registering birth certificates.
“It started when information was provided to detectives
about birth certificates obtained by five Turkish women, all with the same
address, who had babies at around the same time. At first it was not clear if
any criminality was involved. But thanks to the tenacity and hard work of our detectives and our
partners, and the countless hours they put in, a case came together and
unveiled a birth tourism ring,” says Hart.
Officials say the women who came to the United States to
give birth are not targets of the criminal investigation. In fact, many of them
are already back in Turkey. As for their children, they will likely keep their
United States citizenship for the rest of their lives.