Welfare Fraud

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Strange_Cat's picture
Joined: 02/08/02
Posts: 41
Welfare Fraud

This was a headline today:


Feds: Seattle chiropractor, wife received welfare while living in $1.2 million waterfront home

By Associated Press, Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 5:33 PM

SEATTLE — A Seattle chiropractor and his wife live in a $1.2 million waterfront home and have spent the past eight years flying to Moscow, Paris, Israel, Turkey, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
All the while, federal authorities say, the couple was collecting more than $100,000 in welfare.
Now, the U.S. attorney’s office is suing David Silverstein and Lyudmila Shimonova, accusing them of filing false claims and demanding that the couple pay back more than $135,000 in federal housing assistance since 2003. Prosecutors are also seeking tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
In gaining Section 8 housing assistance, Shimonova represented that she lived alone with her two children and that her household assets were less than $5,000. Silverstein received the monthly benefits of $1,272 as Shimonova’s purported landlord, the government said.
Shimonova also received benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, as well as Social Security cash reserved for people who can’t work due to age or disability and whose assets fall below a certain threshold — $3,000 for a married couple or $2,000 for a single person, the complaint said.
“Defendants have separately and, it appears, in conjunction with one another made false representations to various state and federal agencies in order to obtain federally funded benefits,” assistant U.S. attorneys Harold Malkin and Kayla Stahman wrote.
Meanwhile, they were traveling the world, according to Department of Homeland Security records.
Michael Radyshewsky, a federal welfare fraud investigator, wrote in an application to search the couple’s home that they took weeklong trips to Moscow in 2003, Dominican Republic in 2005, and Mexico and France in 2009. In 2007, they went for 12 days to Israel, and this past June they took a two-week trip to Turkey.
Silverstein said Tuesday his lawyer asked him not to comment, and his lawyer, David Allen, did not immediately return a message. The home did not appear to have a listed phone number, and Shimonova’s lawyer, Michele Shaw, did not return an email seeking comment.
The investigation included surveillance of the three-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot home on Lake Washington, during which agents observed his black Jaguar parked there frequently.
Though Shimonova had claimed she was single and lived there alone, Silverstein listed it as his residence on his driver’s license and passport application, the prosecutors said.
But in documents filed so that he could receive the housing assistance, he listed his office as his residence to conceal that he was living with Shimonova — not her landlord, they said.
Furthermore, it appeared clear that the pair was actually married. Silverstein wrote on the website of his chiropractic business: “On a personal note, I am happily married with two children, whose careers are in medicine and Middle Eastern studies. As a family, we all enjoy snow-shoeing, mountain climbing and ocean sports.”
A report of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for the 2010 fiscal year listed “Mila and Dr. David Silverstein” as donors.
In addition to failing to disclose the marriage or living situation, Shimonova also failed to disclose bank accounts in her name containing tens of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.
The lawsuit seeks to have the couple pay $11,000 in fines for each false claim the couple made. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on whether criminal charges are forthcoming.

This is clearly a serious case of fraud. I don't think there's much debate about that. The woman lied about her relationship status, and did not disclose that her boyfriend (or husband) lived with her and supported her. My question is:

Is welfare fraud ever ok? At what income level over the legal limit is it ok to cheat? Is it ok to deny that your boyfriend lives with you and supports you if you are just under the eligibility limit on your own? Should all liars be prosecuted, or only some? If only some, which ones?

Joined: 12/10/05
Posts: 1681

Fraud and lying on the application forms is never ok. You might not like the rules, but that doesn't mean you don't have to follow them. And, yes, anyone who commits welfare fraud should be prosecuted.

Joined: 06/04/07
Posts: 1368

I agree that it's absolutely never ok. But the level that they charge, if they charge, depends on the circumstance and the amount that is calculated as an overpayment. If it's over $500, it can be charged out as a felony. It's up to each county in our state as to if they will prosecute or if they will have them sign an ADH (Administrative Disqualification Hearing) in lieu of criminally charging them. Both requires they pay it back and penalties of being disqualified from the program(s) apply, but one does not make it so openly public (they're both public information, but the ADH is less so since there's no hearing on the matter) and one assists the client who committed the fraud from losing any professional licenses that requires a criminal background check.

In your question about not reporting someone in the home, that is one of the most common forms of fraud out there as it usually means that there's other income or assets (depending on the program and relationship) that should be applied towards their benefits. For food support, if one buys, prepares, or eats together they are considered one unit. It doesn't mean they have to do all three, just one. It includes those that are away from home for their job and are home on the weekends or every other week. Our fraud unit suggests that if one claims to be completely separate, then their food should be divided in the cupboards as well. And to claim that one does not buy, prepare, or eat together with their significant other that they share a bed and residence with is not very believable and may be flagged for an investigation.

GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
Posts: 4111

Never ok. These people should get a jail sentence in addition to paying back the money.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6559

I do not believe it is ever ok to lie or commit fraud in Welfare. That said, if it is the Welfare office's fault (Such as the example in the other thread, where they overpaid for three months), that was not the recipients fault, and they should not get in trouble for it.

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