Six people were indicted Tuesday in connection with a “birth tourism” and money-laundering scheme in Long Island, N.Y., that resulted in 119 children being born in the United States, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
From January 2017 to September 2020, 117 mothers traveled from Turkey to give birth in the U.S. so their children could obtain citizenship and benefits. It resulted in $2.1 million in losses to Medicaid, authorities said.
“Using Internet ads, the defendants perpetrated an international fraud that relied upon a parade of women who paid them thousands of dollars in fees in order to enter the United States under false pretenses, to give birth here,” Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme said. “The defendants cashed in on the desire for birthright citizenship, and the American taxpayer ultimately got stuck with the $2.1 million bill.”
Five people were arrested Tuesday. The sixth defendant was not named.
The defendants — four Turkish nationals and two U.S. citizens — charged are Sarah Kaplan, 46, of Center Moriches — also known as “Hatun Kaplan” and “Hatin Kaplan” — Ibrahim Aksakal, 48, of East Patchogue, also known as “Dennis”; Enes Burak Cakiroglu, 24, of East Patchogue; Fiordalia Marte, 41, of Lindenhurst, also known as “Lisa”; and Edgar Rodriguez, 48, of Farmingville, known as “Eddie”, the DOJ said.
The group is accused of setting up “birth houses” across Suffolk County where the expectant mothers could stay until giving birth. They were also advised to submit tourist visa applications falsely stating they were traveling to the U.S. for tourist and business purposes, prosecutors said.
Aksakal, Cakiroglu and Kaplan are charged with conspiring to commit visa fraud, health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Marte and Rodriguez were charged with conspiring to commit health care fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
Marte and Rodriguez were professionally trained and certified to assist individuals in applying for health coverage, resulting in the Medicaid fraud, prosecutors said.
The group allegedly used Turkish-language Facebook pages and a Turkish-language website to advertise its services. One site, “My Baby Should Be Born in America,” allegedly advertised transportation and hospital expenses, medical care and help with applying for U.S. citizenship on behalf of the children.
“If you believe your baby should be born in the USA and become a U.S. citizen then you are at the right place,” one ad read.
Fees averaged around $7,500 — nearly all paid in cash — and included transportation, pre-natal care, delivery and post-natal medical care, and assistance with applying for U.S. citizenship on behalf of the America-born children, the indictment said. The women also were instructed to conceal their pregnancies, prosecutors said.
In total, the suspects pocketed $750,000 in fees from the scheme, authorities said.
The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“This indictment should send a message to others exploiting birth tourism — bilking the system and swindling our residents is not tolerated here in Suffolk,” said Geraldine Hart, commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department.
It was not clear what, if any, implications the case will have on the citizenship of the children.
- [LLODO] Portland driver accused of going on deadly rampage identified
- [LLODO] Austin SWAT standoff outside children’s medical center leaves 2 dead, police say
- [LLODO] Austin SWAT team in hours-long standoff outside medical center, doctor reportedly held hostage inside
- [LLODO] Austin SWAT team in standoff outside medical center, doctor reportedly held hostage inside
- [LLODO] Pennsylvania family of 4 found dead after apparent murder-suicide, police say
- [LLODO] Katelyn McClure, NJ crowdfunding scam defendant, has sentencing delayed: reports
- [LLODO] Former ADT employee admits to hacking customer cameras to watch naked women, couples have sex
- [LLODO] Jennifer Kesse disappearance: Family says it’s ‘close’ to answers in 15-year-old cold case
- [LLODO] Attorney once on People’s ‘most eligible bachelor’ list charged with rape