The Department of Justice announced this afternoon that a birth tourism scheme was busted on Long Island. So far, six people have been indicted in connection with the scheme.

The scheme was fairly simple to understand. Starting sometime in 2017, the ringleaders advertised on Turkish language Facebook pages with a simple proposition “My baby should be born in America.” When women responded they would offer a full-service experience, helping the women get to the U.S. and have their babies, in exchange for a fee of $7,500. Carrying out the scheme meant falsifying Visa documents to get the women into the United States:

the defendants…caused pregnant Turkish Aliens to submit fraudulent Tourist Visa applications falsely stating, among other things, that the Aliens were traveling to the United States for tourism or business when. in fact, the Aliens’ purpose in traveling to the United States was to give birth in the United States. In addition, the Tourist Visa applications falsely stated that the Aliens would be staying at locations, such as hotels in New York City, when in fact, they actually
would be staying at Birth Houses maintained by the defendants.

The scheme maintained seven different “birth houses” in different cities in New York. Also, once in America the pregnant women were promised “insurance” which was actually fraudulently obtained Medicaid:

The six defendants charged Wednesday submitted fraudulent New York state Medicaid benefits applications stating that the Turkish women were permanent New York residents who had no income and who resided in one of the “birth houses” maintained by the suspects, according to court papers.

The suspects submitted at least 99 Medicaid claims for different women, according to court papers. In all, the defendants facilitated the births of approximately 119 children, who now hold U.S. citizenship, prosecutors said.

Two of the defendants, Marte and Rodriguez, used their experience as assistors, people who are trained and certified to help individuals in New York state apply for health coverage, to facilitate the Medicaid part of the scheme, according to court papers.

The fraudulent Medicaid claims resulted in payouts of about $2.1 million. The women who ran the scheme collected around $750,000 in fees for the service. They then sent that money to banks in Turkey making it impossible for the government to seize it.

Acting United States Attorney Seth DuCharme summed up the scheme in a statement: “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. The defendants cashed in on the desire for birthright citizenship, and the American taxpayer ultimately got stuck with the $2.1 million bill. The indictment unsealed today reinforces the principle that American citizenship is not for sale, and that our benefits programs are not piggy banks for criminals to plunder.”

Five of the six defendants have been arrested and one remains at large. If convicted they face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Here’s a local news report on the scheme: