Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Ibrahim Aksakal pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care and wire fraud as part of a so-called “tourism of birth ”in Suffolk County between 2017 and 2020 approximately. The program facilitated pregnant Turkish women. fraudulently entering the United States using tourist and business visas to give birth in order for their children to obtain birthright citizenship and medical benefits. As part of his plea, Aksakal consented to the forfeiture of $ 397,500 as proceeds related to his role in the scheme. Today’s proceedings took place before United States District Judge Joanna Seybert.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Timothy D. Sini, Suffolk County District Attorney; Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent for Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge, US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, New York Region (HHS-OIG); Frank T. Walsh, Jr., Acting Inspector General of Medicaid, New York State Office of the Inspector General of Medicaid (OMIG); and Stuart Cameron, acting commissioner of the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“With today’s plea, Aksakal admits to an outrageous scheme in which he caused the Medicaid program to pay more than $ 1 million in benefits to pregnant Turkish nationals who, posing as tourists, are entered the United States under false pretenses to obtain birthright citizenship for their newborn babies. ”Acting United States Attorney Kasulis said. Ms. Kasulis also thanked the United States Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, for its assistance in the matter.
“This was an extremely complex international investigation that brought law enforcement to the heart of this agenda right here in our backyard,” District Attorney Sini said. “Over a million dollars in hard-earned money by American citizens has been stolen through this plot, and today’s advocacy holds its leader responsible. We will not tolerate the theft of taxpayer dollars in any form and will continue to work with all of our law enforcement partners to target, arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to take advantage of the system.
“Birth tourism crime manipulates our visa and immigration systems and diverts precious financial resources from an already depleted health system that serves our local communities to fight COVID-19 and other critical needs,” HSI Special Agent Fitzhugh said. “This is a criminal organization that threatens our homeland and attacks vulnerable people. HSI, along with its valued partners, will continue to use all resources to dismantle and bring those responsible to justice. “
“Millions of people in New York City depend on Medicaid for essential services, and taxpayers statewide are paying for these care,” said the special agent in charge of HHS-OIG Lampert. “When individuals like Mr. Aksakal use this program to commit fraud, they embezzle valuable funds that endanger the future availability of Medicaid and other public assistance programs. The HHS-OIG and our law enforcement partners will continue to aggressively eliminate fraud schemes and hold criminals accountable. “
“Medicaid fraud, as represented by this blatant program, threatens the health and safety of beneficiaries, wastes taxpayer dollars and drains critical resources from the health care delivery system,” Inspector General said. acting OMIG Walsh. “My office will continue to be vigilant, especially in these most difficult times to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will work closely with our law enforcement partners to protect the integrity of the Medicaid program. , hold perpetrators fully accountable and preserve precious health care resources.
“Healthcare fraud is a problem that hurts both the people who depend on these services and the taxpayers who end up getting stuck with the bill,” said SCPD Commissioner Cameron. “This is the first time the Suffolk County Police Department has dealt with a birth tourism case and I would like to commend the efforts of our Criminal Intelligence detectives as well as our law enforcement partners who have worked with success on this matter while sending a message to others. exploiting birth tourism – cheating the system and swindling our residents is not an acceptable practice here in Suffolk. “
From January 2017 at least to September 2020, Aksakal and his co-conspirators announced a birth tourism program on two Turkish-language Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/ bebegimamerikadadogsun and Wwww.facebook.com/amerikadadogum.org, and a Turkish website https://amerikadadogum.org. Translated into English, “bebegimerikadadogsunMeans “My baby should be born in America” and “amerikadadogum“stands for” Giving Birth in America. “As translated, some of the accused’s advertisements read,” If you think your baby should be born in the United States and become a United States citizen, then you have come to the right place. [W]to eat ‘Bebegim Amerika Dogsun ‘ . . . will offer future mothers and fathers this opportunity, with minimal costs. . . . The advertisements further indicated that the fees paid by pregnant women – about $ 7,500 almost entirely in cash – would include transportation, ‘insurance’ to cover the costs of prenatal, childbirth and postnatal medical care, assistance in United’s application process for state citizenship on behalf of children born under the program and consultation in Turkish on health issues.Aksakal and his co-conspirators have also asked women to hide their pregnancies.
The pregnant women remained in one of the seven “birth houses” that Aksakal maintained in Center Moriches, Dix Hills, East Northport, East Patchogue, Smithtown and West Babylon, New York. In addition to facilitating fraudulently obtained Medicaid benefits and accommodation and transportation for pregnant women, Aksakal and his co-conspirators have also advertised the program on websites. As a result of this program, Medicaid has disbursed over $ 1 million in fraudulently obtained benefits.
Once convicted, Aksakal faces up to 20 years in prison.
The government’s case is handled by the Long Island Criminal Division of the Bureau. US Deputy Prosecutors Bradley T. King and Oren Gleich and US Special Assistant Prosecutor Jeremy Glicksman are in charge of the prosecution.
IBRAHIM AKSAKAL (also known as “Dennis”)
Patchogue East, New York
EDNY File # 20-CR-400 (JS)