Five people were charged Dec. 2 in what authorities called a “birth tourism” scheme that arranged for pregnant Turkish women to give birth in New York to get more than 100 children U.S. citizenship and take advantage of public health care.
The defendants obtained fraudulent tourist and business visas for some of their clients to enter the U.S. and stay in “birth houses” on Long Island before giving birth and returning to Turkey with their newborns, federal prosecutors said.
The ring used social media to promote its services on sites with titles that translated into English as, “My baby should be born in America” and “Giving Birth in America,” the papers say. Charges reached $7,500 or more for each woman.
Between January 2017 and September, the scheme “facilitated the births of approximately 119 Turkish children, who now hold birthright United States citizenship,” court papers say.
The defendants, the papers add, “foisted the costs of the births on the taxpaying public” by illegally obtaining more than $2.1 million in Medicaid coverage to pay for prenatal and child delivery costs.
An indictment named Ibrihim Aksakal and Sarah Kaplan as the alleged ringleaders. They and three other defendants were to be arraigned later Wednesday. The status of a sixth person charged in the case as an unnamed co-conspirator was unclear.
Aksakal’s attorney declined to comment. A message seeking comment was left with Kaplan’s lawyer.
Earlier this year, the White House imposed new visa rules aimed at restricting birth tourism, a particular grievance of President Donald Trump. Under the rules, pregnant applicants are supposed to be barred tourist visas unless they can prove they must come to the U.S. to give birth for medical reasons and they have money to pay for it.
Hurriyet Daily News