A Turkish national pleaded guilty Friday in federal court in Central Islip to his role in a “birth tourism” scheme.
Ibrahim Aksakal, 49, who lives in East Patchogue, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit health care and wire fraud. The scheme enabled pregnant Turkish women fraudulently entering the United States using tourist and business visas to give birth so that their children would obtain United States citizenship and medical benefits.
The pregnant women stayed in one of seven “birth houses” that Aksakal maintained in Center Moriches, Dix Hills, East Northport, East Patchogue, Smithtown and West Babylon.
The US prosecutor’s office said Aksakal organized the scheme that resulted in losses of more than $1 million to the state Medicaid program between 2017 and 2020.
As part of his plea, Aksakal forfeited $397,500 as proceeds linked to his role in the scheme.
From at least January 2017 to the September 2020, Aksakal and his co-conspirators advertised a birth tourism scheme on two Turkish-language Facebook pages, www.facebook.com/ bebegimamerikadadogsun and www.facebook.com/amerikadadogum.org, and a Turkish-language website https://amerikadadogum.org. Translated into English, “bebegimamerikadadogsun” means “My baby should be born in America,” and “amerikadadogum” means “Giving Birth in America.”
As translated, some of the defendants’ advertisements stated, “If you believe your baby should be born in the USA and become a U.S. citizen then you are at the right place. . . . [W]e at ‘Bebegim Amerika Dogsun’ . . . will provide future mothers and fathers this opportunity, with minimal costs . . . .”
The advertisements also said that fees paid by pregnant women – approximately $7,500, nearly all in cash – would include transportation, “insurance” to cover the costs of pre-natal, delivery and post-natal medical care, assistance with the process for applying for United States citizenship on behalf of children born in connection with the scheme and consultation in Turkish concerning health care issues. Aksakal and his co-conspirators also instructed the women to conceal their pregnancies.
The proceeding was held before United States District Judge Joanna Seybert.
Jacquelyn M. Kasulis, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Timothy D. Sini, District Attorney for Suffolk County; Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI); Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, New York Region (HHS-OIG); Frank T. Walsh, Jr., Acting Medicaid Inspector General, New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG); and Stuart Cameron, Acting Commissioner, Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD), announced the guilty plea.
“This was an extremely complex, international investigation that led law enforcement to the core of this scheme right here in our backyard,” Sini said. “More than $1 million of American citizens’ hard-earned money was stolen through this conspiracy, and today’s plea holds its ringleader accountable. We will not tolerate the theft of taxpayer money in any form, and will continue to work with all of our law enforcement partners to target, arrest and prosecute anyone trying to take advantage of the system.”
“The criminality of birth tourism manipulates our visa and immigration systems and diverts precious financial resources from an already exhausted health care system that serves our local communities to combat COVID-19 and other critical needs,” stated HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “This is a criminal organization that threatens our homeland and preys on the vulnerable. HSI, along with its valued partners, will continue to use every resource to dismantle and bring those responsible to justice.”