SEATTLE — A Seattle chiropractor and his wife live in a $1.2 million waterfront home and have spent the past eight years flying to Moscow, Paris, Israel, Turkey, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
All the while, federal authorities say, the couple was collecting more than $100,000 in welfare.
Now, the U.S. attorney's office is suing David Silverstein and Lyudmila Shimonova, accusing them of filing false claims and demanding that the couple pay back more than $135,000 in federal housing assistance since 2003. Prosecutors are also seeking tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
In gaining Section 8 housing assistance, Shimonova represented that she lived alone with her two children and that her household assets were less than $5,000. Silverstein received the monthly benefits of $1,272 as Shimonova's purported landlord, the government said.
Shimonova also received benefits under the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, as well as Social Security cash reserved for people who can't work due to age or disability and whose assets fall below a certain threshold — $3,000 for a married couple or $2,000 for a single person, the complaint said.
"Defendants have separately and, it appears, in conjunction with one another made false representations to various state and federal agencies in order to obtain federally funded benefits," assistant U.S. attorneys Harold Malkin and Kayla Stahman wrote.
Meanwhile, they were traveling the world, according to Department of Homeland Security records.
Michael Radyshewsky, a federal welfare fraud investigator, wrote in an application to search the couple's home that they took weeklong trips to Moscow in 2003, Dominican Republic in 2005, and Mexico and France in 2009. In 2007, they went for 12 days to Israel, and this past June they took a two-week trip to Turkey.
Silverstein said Tuesday his lawyer asked him not to comment, and his lawyer, David Allen, did not immediately return a message. The home did not appear to have a listed phone number, and Shimonova's lawyer, Michele Shaw, did not return an email seeking comment.
The investigation included surveillance of the three-bedroom, 2,300-square-foot home on Lake Washington, during which agents observed his black Jaguar parked there frequently.
Though Shimonova had claimed she was single and lived there alone, Silverstein listed it as his residence on his driver's license and passport application, the prosecutors said.
But in documents filed so that he could receive the housing assistance, he listed his office as his residence to conceal that he was living with Shimonova — not her landlord, they said.
Furthermore, it appeared clear that the pair was actually married. Silverstein wrote on the website of his chiropractic business: "On a personal note, I am happily married with two children, whose careers are in medicine and Middle Eastern studies. As a family, we all enjoy snow-shoeing, mountain climbing and ocean sports."
A report of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for the 2010 fiscal year listed "Mila and Dr. David Silverstein" as donors.
In addition to failing to disclose the marriage or living situation, Shimonova also failed to disclose bank accounts in her name containing tens of thousands of dollars, prosecutors said.
The lawsuit seeks to have the couple pay $11,000 in fines for each false claim the couple made. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on whether criminal charges are forthcoming.
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