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May 17, 2012 at 12:43 PM

Seattle couple plead guilty to collecting welfare in million-dollar home

A Seward Park chiropractor and his live-in partner pleaded guilty today to the theft of government funds for collecting welfare benefits and food stamps while living in a $1.2 million lakefront home in South Seattle.

Under a plea agreement, David Silverstein, 60, and Lyudmila Shimonova, 53, will pay more than $261,000 in restitution plus an additional civil penalty of $216,441, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

The government accused Silverstein of collecting more than $1,250 a month in federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rent subsidies for Shimonova to live in a home near Pritchard Beach on Lake Washington. HUD, however, said it was not aware that Silverstein was living at the home with Shimonova, and that the couple appeared to be married — conditions that made him ineligible to receive the payments, and wrong for Shimonova to apply for them.

According to the plea agreements, the couple falsely claimed that Silverstein was Shimonova’s landlord who was accepting rent for her and her two children to live at his waterfront property. Silverstein claimed that he was not living at the house and used the address of his chiropractic practice in correspondence with HUD, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

A lawsuit filed in December alleged the couple violated the False Claims Act by lying on applications at least seven times over the years. The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, alleged that Silverstein received more than $135,000 in housing benefits while living in the home.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Shimonova also lied about her finances to qualify for food and medical benefits from the state Department of Social and Health Services as well as Social Security Disability payments.

Beginning in 1995, she claimed to have no assets other than a small balance in a checking account, when in fact she had a life insurance policy with a cash value exceeding $2,000, making her ineligible for assistance.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office said she also owned a diamond ring appraised at $12,500 and diamond earrings worth $17,000, as well as certificates of deposit of more than $30,000.

“Today we ensured this couple will not profit from their flagrant greed,” U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said in the news release.  “In addition to a significant financial penalty, we will ask the judge to impose prison time.  They stole resources that should have gone to the truly needy, illegally taking the place of others in a housing program with a long waiting list.”

Theft of government funds is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Silverstein and Shimonova are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 21 in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: fraud, Seattle, theft

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