A couple with a lakeside home in an affluent Seattle neighborhood will be locked behind bars for 18 months because of welfare fraud charges.
On Friday a federal judge sentenced David Mark Silverstein, 60, and his partner Lyudmila Shimonova, 53, to federal prison for making false statements in order to receive federal assistance.
Silverstein has already paid $206,970 in fines and penalties as well as $160,000 in restitution in a related civil case that the US Government filed against him. After this criminal sentence he will also have to pay an extra $30,000 and remain under federal supervision for three years after being released from prison.
Similarly, Shimonova was fined more than $261,000 in restitution and faces three years of supervised release.
Federal prosecutors ensured a particularly long sentence for the couple by pointing out that the couple was already enjoying a relatively affluent lifestyle without the government aid. Prosecuting attorney C. Seth Wilkinson told the court that “The defendants committed these crimes out of greed, not need.” Most persons who welfare fraud are relatively impoverished and use the money to make themselves slightly more comfortable. Silversteen and Shimonova on the other hand enjoyed a life of luxury. They owned a lakefront home, with a boat. Silversteen drove a jaguar and Shimonova owned jewelry worth in excess of $60,000.
Investigators argued that Shimonova received more than $100,000 in federal housing assistance, which was paid to Silverstein, who was listed as her landlord. She also received much more assistance from other programs for needy families. Although Shimonova had no children and shared income with Silverstain, the couple reported that she was a single mother of two and struggling to make ends meet.
Silverstein’s attorney said that the criminal charges have cost Silverstein dearly. Silverstein has been shunned by his friends and was forced to close his business. This illustrates that the social repercussion of criminal charges such as fraud can be far worse than any punishment imposed by the court.