Judge sentences wealthy welfare cheats to maximum time

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by CHRIS INGALLS / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @cjingalls

KING5.com

Posted on September 21, 2012 at 2:17 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 21 at 5:39 PM

A federal judge in Seattle on Friday Dr. David Silverstein and Lyudmila Shimonova to the maximum sentence for defrauding five separate state and federal welfare programs while they lived in luxury on Lake Washington.

Judge Richardo Martinez listened to the couple’s tearful apologies and then sentenced them to 18 months in prison for theft of public funds.

In sentencing documents, prosecutors said the couple received $261,703 in improper rent subsidies, food stamps and medical benefits.

As the KING 5 Investigators first reported last year, the couple received rent checks from the Seattle Housing Authority while living in a $1.2 million home on south Lake Washington. The couple was enrolled in the rent assistance program for eight years.

Shimonova was a low-income mother receiving food stamps and medical benefits when she met Dr. Silverstein ten years ago.  He posed as her landlord when she moved into his Lake Washington home. He claimed to be living at another address.

But agents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General caught on.  They developed evidence that the couple was actually married and living together.

In documents filed with the court this week, Dr. Silverstein’s lawyer said the Seattle chiropractor suffers from “significant mental health issues,” including depression and paranoia.  The documents suggest this could be why a wealthy doctor with no criminal record could have been involved in such a scheme.

“It’s unspeakable.  It’s just totally wrong,” Wendy Reed of Seattle told KING 5.

Reed spent four years on the Seattle Housing Authority’s waiting list for housing benefits.  There are now about a thousand people waiting for the type of rent assistance Silverstein and Shimonova received for all those years.

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