Federal agents arrested an employee at a Hallandale Beach business that helps Russian women give birth in the U.S., NBC 6 exclusively learned Thursday.
Evgeny Kovtunenko was taken into federal custody Wednesday during an FBI raid at Miami Mama. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit offense against the United States and six counts of making false statements on federal applications, according to a six-page indictment obtained by NBC 6.
On Wednesday, NBC 6 was the only news station there as federal officials raided the business, which assists Russian mothers obtain visas for childbirth in the United States and engages in paperwork to get U.S. citizenship for their newborns, according to the Miami Mama website.
The indictment against Kovtunenko, who is listed as a Logistics Manager at the business, alleges between March 2013 and August 2015, he made false statements on federal application to get passports for children, “falsely and fraudulently” claiming to have witnessed “non-applying parents” sign the statement of consent. Kovtunenko is also accused of committing the crimes in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
Kenneth Hasset is the defense attorney for Miami Mama. The owner of the business has not been charged with a crime.
"I do not represent that employee but I went to the hearing to see what was going to happen and that person is in the process of bonding out," said Hasset. The attorney offered no comment when asked whether his client knew about the alleged crime citing an active criminal investigation.
The company, which has been operating locally since 2009, is legally registered in Florida. Miami Mama charges up to $50,000 for its services, according to its website.
While lying on a passport application is illegal, birth tourism is not, according to U.S. immigration laws. The maximum penalty for one count of making a false statement on a passport application is 15 years.