India-born top US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara announced charges against the 49 defendants. (Agencies)
Each of the charged in the complaint unsealed here is current or former Russian diplomat or the spouse of a diplomat employed at either the Russian Mission to the United Nations, Russia's Consulate General or the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the US.
The complaint alleges that each of the defendants and their co-conspirators participated in a widespread fraud scheme from 2004 to 2013 to illegally obtain Medicaid benefits for prenatal care and related costs by falsely underreporting their income or falsely claiming that their child was a citizen of the United States.
"Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country. Here, as alleged, a multitude of Russian diplomats and their spouses ran a scam on a health care system designed to help Americans in need. As the complaint alleges, the scam exploited a weakness in the Medicaid system, and the charges expose shameful and systemic corruption among Russian diplomats in New York," Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said.
Each of the 49 Russians was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements relating to health care matters, which carry maximum sentences of ten years and five years in prison.
Of the 49 defendants, 11 are currently in the US and five of those individuals are diplomats working at the Russian Mission to the UN.
Another five individuals are spouses of the diplomats while one is currently employed at the Russian Federation’s embassy in Washington. The remaining 38 no longer reside in the United States.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge George Venizelos said while the US government values its long-standing relationship with foreign diplomats and diplomatic establishments, "unfortunately some Russian officials in New York allowed these defendants to take advantage of that relationship."
"Motivated by greed and the purchase of high-end luxury items, these defendants allegedly perpetrated a fraud to illegally obtain Medicaid benefits to which they were not entitled," he said.
India-born top US federal prosecutor Preet Bharara announced charges against the 49 defendants.