International Law

Russian diplomats charged--but not arrested--in alleged Medicaid fraud

Federal prosecutors have charged 49 people in an alleged scheme to fraudulently obtain Medicaid benefits, but none has been arrested because of diplomatic immunity.

The defendants are current or former Russian diplomats or their wives, report the New York Times, Reuters and a press release. Eleven still live in the United States.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said at a press conference on Thursday that the U.S. State Department could seek a waiver of immunity from the Russian government to allow the prosecutions. Absent a waiver, the State Department typically would require the defendants to leave the United States, he said.

The indictment alleges that the defendants were part of a scheme to obtain Medicaid benefits for pregnancies, births and infant care by underreporting their income or falsely claiming that their children were U.S. citizens. The defendants received salaries from the Russian government, the press release says, and spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury items such as cruises and merchandise from stores such as Jimmy Choo, Prada and Bloomingdale’s.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told the official RIA Novosti news agency he was disappointed that the government did not privately discuss the allegations through diplomatic channels. “We have many claims against American diplomats in Moscow,” he said, “but we don’t air them out in public. There are dozens of situations where we can make a complaint against them.”

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