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Russian foreign minister: U.S. fraud allegations attempt at revenge

NEW YORK, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Russia's Foreign Ministry said Friday the United States' accusations that 49 current or former Russian diplomats defrauded Medicaid was an attempt at revenge.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the United States should have brought the allegations to Russia through diplomatic channels, not made them public.

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''We have many complaints about U.S. diplomats in Moscow, but we are not making them public,'' Ryabkov said.

He said the allegations were an attempt to take revenge for "issues unrelated to bilateral relations."

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The FBI announced Thursday that the 49 defendants were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements on healthcare matters. The charges carry maximum sentences of 10 and five years in prison, respectively, the FBI said.

Some defendants, while allegedly cheating Medicaid, a program designed to help the U.S. poor, spent tens of thousands of dollars in illegal benefits on luxury items, including cruise vacations and purchases such as watches, shoes and jewelry, at stores such as Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, Prada, Bloomingdale's and Burberry, the FBI said in New York.

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The diplomats work or worked at the Russian Mission to the United Nations, the Russian Federation Consulate General in New York or the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in the United States.

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The indictment said the defendants or dozens of unnamed co-conspirators illegally obtained prenatal benefits and related services by, among other things, falsely underreporting their income or falsely claiming their children were citizens of the United States.

About $1.5 million in illegal benefits were obtained, the indictment alleged.

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