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Russian diplomats charged with defrauding U.S. government

Forty-nine Russian diplomats and spouses have been charged with defrauding the United States government of more than $1.5 million in Medicaid through falsification of income statements.

By JC Finley
Russian diplomats charged with defrauding U.S. government
A Russian flag flies outside a consulate. In New York, 49 Russian diplomats and spouses have been charged with defrauding the U.S. government in a complaint unsealed on December 5, 2013. (CC/Vexillus)

Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Forty-nine Russians, about half of whom are current or former diplomats posted to New York City and the other half their spouses, have been charged with defrauding the U.S. government of more than $1.5 million in Medicaid benefits over a nine-year period.

Deputy Director George Venizelos of the FBI's New York field office announced at a news conference that "Each diplomat listed in the complaint submitted an employer verification form from the Russian government misstating their income in an effort to qualify for benefits," adding "Being a diplomat does not give you the right to commit healthcare fraud."

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However, none of the defendants has been arrested yet because the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan has been advised that all the defendants have diplomatic immunity. The U.S. Department of State may seek a waiver of immunity from Moscow, which would allow for prosecution. If not granted by the Russian government, the State Department requires the individuals in question to depart the United States. The State Department is reviewing the charges.

The criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court on Thursday lists the following charges: conspiracy to commit health care fraud, conspiracy to steal government funds and making false statements relating to healthcare matters.

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Medicaid is intended to benefit low-income families.

[CNN] [New York Times]

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