Diplomats from Russia Charged with Medicaid Fraud for Multi-Year Scheme
On December 5th, Justice Department prosecutors for the federal government charged 49 current and former Russian diplomats, and their family members, for their roles in a Medicaid fraud scheme that lasted for 9 years.
The scheme involved the diplomats lying about their income in order to receive medical benefits intended for the poor.
The charges were officially filed in November, and unsealed on Thursday, December 5th. The allegations of Medicaid fraud come at a time of diplomatic tension between the US and Russia, and there have also been suggestions that the diplomats were being tracked as spies for their government, but a spokeswoman for the US State Department said that she did not think the fraud charges would seriously affect the relationship between the two countries.
The families involved in the Medicaid fraud scheme reportedly received around $1.5 million in benefits, primarily covering pregnancies, births, and infant care. Meanwhile, the Russian government paid the diplomats and their families well, and also paid their housing costs, leaving the group to spend “tens of thousands of dollars” on lavish vacations, expensive jewelry, and fashionable shoes.
Each of the 49 people involved received two federal charges: one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud, and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements relating to healthcare matters.
According to a spokesman for the FBI, no one has been arrested yet. US Attorney Preet Bharara said during a press conference in Manhattan that the US State Department had to request diplomatic immunity from Russia in order to arrest any of the country’s citizens on federal Medicaid fraud charges. If no waiver is granted, then the state department can insist that the diplomats leave the country, but cannot take them to court.
The Medicaid Fraud Scheme
According to official reports, the Russian diplomats obtained letters from the Russian UN Mission to prove their false incomes, which included written statements from a former counselor and a former second secretary, as well as former top officials from the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York, and the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the USA. Only two of the seven alleged officials, who assisted in the Medicaid fraud scheme, have been named in the indictment. The others are referred to as “unidentified co-conspirators.”
Not only did several of the defendants lie about their incomes, according to the indictment, but they also lied about their children’s citizenship status in order to receive benefits. Children born in the US to foreign nationals usually receive automatic US citizenship, but children born to diplomats do not automatically receive such a benefit and therefore do not automatically qualify for Medicaid coverage.
According to Bharara, only 11 of the 49 Medicaid fraud defendants are still in the US.
The Strom Law Firm Protects Medicaid Fraud Whistleblowers in South Carolina
If you have first-hand knowledge of government fraud occurring at your place of employment or your doctor’s office, including Medicaid fraud, the attorneys at the Strom Law Firm can help protect your rights. In order to help the government provide the best possible services, Medicare and Medicaid fraud must be reported as soon as possible. The attorneys at the Strom Law Firm understand the complexity of qui tam and whistleblower suits, and we offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. Contact us today.803.252.4800