Lawmaker requests briefing on Russians who defrauded Medicaid

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wants a briefing on the 49 current and former Russian diplomats and their spouses who have been accused of a near decadelong scheme to defraud Medicaid.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said on Monday he’s seeking information on how the Obama administration plans to address “the law enforcement and diplomatic aspects” of the case.

ADVERTISEMENT
Earlier this month, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and FBI Assistant Director George Venizelos said each of the defendants “participated in a widespread scheme to illegally obtain Medicaid benefits for prenatal care and related costs by, among other things, falsely underreporting their income or falsely claiming that their child was a citizen of the United States.”

The 49 defendants work or have worked at either the Russian Mission to the United Nations, the Russian Federation Consulate General in New York, or the New York office of the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the USA.

Of the 49, 11 are currently in the U.S. Five of the charged presently work at The Mission, five are spouses, and one works at the Trade Representation. The remaining 38 are no longer in the U.S.

Royce said the varying statuses of the alleged conspirators raises a host of thorny diplomatic issues, like whether the administration will ask Russia to waive their immunity, if the defendants who are no longer in the country can be extradited to stand trial, and whether the Russian government should have to reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the illicitly obtained benefits.

The Russians each face 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, which carry maximum sentences of 10 years and five years in prison, respectively.