U.S. Charges 49 Russian Diplomats With Health Care Fraud
Louis Lanzano/APManhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara brought the health care fraud charges against the Russian diplomats.
By Emily Flitter

NEW YORK -- U.S. prosecutors have charged 49 current and former Russian diplomats and their family members with participating in a scheme to get health benefits intended for the poor by lying about their income.

According to the charges, filed in November and unsealed Thursday, the diplomats' families got around $1.5 million in benefits from the Medicaid program for families with very low monthly incomes -- in many cases around $3,000 or less. The benefits covered costs related to pregnancies, births and infant care, the charges say.

Meanwhile, according to the charges, the family members spent "tens of thousands of dollars" on vacations, jewelry and luxury goods from stores like Swarovski and Jimmy Choo.

Each of the 49 people was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds and make false statements relating to health care matters, according to the charges.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Peter Donald, said no one was arrested.

A person briefed on the matter said the diplomats all had diplomatic immunity and Russia would have to waive it in order for any arrests to be made. The person said U.S. prosecutors had coordinated with the U.S. State Department on the case.

A spokeswoman for the State Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Another person familiar with the matter said only a small number of the people charged were still living in the United States.

The Russian mission to the United Nations wasn't immediately available for comment on the case.

Trying to Qualify

The charges say the defendants obtained letters to prove their false incomes from officials at the Russian UN mission, including a former counselor and a former second secretary, as well as from former top officials at 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 officials who allegedly signed off on the income letters are identified in the charges by name.
The other five are referred to as unidentified co-conspirators.

Timur Salomatin, a former Russian diplomat at the UN, and his wife Nailya Babaeva, said they made $3,000 a month when Salomatin's UN salary was actually $5,160 a month, according to the charges.

Another couple, Andrey Kalinin and Irina Shirshova, lied about their income and monthly housing costs in order to be deemed eligible for Medicaid and also sought benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which subsidizes the cost of some types of foods and education. According to the charges, the family received more than $23,000 in Medicaid benefits over about three years.

Some families also lied about their newborns' citizenship status, the charges say, because children born to many diplomats and their spouses don't automatically acquire U.S. citizenship the way others do.

Blacklists

Hundreds of Russian diplomats and their families live in a compound in the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx.

Russia has in recent years accused the United States of biased and politically motivated prosecution of its citizens, including jailed arms dealer Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a pilot sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.

In response to a U.S. law enacted in December 2012 that bars Russians seen as human rights abusers from entering the United States, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed off that same month on a similar law barring Americans, including some U.S. Justice Department officials, from Russia.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office brought the health care fraud charges, is among those banned from Russia.

-Additional reporting my Michelle Nichols, Steve Gutterman and Nate Raymond.


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79 Comments

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betty_brock

Libs are so out of touch with reality. Time to find Jesus before it is too late.

December 06 2013 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
anvmd

Send them home so they can sign up with Putincare, after they have paid us back.

December 06 2013 at 6:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mike shaffer

Send them back to Mother Russia..

December 06 2013 at 6:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
toosmart4u

Hey bandy, you are so screwed, obamacare was not in effect when all this went down. Can you not think for yourself.

December 06 2013 at 4:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to toosmart4u's comment
betty_brock

nottoosmart, well it is now. Watch out for things to get worse.

December 06 2013 at 5:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kazz23

Anyone who is not American can live the American dream. What a country.

December 06 2013 at 4:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bandy4321

What fraud? Oh no say it ain't so. To think there is no verification of income in Obamacare. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are so screwed!!!

December 06 2013 at 3:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
belledamnit

What I don't understand is how in the world would foreign diplomats be qualified for ANY American benefits EVER. They're not Americans and do not have US citizenship, so why would they be able to apply for those USA benefits? This reflects poorly on NY social services and any related federal agencies who should be overseeing these diplomats and any social services to which they apply. It clearly shows that the dept that verifies one's qualifications for these benefits is doing a suck job at vetting applicants. Shame on NY social services for allowing this to occur - those responsible should all be fired because you KNOW we're not going to recoup the money they defrauded taxpayers out of.

December 06 2013 at 1:03 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to belledamnit's comment
kazz23

It's called oversight. Good luck with that.

December 06 2013 at 4:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dwagner948

What I can't figure out is why they would want Medicaid in the first place. Few private physicians take it or, if they're listed as providers by Medicaid, when someone calls for an appointment they either aren't taking any more Medicaid patients or you can't get an appointment for 3 months. If you go to a teaching hospital, the clinics will usually take Medicaid but you are seen by interns or residents in training, who may or may not be well supervised by attendings. You would think Russia would buy health insurance for its' diplomats.

December 06 2013 at 12:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Warrior

This is just the tip of the iceberg in the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid fraud that goes on in our country...Most of the fraud is committed by Americans and immigrants, often times using fraudulent documents. The government will probably spend a lot of money, and waste a lot of valuable assets pursuing this case which will involve diplomatic immunity, which will result in few if any, prosecutions...just diplomatic tit for tat with Russia. In the mean time, billions will be stolen by "here today-gone tomorrow front companies," and medical providers using senior citizens with fake illensses requiring medical care and prescription. medications...Even dead people will be used to steal government funds.

December 05 2013 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gotmullet88666

3,000.00 a month is not poor. You mean you can make up to 3,000.00 and still get help. That is very crazy. And don't give me this crap about how expensive NY and DC is to live. Move the Goverment workers to a empty mall somewhere in Oklahoma.

December 05 2013 at 11:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply