Forty-nine Russians, all of them either current or former diplomats or the spouse of a diplomat employed at the Russian Mission to the United Nations in New York, were this week charged in a widespread fraud scheme from 2004 to August 2013 to illegally obtaining nearly $1.5 million in Medicaid benefits, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

The complaint unsealed on Friday revealed the widespread submission of falsified applications for Medicaid benefits associated with medical costs for prenatal care, birth, and young children by the diplomats and this enabled them to obtain benefits that they were not otherwise entitled to receive.

Medicaid aims to assist low-income individuals and families access health care benefits and recipients must generally be U.S. citizens or qualified immigrants.

Though diplomats, including their spouses and children, are not considered to be qualified immigrants, the defendants underreported their income .

True income

However, the DOJ noted, “The defendants’ true income was often hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more per month than what was falsely reported to Medicaid.”

Though no arrests have been made yet and only 11 of the diplomats and their spouses remained in the U.S. the DOJ said even as the Russians applied for and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid benefits, they spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury items, including cruise vacations and purchases such as watches, shoes, and jewellery at stores such as Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, Prada, Bloomingdale’s, and Burberry.

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