Republican California Rep. Ed Royce is pressing the Obama administration on how it will deal with dozens of high-living Russian diplomats who lied about their incomes to collect healthcare money meant for the poor.
Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday he wants a briefing on the alleged Medicaid fraud, and wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry asking how officials will handle "the law enforcement and diplomatic aspects" of the case, The Hill reported.
In a complaint unsealed in federal court in Manhattan last Thursday, 49 former and current diplomats are charged with defrauding Medicaid of $1.5 million since 2004.
The defendants either now work, or have worked, at 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, The Hill reported.
Only 11 still live in the United States; five work at the Russian Mission, five are spouses, and one works at the Trade Representation.
It's the defendants' scattered status that is worrisome, Royce said.
He is asking whether the Obama administration will request that Russia waive their diplomatic immunity, and for defendants not in the United States, Royce asks whether they'll be extradited to stand trial, The Hill reported.
Royce also wants to know whether the Russian government will reimburse U.S. taxpayers for the ill-gotten gains.
"Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said last week.
According to the complaint, the defendants submitted fraudulent applications for medical benefits for pregnancies, births, and care for young children — and qualified for Medicaid benefits by under-reporting their incomes, often by tens of thousands of dollars.
All the while, court papers said, the diplomats and their spouses spent tens of thousands of dollars on vacations, fancy watches, expensive jewelry, and designer clothing at luxury retail stores, including Bloomingdale's, Tiffany & Co., Jimmy Choo, and Swarovski.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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