NEW YORK—Forty-nine former and current Russian diplomats and their spouses have been charged with illegally obtaining Medicaid benefits during pregnancy by understating their income, or falsely claiming their child was a U.S. citizen.
From 2004 to August 2013 the 49 defendants allegedly obtained a total of $500,000 in Medicaid benefits illegally, with dozens more, who were not named in the criminal complaint, receiving an estimated $1 million worth of Medicaid benefits illegally.
“Diplomacy should be about extending hands, not picking pockets in the host country. Here, as alleged, a multitude of Russian diplomats and their spouses ran a scam on a health care system designed to help Americans in need,” said Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Each defendant is a current or former Russian diplomat or the spouse of a diplomat employed at the Russian Mission to the United Nations, the Russian Federation Consulate General in New York, or the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the USA, New York Office.
“As the complaint alleges, the scam exploited a weakness in the Medicaid system, and the charges expose shameful and systemic corruption among Russian diplomats in New York,” Bharara said.
The defendants generally submitted letters signed by employees of the Mission, Consulate, or Trade Representation stating their underreported income when applying for Medicaid benefits.
The defendants’ income was allegedly often hundreds, or thousands dollars more per month than what they reported to Medicaid.
According to the complaint, defendants Timor Salomatin, a former diplomat at the mission, and his wife, Nailya Babaeva, applied for Medicaid pregnancy benefits in November 2010. At the time they allegedly stated Salomatin’s salary was $3,000 a month.
In June 2011 they allegedly renewed their Medicaid application and claimed that Salomatin made $4,400 a month. With each application they allegedly submitted a letter signed by Mikhail Korneev, formerly a counselor at the mission, in which Korneev allegedly falsely confirmed the underreported income amount.
In February 2011, a few months after Salomatin and Babeva applied for Medicaid benefits, Salomatin allegedly applied for a credit card, stating his salary was $8,333 a month.
The criminal complaint alleges that Babaeva and her children obtained almost $31,000 in Medicaid benefits to which they were not entitled.
In addition, employees of the Russian mission and consulate normally live in housing paid for by the Russian government, with their medical and dental expenses paid for by their employers. Their salary, paid by the Russian government, is exempt from federal, state, and local taxes.
Of the 49 defendants, 11 are currently in the United States. Five are diplomats working at the Russian mission, and five are the spouses of the diplomats. One defendant is currently employed at the Russian Federation’s embassy in Washington, D.C., but at the time of the charged offenses was employed at the consulate. The other 38 defendants are no longer in the United States.
Each defendant 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. The charges carry maximum sentences of ten years and five years in prison, respectively.