A federal criminal indictment unsealed on Thursday accuses nearly 50 Russian diplomats and their spouses of fraudulent use of $1.5 million worth of Medicaid benefits over the last decade. Prosecutors said that the diplomats scammed the system by underreporting their incomes in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits to cover the costs of pregnancy and childbirth procedures.
Medicaid provides affordable health care benefits to low-income Americans and, according to the indictment, is only available to American citizens and select immigrants. The Russian diplomats did not qualify for coverage under Medicaid, but ABC News reports, “proof of U.S. citizenship is not required for pregnant women completing an "Access NY Healthcare" application, according to the documents, because the unborn child is presumed to acquire citizenship when they are born in the country.”
The Russian defendants, the New York Times reports, did not appear in court because they have diplomatic immunity. The 18-month investigation found that there were 63 births to Russian diplomat families between 2004 and 2013 and 58 of those were paid for using Medicaid benefits. The indictment shows one couple, Andrey Artasov and Nataliya Artasova, applied for and received Medicaid benefits while racking up purchases of luxury items. Here’s more from ABC News:
[Andrey] Artasov is currently employed as a First Secretary at the Mission and they have State Department issued diplomatic visas. In November 2008, [Nataliya] Artasova applied for pregnancy Medicaid benefits and allegedly falsely stated that her husband earned only $2,900 a month, the indictment states. "Based on the misrepresentations in the initial application, Artasova received almost $1,200 from November 2008 to March 2009, in Medicaid benefits that she would not otherwise have been entitled to," the documents state. In a 2007 credit card application, Artasov said his income was $60,000 as a Second Secretary. The next year, the year they applied for Medicaid, the couple paid for over $48,000 in purchases on the credit card, including $4,500 at Swarovski and $3,500 at Apple, according to the indictment.