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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

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December 24, 2013 - 5:53 am

Congress is digging into how foreign diplomats accessed — and reportedly defrauded — federal benefits programs.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) wrote Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday to say he’s “deeply troubled” by the reports that dozens of Russian diplomats and their families committed Medicaid fraud while in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, 25 current and former Russian diplomats and 24 of their spouses allegedly participated in a scheme to illegally obtain Medicaid benefits for prenatal care and related costs by underreporting their income or falsely claiming that their children were citizens of the United States, Royce noted. Over the course of nearly a decade, they milked the system of $1.5 million in benefits. The U.S. Attorney alleges that the staff of Russian diplomatic offices in the U.S. supplied false documentation to New York officials in support of the fraudulent Medicaid claims.

“The unsealing of the U.S. Attorney’s criminal complaint raises a number of issues about the Administration’s options for handling this matter and the interagency coordination during the precursor investigation,” Royce wrote. “In order to better understand this situation, I would appreciate a detailed, staff-level briefing at the earliest opportunity, as well as written answers to the following questions prior to the meeting.”

These questions include how the Obama administration plans to treat the 11 named defendants still in the U.S. “Will you ask the Russian government to waive their immunity so that they can be prosecuted? If not, will the Department declare them persona non grata?”

“How will the Administration treat the 38 named defendants who, according to the U.S. Attorney, no longer reside in the United States? Will you request that they be extradited to stand trial? If not, will the Department impose a U.S. visa ban on them?” Royce continued. “Will the Administration bill the Russian government for the Medicaid benefits its personnel fraudulently used? If not, how will New York State’s Medicaid program be compensated for the loss?”

The chairman said the case “also raises a number of important questions about government programs that provide benefits to foreign diplomats.”

On Dec. 6, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that foreign diplomats in the United States “who meet certain eligibility criteria may apply for and receive federally funded medical care.”

“What are the medical programs for which foreign diplomats may be eligible? What are the eligibility criteria? Over the last 10 years, how many foreign diplomats have used these programs? What was the total cost of the benefits provided? Please provide these data sorted by foreign diplomatic mission or international organization,” Royce wrote.

“Are foreign diplomats eligible for government-funded benefits other than Medicaid (e.g., Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)? If so, which programs and what are the eligibility criteria? Over the last 10 years, how many foreign diplomats have taken advantage of these programs? What was the total cost of the benefits provided?”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
UN out of the US.
Damascus is one of the oldest cities in the world and needs a little economic boost.
Put the UN in Damascus and free up some parking spots in Manhattan.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Who needs them. Cut of relations with Russia until Putin and his KGB posse are out of power.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
foreigners purposely defrauding our government systems. tens of millions here illegally, scarfing up our limited resources while we borrow and borrow and borrow to buy more. sounds sort of like a typical day in washington. fraud, waste and abuse. the three hallmarks of governmental incompetence. the three stooges couldn't have designed it better.

I guess when the no.1 guy in government comes in the door flashing obviously (child-like) forged documents, and nobody checks it out, we shouldn't blame other foreigners for trying it.

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know what Putin will say to O'Zero when he sends the Ruskies the bill?

Well - I do!

Same thing you'll be doing to your Christmas turkey tomorrow.


38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Obama now has the flexibility to get into a position to take it like a man from Vlad the Impaler.
Not that there's anything wrong with that!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
>> Over the course of nearly a decade, they milked the system of $1.5 million in benefits.
Pikers.
There is a great line in the recent Jack Reacher novel where the bad guy states, "We took whatever we could take." When you set up a system for fraud you can not be surprised when it is used.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Strangely enough, I'm not outraged by this. They took advantage of loopholes. Big deal.

Bigger deal is that Congress wrote the law with enough loopholes to drive a fleet of trucks through. We should be electing people who do their effing jobs.
38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are we suckers for not defrauding the government?
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Loopholes are a 'feature' - not a 'flaw'.

38 weeks ago
38 weeks ago Link To Comment
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