CNN Justice Reporter Evan Perez
A senior U.S. lawmaker is pushing the State Department to take action against a group of current and former Russian diplomats who prosecutors allege ran a nine-year scheme that bilked $1.5 million from Medicaid, the U.S. health benefits program for the poor.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-California, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter on Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing concern that the government may not be doing enough to ensure diplomats aren’t improperly getting taxpayer-funded benefits.
Prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this month charged 25 current and former Russian diplomats and 24 spouses, alleging they collected Medicaid benefits for prenatal and other care by underreporting their income to qualify.
Most of the defendants have left the United States.
“How will the (Obama) administration treat the 11 named defendants who, according to the U.S. attorney, remain in the United States? Will you ask the Russian government to waive their immunity so that they can be prosecuted? If not, will the (State Department) declare them persona non grata?” Royce asked in his letter.
CNN reported earlier this month that several of the 49 defendants were also suspected of espionage by FBI counterintelligence agents who were involved in investigating the case.
The chairman asked Kerry for a briefing to gather more information on the case, and the coordination between the State and Justice Departments, and the FBI.
Read Royce’s letter here.