Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, discusses alleged fraud by Russian Diplomats, New York, Dec. 5, 2013.
Preet Bharara, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, discusses alleged fraud by Russian Diplomats, New York, Dec. 5, 2013.

U.S. prosecutors are charging 49 current and former Russian diplomats and family members with fraud in an illegal scheme to get health benefits intended for the poor.

Investigators say the diplomats from Russia’s U.N. mission lied about their incomes to get $1.5 million in benefits from the U.S. Medicaid program. The benefits covered costs related to pregnancies, births and infant care.

They each were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of conspiracy to steal government funds.

Reuters news agency reports only a small number of those charged still live in the United States and all had diplomatic immunity that Russia would have to waive for any arrests to be made.

FBI spokesman Peter Donald said no one has been arrested.

The Russian mission to the United Nations did not immediately comment on the charges.

Charging papers say the defendants obtained letters stating their false incomes from officials at the Russian U.N. mission, as well as from former top officials at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York and the Trade Representative of the Russian Federation.

According to the charges, the family members spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on vacations, jewelry and luxury goods from stores like Swarovski and Jimmy Choo.

Hundreds of Russian diplomats and their families live in a compound in the Riverdale neighborhood in the Bronx.

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