‘Sheriff Of Wall Street’ Preet Bharara Charges Russian Diplomats With Medicare Fraud
But Is He Really Doing Uncle Sam’s Dirty Work In This Case?
NEW YORK – Manhattan’sIndian-American attorneyPreet Bharara, also known asthe “Sheriff of Wall Street”, hasnow charged 49 Russian diplomatsand their spouses withscamming Medicaid out of $1.5million over a decade.But is Bharara really doingUncle Sam’s dirty work in thiscase by bringing charges againstpeople who are protected byDiplomatic immunity just asUS officials caught doing fraudwould be in other countries!The 49 current or formerRussian diplomats and theirspouses living in New York Citywere accused of participating ina widespread fraud scheme toillegally obtain benefits underMedicaid, a government healthcare programme for low-incomefamilies.They did so from 2004 toAugust 2013 by among otherthings, falsely underreportingtheir income or falsely claimingthat their child was a citizen ofthe United States, federal prosecutorssaid.Even as they underreportedtheir income to receive Medicaidbenefits, they spent tens of thousandsof dollars on cruise vacationsand buying expensivewatches, shoes, and jewellery, atluxury stores like Tiffany & Co.,Jimmy Choo, Prada, Bloomingdale’s,and Burberry, prosecutorssaid.In one instance, Andrey Artasovsaid he made just $34,800a year but with his wife spentmore than $48,000 in 2008 onitems that included Apple productsand Swarovski jewellery,they said.“Diplomacy should beabout extending hands, not pickingpockets in the host country,”said Bhrara at a press conferencealleging that “a multitudeof Russian diplomats and theirspouses ran a scam on a healthcare system designed to helpAmericans in need.”“The scam exploited aweakness in the Medicaid system,and the charges exposeshameful and systemic corruptionamong Russian diplomatsin New York,” he said.The U.S. “government valuesits long-standing relationshipwith foreign diplomats anddiplomatic establishments forcooperation on many issues,”said FBI Assistant Director inCharge George Venizelos.“Unfortunately,” he said,“some Russian officials in NewYork allowed these defendantsto take advantage of that relationship.”None of the defendants arein custody as they enjoy diplomaticimmunity although 11still reside in the U.S. with sixof them representing Russia inNew York.Bharara said he expects theU.S. State Department to requestthat Russia waive diplomaticimmunity for the allegedfraudsters.If Russia refuses, as is likely,the State Department could requestthat the defendants still inthe U.S. leave the country.In Washington, State Departmentspokesperson MarieHarf said they were still “reviewingthe charges” and “We’renot yet in a position to speak tothe types of specifics about whatmight happen. Obviously, thereis a legal procedure that will beunfolding from this point.”Asked if the issue wouldaffect U.S. ties with Russia, shesaid: “I think the relationshipis much bigger and deeper andbroader and more complicatedthan that.”