Four foreigners with fake papers arrested at NAIA

MANILA — Four foreigners who attempted to leave the country with spurious documents were arrested by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers in separate events at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the BI said on Tuesday.

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BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said the two Sri Lankan’s, a Chinese fugitive and a Nigerian impostor were intercepted by members of the Bureau’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) at the NAIA 1 and 2 terminals.

The Asians--Dorosamy Asah, 32; and Talayan Hilamaran, 35 -- were stopped at the transfer desk area for attempting to transit from Malaysia to Brisbane, Australia using fake Malaysian passports on Monday.

Upon inspection of the passports, BI-TCEU chief Timotea Barizo said noticeable irregularities were seen, which led the officer to submit the documents for forensic inspection. It was later confirmed that both presented fake passports, which they allegedly acquired in Malaysia.

On the other hand, the Chinese man, Wang Wen, 33; and Adekunle Michael Ogunade, 55, from Nigeria, were intercepted at the NAIA 2 and NAIA 1, respectively last Saturday.

Wang was stopped for attempting to flee the country via a Philippine Airlines flight to Xiamen.

“He was found in possession of a Philippine visa with fake immigration arrival and departure stamps. Upon verification with our records, it was discovered that he is the subject of a summary deportation order in 2018 for being a fugitive from justice, as he is wanted in China for being involved in economic crimes,” Medina said.

“We likewise saw that his passport has already been revoked by the Chinese government,” he added.

Barizo said Ogunade was intercepted at the NAIA 1 departure area for attempting to leave using a fake Solomon Islands passport.

She added that Ogunade admitted during investigation his true nationality, upon confirmation that his Solomon Island passport, driver’s license, and identity card were all found to be counterfeit by BI’s forensic document laboratory.

“He was spotted and accosted by our men who noticed his unusual behavior. He seemed like he was trying to evade immigration checks by taking advantage of the passenger congestion,” the BI official said.

Wang and Ogunade are now detained at the BI detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City pending their deportation, while the two Sri Lankans have been denied transit and returned to their port of origin.

RCMP bust passport fraud scheme tied to Canada's 'most wanted'

Police say passports with fake names issued to cocaine traffickers, high profile murder suspect

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The RCMP have arrested a man accused of duping Passport Canada into issuing passports under fake names to some of Canada’s most notorious criminal suspects, CBC has learned.  

The RCMP alleges the passport fixer was aiding high-level cocaine traffickers including the infamous Alkhalil brothers, one of whom is wanted for two deadly shootings in Toronto and Vancouver.

“He was facilitating the obtaining of Canadian passports in exchange for money,” said RCMP National Division Insp. Costa Dimopoulos, who told CBC News that criminals are willing to spend $5,000 to $20,000 for a genuine document issued under an assumed name.

Police charged Harbi Mohamoud (Dave) abad last Friday with a string of passport and identity fraud offences after the RCMP’s Sensitive and International Investigations Section (SIIS) searched his Gatineau, Que., apartment looking for hard drives, photos and other evidence.

“Canadian passports are coveted by people in the criminal underworld,” Dimopoulos said. “It’s allowing you to move freely internationally without fear of being captured. It allows you the ability to hide, essentially, from police.”

To date the RCMP have linked Gabad to 13 fraudulent passport applications, including eight that were actually issued by Passport Canada under assumed identities, according to search warrant documents filed in court.

Criminal suspects tied to passport probe

Police say the passports were winding up in the hands of a crime group tied to the remaining members of the Alkhalil family (two of the five Alkhalil brothers were gunned down in gang-related violence in B.C. in the early 2000s).

“The Alkhalil brothers are a family that moved here a number of years ago from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia,” Ottawa police Acting Insp. Mike Laviolette told CBC News. “They are well-known in the law enforcement community for criminality mainly dealing in cocaine and the violence associated to this family and their associates.”

RCMP allegations filed in court documents detail the high-level suspects tied to the passports: 

  • Robby Alkhalil, 27, was caught in Greece with a genuine Canadian passport under an assumed identity according to police. He awaits extradition to Canada accused of drug offences and the fatal shooting of Johnny Raposo at the Sicilian Cafe in Toronto’s Little Italy in June 2012 and the point-blank execution of rival gang leader Sandip Duhre at the downtown Vancouver Sheraton Wall Centre in January 2012.

  • Nabil Alkhalil, 38, is a convicted cocaine trafficker who served a seven-year prison sentence. The RCMP say they are looking for him on identity theft charges after he was detected arriving at the airport in Bogota, Colombia, with a fraudulently obtained genuine Canadian passport. He was escorted back to Panama City on his way to Mexico, and has since disappeared;

  • Hisham (Terry) Alkhalil, 32, was arrested in Ottawa in January and charged in an alleged multimillion-dollar cocaine trafficking ring. The RCMP say two passport photos of Hisham Alkhalil were found on a CD at Gabad's home, but they have no evidence he obtained a passport;

  • Shane Maloney was arrested in 2012 accused, with Robby Alkhalil, of being part of a pan-Canadian cocaine import and B.C. bud export ring tied to the Hells Angels. The RCMP allege a passport application intended for Maloney was detected as a fraud and never issued;

  • Kujtim (Timmy) Lika was wanted on organized crime and drug charges by the FBI and was featured on America’s Most Wanted when he was arrested in Toronto in May 2012. He had been issued a Canadian passport in the name of an assumed identity.

Facial recognition spotted duplicates

Passport Canada has spent tens of millions of dollars enhancing security of Canada’s “ePassport” to make the document difficult to counterfeit by criminals and potential terrorists. To combat fraudulent applications among the five million requests they receive each year, they have used facial recognition technology since 2009 to scan for duplicate images within a database of 34 million photos.

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Police say Nabil Alkhalil, left, and Robby Alkhalil, right, have both used fraudulently obtained genuine Canadian passports. All three brothers, including Hisham, who goes by the nickname Terry, centre, have faced cocaine trafficking charges. (thedirty.com)

In 2012 that technology detected two passports issued to murder suspect Robby Alkhalil — one in his own name and a second under an identity allegedly arranged by Gabad. Passport Canada's identity fraud desk alerted the RCMP.

Investigators then discovered a series of passports and applications that shared a pattern: all were mailed from applicants living in the Outaouais area of Quebec; all used Quebec birth certificates as proof of citizenship; and many shared identical guarantors and related references and emergency contacts.

It led the RCMP to Gabad, who they allege paid desperate drug addicts, the homeless and mentally ill to forfeit identity documents to be used to submit fraudulent applications on behalf of high-paying criminals.

Police are now sorting through evidence seized in their search of Gabad’s apartment earlier this month to determine whether there are any more fraudulent passports or applications in circulation, in addition to the ones already frozen or denied.

Citizenship and Immigration spokeswoman Nancy Caron told CBC in an email that "Passport Canada has rigorous processes in place to confirm identity and ensure that a passport is issued only to an individual entitled to one. A combination of trained passport officers and specialized technology is used to verify applicant identity through data authentication and facial recognition."

Passport Canada statistics from the past five years show the agency discovers an average of 66 genuine passports each year that were issued to fraudsters. The agency says it reports about a dozen of them to police in cases where it suspects serious criminality. The agency also has the power to revoke passports from people who aid in a fraudulent application.

Steve Hewitt, a senior lecturer of Canada-U.S. studies at the University of Birmingham in England says the debate on secure passports goes back to the 1930s.

"The RCMP in the 1960s wanted everyone to be fingerprinted, to be included on the passport, to create a national registration system to ensure a higher level of accuracy," said Hewitt, who has written extensively on the fraudulent use of Canadian passports. "The government said it wasn’t politically acceptable. Canada wasn’t a police state. 

"So you can have the most secure passport in the world, but if there is some concern about the identity of the person applying for one, it’s difficult to prevent."

The scheme

An RCMP search warrant on the home of Harbi Mohamoud Gabad, alleged fraudulent passport fixer also known as Dave, outlines the alleged scheme to provide criminals, and others willing to spend $20,000, with a clean Canadian passport in an assumed name:

The scout

The key to the scheme is to find someone willing to sell their identification to someone willing to create a passport application. For Dave that was left to a scout named Joanne, who was asked to find people of a certain age and sex and ask if they would sell their ID for money. For each set of ID that Joanne turned over, she received $200.

The ID seller

A man named Marc sold his ID for $500, giving Dave a copy of his driver’s licence, his original birth certificate which was never returned, and his health card, which was returned. When the registered package arrived from Passport Canada, he went with Dave to the post office and handed over the package, and received the rest of his money. Others received $800 for their ID, and one man received 14 rocks of crack cocaine.

The guarantor

A woman named Renee was courted by Dave, saying if she ever needed money, she should come to him. She was given $300 at first, and when she signed her first passport application, and swore to the likeness of the person in the photograph, she was given $100. On subsequent occasions she was given between $60 and $70. Another guarantor said Dave offered $50 to $200 to sign passport applications.

Qld's Patton Eidson, 73, facing deportation over false ID

AN ELDERLY man who lived as a fugitive in a secluded Far North town for almost three decades is being held under armed guard in Cairns.

Patton Eidson, pictured with his daughter Maya, has been taken from his Julatten home by 15 immigration officials.

Patton Eidson, pictured with his daughter Maya, has been taken from his Julatten home by 15 immigration officials.

His family is terrified he will be sent to Christmas Island.

About 15 police and immigration officials swooped on Patton Eidson's house in Julatten on Wednesday, arresting the 73-year-old ahead of removal from Australia.

The US citizen, his wife and daughter entered the country on false passports in 1986 as authorities began investigating his alleged links to a Thai-Californian cannabis ring.

He served time in Australian prison after his true identity was exposed in 2013, but the US Government did not seek to extradite him. His daughter Karina Maya Eidson was just 16 when she arrived in the country.

Her Australian citizenship was revoked last year, with Mr Eidson granted a bridging visa until her legal fight to stay in the country had ended. "We don't know if they're going to send him to Christmas Island or holding him in Brisbane," Ms Eidson said.

"Why would you do all of that to a 73-year-old man who wasn't doing anybody any harm, who was just waiting for a court date?"

"The Minister (Peter Dutton) decided in April 2016 that this man, who has outstanding arrest warrants in the United States, failed to meet the character requirements under section 501 of the Migration Act," he said.

"He and his family arrived in Australia in 1986 using false identities and fraudulently obtained visas, and in the case of Mr Eidson's daughter, Australian citizenship, on the basis of these false identities." Mr Eidson entered the country under the name Mike McGoldrick, setting up and operating the Julatten Mountain Retreat in the rainforest hinterlands near Port Douglas.

It was a trailblazer for the region, as the first of many health spas that triggered the area's now-booming wellness industry.

"They have had their case comprehensively assessed over many years by the department, the courts, various ministers and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal," the Immigration Department spokesman said. "Mr Eidson has failed in his bid to obtain a visa, and he has been detained ahead of his removal from Australia.

"The Australian Government treats all cases of migration and identity fraud very seriously and has no tolerance for those who fail to meet the character requirements of the Migration Act."

Julatten resident Steve McDonald issued a statement describing the arrest after Mr Eidson called him saying he had about 30 to 40 minutes to organise his possessions to leave his home.

"On my arrival I was appalled to see over a dozen officers were there, unannounced to escort one man out of his home," Mr McDonald said. "I observed as he was gathering his personal possessions, he was searched at each movement.

"I asked the Immigration Officer where they were taking Mike to and was told 'We don't have to tell you'. "As Mike was being escorted to the car I said, 'I will come and see you tomorrow in Cairns', and was replied by an immigration officer, 'No you won't'."

Mr McDonald said he was sickened by the process.

"Mike is not a flight risk due to his family ties in this community and this country," he said.

"As was seen in his sentencing in Cairns (in August 2012), the court room was full - with standing room only. "All the people in that room were community supporters of Mike.

"Mike is my beloved friend, my father-in-law, a father and a grandfather." Ms Eidson, who owns and operates Mackay tapas bar Maria's Donkey, said her father was still grieving after the November death of his wife Sonja.

"We all are. He's just been trying to get through every day," she said.

"His health hasn't been good either. He's got emphysema and struggles quite a bit with his breathing.

"He leads a very quiet life up in Julatten with his little dog.

"I try to visit as often as I can, and my daughter tries to visit.

"We try to get him here (to Mackay) every few months just to get him out of the house.

"But he still sees his friends, and is still doing things around the community."

Patton and daughter Karina Eidson leave court in 2011.

He accused the government of terrorising a "well-loved, popular, respectable citizen".

"Patton has contributed - he built a business and has paid his taxes and we have made repeated representations on his behalf," Mr Katter said.

"The Eidsons have been a very contributing family.

"Patton and his late wife Sonja, they opened up their home and pioneered the wellness industry in Far North Queensland, creating jobs for people in an area that desperately needed jobs.

"Patton's daughter, Maya, has one of the best restaurants in Mackay, where we're desperately short of jobs and good high-class restaurants for our tourists and our locals.

"Remember this is a bloke that came from America and his wife came from Europe.

"He just lost his wife of almost 50 years married.

"I mean, the horrible insensitivity of what has occurred here is appalling and we will be saying so in formal questions with notice to the two ministers involved."

Mr Katter said the Immigration Department's actions were evidence of Australia becoming a country scared of police overkill.

"This poor 73-year-old bloke who's just lost his wife and was responsible for some alleged misdemeanour nearly half a century ago - to be detained by 15 police or government officers, it's just sickening," he said.

"If you're using government resources to terrorise a well-loved, popular, respectable citizen you'd say it's a waste of resources.

"Would one say these resources could be better used? Well quite frankly yes.

"I mean, a while ago, we had 23 police surrounded a bloke who made some stupid statements at a crocodile farm.

"Now they're sending mass amounts of police/government officers around a bloke (Patton) that is so popular in his local community, the community plead his cause and stand by his side.

"When Patton had a little get together, I would have thought there were nearly 100 people - which would have been half of the town there, supporting him.

"This sort of thing that happened last night to Patton, terrifies people."

Mr Eidson is being held in a Cairns unit while his medical fitness for travel is assessed.

US fugitive to be deported more than 30 years after moving to Australia with false passport

An American who had lived as a fugitive in a small far north Queensland town for three decades has agreed to leave the country, after spending three months in immigration detention.

Paton Eidson was arrested at his house in Julatten in May, leading to an outpouring of support from his community, as well as from local MPs Warren Entsch and Bob Katter.

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The 72-year-old entered the country in 1986 with his wife and young daughter under false passports, allegedly to avoid prosecution for his involvement in a cannabis ring.

He said he was charged with conspiracy to import marijuana by US authorities in 1991, for events alleged to have taken place in 1985.

Mr Eidson told the ABC that he had now agreed to a deportation order, and would leave the country at the end of August.

"I'm tired of being in here ... my life is just slipping away from me," he said.

After advocacy from Liberal MP Mr Entsch, Mr Eidson was told that after he returned to the US and sorted out his paperwork, an application for permanent residency would be fast-tracked.

PHOTO:  Mr Eidson with his late wife Sonja. (Supplied: Paton Eidson)

PHOTO: Mr Eidson with his late wife Sonja. (Supplied: Paton Eidson)

According to him, a letter from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to Mr Entsch reads: "I undertake to grant Mr Eidson a permanent visa, subject to Mr Eidson having been of good character in the intervening time.

Mr Eidson said: "On that basis is why I have accepted the terms and voluntarily agreed to go back [but] it comes down to trusting them."

He said he would need to spend up to eight months in the US before he would be in a position to apply for an Australian visa.

Mr Eidson thanked Mr Entsch and Mr Katter, as well as the community of Julatten for their support.

Eidson worried about own health

Mr Eidson, who has emphysema, said he had been in hospital twice since his arrest, for eight and nine days at a time.

It is understood that as a result of an assessment of his fitness to fly back to the US, he will be required to travel with two nurses and remain on a continuous oxygen supply for the entire flight.

PHOTO:  Paton Eidson served in the US Coast Guard in the 1960s. (Supplied: Paton Eidson)

PHOTO: Paton Eidson served in the US Coast Guard in the 1960s. (Supplied: Paton Eidson)

"Contrary to what you are told to do on a 17-hour flight, [which] is get up and move around … I'm required to stay in the same spot," he said.

"There have been many documented cases up to 72 hours after a flight of people developing a blood embolism … of course things like that worry me."

He claimed the health assessment was made by a doctor in Sydney after reading his case files, and that "there's a whole lot of other issues that should've been considered that I don't think were addressed".

'I've tried to be a good Australian'

Supporters of Mr Eidson were quick to rally behind him following his arrest, offering glowing testimonials.

Friend Michael Gabour said at the time of Mr Edison's arrest that he was "a man of integrity and principle".

"He is a stalwart of the community and has carried his weight the entire time he has been in Australia," he said.

Others in the community described him as an "integral part of the community in Julatten", and "a close family friend that I love dearly".

Mr Eidson said he had always "tried to be a good Australian".

"The judge made the statement at my trial that he had never seen such a glowing list of character references, except once in a case in Townsville where the lady wrote them herself," he said.

"The courtroom was full of people, of supporters; it was quite touching."

He and his late wife were jailed in 2012 for the passport fraud, a fact that led supporters to complain he was being punished twice for the same crime.

The Immigration Department said it would not be appropriate to comment on an individual's circumstances.

Fake passports uncover TOEFL scam in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai police on Monday arrested two Chinese women who allegedly used fake passports to sit for a TOEFL exam on behalf of paying clients.

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Jing Su, 22, and Jiang Jiang Xuan, 26 – the spellings a transliteration of their names from Thai as police heard them – were charged with using fake passport and visa stamps.

Chiang Mai Tourist Police chief Pol Col Adul Srijunta said his team was tipped off by Associate Professor Songphan Tantrakul, deputy dean of humanities at Chiang Mai University, who helps run the TOEFL (English as a foreign language) exams at the school.

Songphan noticed the two women sitting for Monday’s exam, which drew about 30 foreigners, and remembered them taking the test earlier. He said they used different names each time.

He summoned police, whose arrival while the exam was still underway prompted five sitters to flee. They were not caught.

Police said Jing’s passport allegedly carried the name “Xu Kashing” and Jiang’s was issued for a “Lin Xiying”.

They allegedly admitted being hired by Chinese agents to take the exam for others in exchange for 10,000 to 20,000 yuan (Bt50,000 to Bt100,000) plus travel fare to Thailand and other countries. This was the first time they’d been arrested.

They said they travelled using real passports but used fake ones when taking exams

Two suspects nabbed for selling fake passports to terrorists in Istanbul

Two suspects were arrested in Istanbul under charges of selling counterfeit passports and ID cards to terrorist organization members and illegal migrants.

Fake documents

Fake documents

The suspects, Ö.Ş. (50) and Z.A.Ç. (57), had conned Turkish citizens to obtain personal information which they later sold to migrants who entered the country illegally.

The sale of the fake documents hindered officials from apprehending other suspects and finding stolen cars, gendarmerie said.

Istanbul Gendarmerie Command's team started the operation after receiving a tipoff about a printing shop in Istanbul's Fatih district. Officials seized various official documents such as birth certificates, driver's licenses, vehicle licenses, passports, residence permits, title deeds, diplomas and counterfeit money.

The operation revealed the relative ease of obtaining counterfeit identity documents in Istanbul.

The dealers are also suspected of selling fake documents to members of terror organizations such as Daesh, FETÖ and the PKK.

FETÖ is accused of orchestrating multiple coup attempts in Turkey, and its members face terror charges.

The PKK, founded in 1978, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU and has killed more than 1,200 people since 2015.

Australia’s Border Force catch more criminals on fake passports

CRIMINALS, terror suspects and illegal immigrants are being pulled from flights to Australia with organised crime groups running sophisticated fake passport operations, according to an intelligence report on “identified threats” to our borders

Organised crime groups are running sophisticated fake passport operations.

Organised crime groups are running sophisticated fake passport operations.

The number of suspects detected this year after landing at Australian airports on bogus documents was just 14, with nine of those being detained by Australian Federal Police at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney, three from Melbourne’s Tullamarine and two from Perth.

But figures obtained by News Corp Australia shows Australian Border Force officers intercepted ten times that many offshore over the past four years as suspects attempted to board flights to Australian destinations.

The documents have been deemed “highly sophisticated”, more so than their holders; one Albanian suspect attempted to fly to Sydney on an Italian passport but when questioned at Dubai airport check-in counter by ABF officers couldn’t speak Italian.

The countries topping the jump-point list for disguised passengers to Australia are Malaysia, Denpasar and Jakarta in Indonesia, China, Singapore and the Middle East including Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.

Of the almost 50 fake passport-related interdictions made this year alone, 17 were from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

That overall average for Malaysian interdictions by Australian authorities working out of Kuala Lumpur is consistent with averages over the previous four years.

Intelligence has pointed to Malaysia-based criminals behind the attempts to help mostly Middle East, particularly Afghan, Chinese and North African suspects fly into Australia.

Fake passports are displayed at the immigration bureau in Bangkok.

Fake passports are displayed at the immigration bureau in Bangkok.

In August, authorities arrested a terrorist-linked Pakistani man in Malaysia who was carrying more than 60 foreign passports and a machine to make more to move suspects about the region.

Of ABF passport seizures offshore, biodata pages had been sophisticatedly dismantled, altered and reassembled while others were stolen and listed on Interpol’s lost and stolen passports database.

“There are known crime groups, they will be paid or whatever, to help these nationals come to Australia and there will be a variety of reasons why they will want to disguise their identity whether it’s because they are on a (terror) watch list through to refugees wanting to migrate,” a security officer said.

“It’s not just photos stuck in the book but highly sophisticated, professional alterations … by criminal syndicates.

“It’s about good management to support the integrity and security of Australia’s borders and so that’s why we have strong liaisons with host governments who assist in detecting movement and activities of people that may pose a national security concern.”

Officers said they also worked well with key airlines notably Qantas and Emirates overseas to assist in stopping criminals before they board aircraft.

ABF interdicted a record 1043 non-genuine travellers in the past four years of which 336 were specifically carrying fake passports.

Ex-OLCC worker accused in identity theft to change plea to guilty, court records show

The Bulgarian national accused of using a stolen name to take a job with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will plead guilty next week to at least one federal crime, according to court records.

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Doitchin Krastev is scheduled to change his plea before U.S. District Judge James A. Redden in Portland on Nov. 3.

Government prosecutors accuse Krastev of two felony crimes: making a false statement on a passport, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which carries a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Krastev came to the United States as a student in the late 1990s and later attended college before vanishing. He eventually surfaced in Colorado using the name Daniel Kaiser.

Doitchin Krastev, accused of assuming the name "Jason Evers"

Doitchin Krastev, accused of assuming the name "Jason Evers"

Fourteen years ago, the computer-savvy Bulgarian began going as Jason Robert Evers, according to the government. The real Jason Evers was 3 years old in 1982, when he was kidnapped and murdered near his Ohio home.

Krastev solidified his new name by obtaining a birth certificate, Social Security number, Oregon driver's license, voter registration and passport in the name of Jason Robert Evers, according to public records and government accounts.

Using the name Evers, Krastev went to work eight years ago for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. He became a rising star as an inspector and investigator for the state agency that regulates alcohol sales.

His ruse was undone last spring, when the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service ran the identifications of dead Americans with a database of new passport applications. Agents soon arrested Krastev, who for a time refused to provide his real name out of what he described as "safety issues."

After his arrest, Krastev resigned from the liquor control commission.

Last summer, a federal granted Krastev's request to be married while he awaited trial in the Inverness Jail in Portland. But it appears Krastev hasn't yet filed the paperwork that would allow a member of the clergy to preside over the marriage inside the jail, according to Lt. Mary Lindstrand, a spokeswoman for the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.

Krastev's immigration status remains in question, too. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined comment on the case Monday. But the agency typically waits until after a foreigner pleads guilty to a crime before deciding whether to begin deportation proceedings.

DOZEN DEFENDANTS ARRESTED FOR PASSPORT FRAUD

Passport Fraud Sweep Leads to Charges Against 20 in Los Angeles Area

Special agents monitor world events and overseas security from inside the Diplomatic Security Command Center in April 2014. Today the Command Center is a 24/7/365 facility with the ability to electronically monitor all U.S. diplomatic facilities around the globe. Department of State

Special agents monitor world events and overseas security from inside the Diplomatic Security Command Center in April 2014. Today the Command Center is a 24/7/365 facility with the ability to electronically monitor all U.S. diplomatic facilities around the globe.
Department of State

LOS ANGELES – A joint enforcement initiative by the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service and the United States Attorney's Office in Los Angeles has resulted in the arrest of 12 defendants who have been charged with felony violations related to fraudulent applications for United States passports. A total of 20 defendants have been charged in the crackdown, with the 12th arrest coming early this morning at the United States-Mexico border. Authorities are continuing to search for seven fugitives.

During the law enforcement operation, which began three weeks ago, federal prosecutors obtained 19 indictments and filed a criminal complaint against a 20th defendant. All of the defendants are charged with making false statements in relation to passport applications.

The Diplomatic Security Service's Los Angeles Field Office saw a 30 percent increase from 2007 to 2008 in the passport fraud cases it investigates. This increase prompted the current enforcement initiative, which represents a multifaceted approach to protect our borders by safeguarding the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the U.S. immigration system as a whole.

The defendant arrested this morning at the international border is Alma Huerta, a 40-year-old Mexican national who resides in Whittier. Huerta was indicted by a federal grand jury on October 21 on charges of using a false identity to obtain a passport in 2000 and using that document in an attempt to open a bank account. Huerta is expected to make her initial court appearance this afternoon in federal court in Calexico.

Over the past several weeks, authorities have made arrests in several notable cases filed as part of the passport fraud sweep. They include:

Sergio Samonet, 48, a Cuban citizen who resides in South Gate, was arrested on October 23 and is scheduled to be arraigned on Monday. Samonet allegedly stole the identity of his ex-wife's mentally handicapped son and used that identity to obtain a U.S. Passport. Samonet was convicted in 2005 on state charges related to his use of the same stolen identity, and he was subsequently ordered deported from the United States by an immigration court.

Piyamas Jeerapaet, 41, of Burbank, was arrested on October 27 for allegedly using her position as a U.S. Postal Service employee to help her brother, a Thai citizen, obtain a U.S. Passport in a false identity. She was arrested in Medford, Oregon with assistance from the DSS San Francisco Field Office and the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of the Inspector General. Jeerapaet pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go to trial on December 29.

Francisco Martinez, 67, a Mexican national who was living in Oxnard, was arrested on October 23 for allegedly assuming the identity of a deceased individual to obtain a U.S. Passport in 2001 and to apply for a U.S. Passport Card in 2008. The DSS investigation, which also involved U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, revealed that Martinez had a criminal history related to the sale of narcotics and had previously been deported from the United States. Martinez, who is also charged with illegal re-entry after deportation, pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go to trial on December 22.

Jose Tejada, 39, a citizen of El Salvador who was residing in Los Angeles, was arrested on October 28 for allegedly attempting to renew a U.S. Passport he had already obtained under a false identity in 1995. Tejeda pleaded not guilty last week and is scheduled to go to trial on December 8.

Jose Yezid Rodriguez-Rojas, who also used the name Angel Luis Pena, is currently in a California state prison. Rodriguez, a Colombian national, is charged with attempting to obtain a U.S. passport in at least two false identities

Other defendants in custody after being charged in this sweep are: Diego Martinez-Diaz, 26, of Pacoima, who is currently in state prison; Leonardo Aguago Aldape, 39, of Los Angeles; Christian Mauricio Sanchez Merlin, 30, of Whittier; Ricardo Torres, 35, a native of Peru who was living in Van Nuys; Ibrahim Olanrewaju Adekeye, 27; and Odonga Kenya Rush, 38, of Chula Vista.

Those convicted of passport and visa fraud face a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in federal prison.

The fugitives currently sought by authorities are: Son Parsons, 48, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Suarez Gonzalez, 46, of Los Angeles; Carlos Edward Veliz, 32, of Los Angeles; David Prado Flores, 37, of Downey; Daza Jair Labrador Lopez, 36, of Van Nuys; Hector Acosta-Espinosa, who is believed to be in Mexico; Karen Fuentes, 25, of Long Beach, who is believed to have fled to Nicaragua; and “John Doe” who used the name “Juan Molina Sandoval” and “Edward Valenzuela.”

“This investigative initiative shows the Department of State's commitment to ensure the integrity of the U.S. passport and visa, the most sought-after travel documents in the world,” said Bruce T. Mills, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the Diplomatic Security Service's Los Angeles Field Office. “The Diplomatic Security Service will continue to pursue joint partnerships like this one with other federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities to counter this growing threat to the homeland.”

“In some instances, stolen documents can be used within hours or days to commit crimes,” said Alex Moore, the resident agent-in-charge of the Diplomatic Security Service's San Diego Resident Office. “We urge U.S. citizens who have lost or had their travel documents stolen to immediately contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate or the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs, in addition to local law enforcement agencies, so that authorities can place lookouts in a timely manner.”

DSS officials said that U.S. citizens or legitimate document holders may be prosecuted in cases where it has been found that they sold or made their documents available for others to use.

In relation to the case against Jeerapaet, Nichole Cooper, Special Agent in Charge for the Postal Service's Office of Inspector General, stated: “The American public expects postal employees to be diligent and honest when handling their mail. The Office of Inspector General works to ensure that integrity. We also have the same expectation of employees when they perform non-postal duties, such as processing passports. When postal employees' actions turn into criminal violations, Special Agents aggressively investigate those crimes.”

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is the U.S. Department of State's law enforcement and security arm. The special agents, engineers, and security professionals of the Bureau are responsible for the security of 285 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. In the United States, Diplomatic Security personnel protect the U.S. Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the United States, investigate passport and visa fraud, and conduct personnel security investigations. In 2008, DS participated in 2,487 arrests globally, primarily for passport and visa fraud, including 586 arrests overseas in cooperation with foreign police.

Read more in the U.S. Department of State's Visa and Passport Security Strategic Plan at: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/79895.htm. Additional information about the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security may be obtained at www.state.gov/m/ds.

Passports often hold clues to terrorism

Document fraud is often used to conceal crime, officials say.

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DETROIT -- When a Saudi Arabian airline passenger arrived at Detroit Metropolitan Airport weeks ago, red flags went up, landing him in jail.

He had a pressure cooker in his luggage — a similar device was used in the Boston Marathon bombings.He gave conflicting stories about the cooker.And perhaps the biggest flag of them all: His passport had a page missing.

"You have got to say, 'These are not ordinary times,' " said criminal defense lawyer James Howarth, who has represented dozens of travelers detained at the border, including the Saudi passenger, whom he believes did nothing wrong.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, passports have been scrutinized like never before as federal agents try to keep terrorists and criminals from entering the U.S. Over the last decade, the number of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents has doubled, from about 10,000 in 2004 to a record 21,000-plus agents today.

There's plenty keeping them busy.

In 2012, a record 98 million international travelers entered the U.S., a 12% increase over 2009, and the number is projected to increase up to 5% each year for the next five years. On a typical day, according to the border protection agency, agents inspect nearly 1 million travelers, including Americans. In 2012, the agency saw more than 350 million travelers total.

Passport fraud, law enforcement officials said, often is used to conceal criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking and terrorism. The passport, they said, can provide clues to such activities, especially when it has been altered, appears phony or has a page missing.

Even the slightest tweak could get flagged.

Howarth said his client's case offers a lesson to travelers: "Closely check and make sure that your documents are in order and that you haven't got something that somebody would think is funny."

Underwear bomber

Increased U.S. scrutiny of travel documents was triggered by the 2009 Christmas Day terrorist attack by Nigerian passenger Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane with a bomb strapped to his underwear. His plan failed and he was sentenced to life in prison on terrorism charges.

Abdulmutallab had a visa and should have been screened before boarding the plane after a warning from his father that he had become radicalized. But U.S. officials didn't know he posed a threat until the plane was in the air.

Since 2001, the State Department has revoked about 60,000 visas for a variety of reasons, including nearly 5,000 for suspected links to terrorism; 1,451 of those occurring since the attempted Christmas Day attack over Detroit.

For U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, who started her job as Detroit's top federal prosecutor in the days before the Christmas Day terrorist attack, border officials can't be overly cautious when it comes to scrutinizing travel documents.

"A passport is both an identity document and a road map showing where a person has traveled. A passport that has been intentionally altered may indicate that an individual is attempting to hide travel to a particular country and perhaps his activities there," said McQuade. "If travel locations are concealed, lines of inquiry that would otherwise be pursued by border officials are effectively cut off."

In the last year, McQuade's office has handled more than 20 passport and document fraud cases — that's more than one a month — in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The defendants have come from all over: Brazil, Mexico, Senegal, Albania, Honduras, France, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Africa.

Some of the cases involved foreigners who were trying to flee to the U.S. for a better life or those who had previously been deported and tried to sneak back in again.

One case involved an African man who was convicted of passing off four African children as his own by using fake passports then abusing them for years in his Ypsilanti, Mich., home.

Another case involved an Albanian man who was linked to a Michigan driver's license that was found on a suicide bomber who attacked a bus of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria in July 2012.

The most recent is Saudi Arabian traveler, Hussain Al Kwawahir, who remains jailed since his May 11 arrest.

"The combination of facts, including an altered passport and false statements, raised concerns," McQuade said. "Although we never want to jump to conclusions, we have a duty to conduct an appropriate investigation to protect the public."

Trying to sort it out

Howarth, Al Kwawahir's defense attorney, said he believes the government had no choice but to arrest his client given the information agents had when he entered the U.S.

But he insists his client will be released when all the facts are sorted out.

"It's unfortunate that they couldn't clear it up more quickly," Howarth said, noting federal authorities have been cooperative. "The plan has not been, 'Let's go to war.' It's 'Let's see if we can straighten it out.' "

According to court documents, during a baggage exam, officers found a pressure cooker in Al Kwawahir's luggage. Initially, Al Kwawahir told officers that he brought the cooker for his nephew because such devices are not sold in America. He then changed his story and said his nephew had purchased a pressure cooker in America before, but that it was cheap and broke after the first use, so he brought him one from Saudi Arabia.

“A passport is both an identity document and a road map showing where a person has traveled.”

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade

The officers then read him his Miranda rights.

According to Howarth, his client — a 33-year-old father of three children — did nothing wrong, but was scared and didn't know how to communicate because he doesn't speak English. His story, he said, was true: He bought his nephew a pressure cooker to prepare Middle Eastern meals. Moreover, Howarth said, his client didn't know that a pressure cooker was used in the Boston Marathon bombings.

"He had heard that a bomb went off in the U.S., but had no idea that it went off in a pressure cooker," Howarth said. "When you get caught in a whirlpool of an interrogation ... you may state things with greater strength than you mean. He is scared. He wants to go home."

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, getting hassled at the border is one of the biggest complaints the council receives every year from travelers. Complaints are especially high when a terrorist attack occurs, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, triggering more scrutiny.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that sometimes, there's "an overreaction to a tragedy" and "ordinary people just get swept up in it without really knowing why."

But he understands the scrutiny of passports. And he cautions all travelers to be truthful with federal agents.

"People don't realize the repercussions. ... You cannot lie to any law enforcement officer," Hooper said, adding: "Everybody who enters the country should be fully identified. And it should be verified and that they're not up to anything."

How is passport fraud committed?

• Assuming the identity of a deceased person to apply for passports

• Using phony support documents, such as fake birth certificates

• Using stolen and altered passports

• Circumventing the two-parent signature rule for children

Offenders commit passport crime to:

• Conceal their identity, such as fugitives and terrorists

• Illegally enter the U.S. or avoid deportation

• Commit financial crimes and bank fraud

• Facilitate other criminal activity such as drug trafficking or alien smuggling

Homeland Security initiative, Operation Janus.

United States Files Denaturalization Complaints in Florida, Connecticut and New Jersey Against Three Individuals Who Fraudulently Naturalized After Having Been Ordered Deported Under Different Identities

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The United States today filed civil denaturalization complaints in federal court in the Middle District of Florida, District of Connecticut and District of New Jersey, against three individuals who allegedly obtained their naturalized U.S. citizenship by fraud, the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced. Two Pakistan-born and one India-born individuals’ alleged frauds involved concealing their prior orders of exclusion and deportation under different identities than the identity under which they naturalized.

“The Justice Department is committed to preserving the integrity of our nation’s immigration system, and in particular, the asylum and naturalization processes,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The civil complaints charge that defendants in these cases exploited our immigration system and unlawfully secured the ultimate immigration benefit of naturalization. The filing of these cases sends a clear message to immigration fraudsters – if you break our immigration laws, we will prosecute you and denaturalize you.”

The three cases, United States of America v. Parvez Manzoor Khan (M.D. Fla.); United States of America v. Rashid Mahmood (D. Conn.); and United States of America v. Baljinder Singh (D.N.J.) were referred to the Department of Justice by USCIS and identified as part of Operation Janus. A Department of Homeland Security initiative, Operation Janus identified about 315,000 cases where some fingerprint data was missing from the centralized digital fingerprint repository. Among those cases, some may have sought to circumvent criminal record and other background checks in the naturalization process. These cases are the result of an ongoing collaboration between the two departments to investigate and seek denaturalization proceedings against those who obtained citizenship unlawfully.

“Naturalization is one of the most sacred honors bestowed by our nation,” said Acting USCIS Director James W. McCament. “USCIS takes great care and responsibility in determining to refer a case for denaturalization proceedings. We do so to send the strong message that individuals who seek to defraud the United States by obtaining naturalization unlawfully will be targeted to have their U.S. citizenship stripped. I am grateful for the USCIS team who devoted countless hours to the painstaking work of uncovering fraud in each of these cases.”

A description of the three cases and the allegations of the United States are:

Parvez Manzoor Khan

Parvez Manzoor Khan aka Mohammad Akhtar and Jaweed Khan, 60, a native of Pakistan, arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 7, 1991, bearing a Pakistani passport in the name of Mohammad Akhtar. Immigration officials determined that the photo in the passport had been altered. Khan then applied for asylum, claiming his true name was Jaweed Khan. Khan failed to appear in immigration court and was ordered excluded and deported on Feb. 26, 1992. He subsequently failed to surrender for deportation. After having married a U.S. citizen, Khan, using the alias Parvez Manzoor Khan, was granted permanent resident status in 2001. He naturalized on July 3, 2006. Khan has been residing in Branford, Florida

Rashid Mahmood

Rashid Mahmood aka Rashid Mehmood, 44, a native of Pakistan, arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on July 9, 1992, and presented a fraudulent U.S. temporary resident card. He claimed his name was Rashid Mehmood. He was placed in exclusion proceedings, but failed to appear for his immigration court hearing and was ordered excluded and deported on Oct. 13, 1992. Three years later, on Oct. 10, 1995, he filed for adjustment of status under the surname Mahmood based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen, who filed a visa petition on his behalf. He naturalized under the name Rashid Mahmood on June 3, 2005. He also lied on his naturalization form failing to disclose that he claimed he was a member of the Pakistan People’s Party when he applied for entry into the United States in 1992. Mahmood has been residing in New Britain/Hartford, Connecticut.

Baljinder Singh

Baljinder Singh aka Davinder Singh, 43, a native of India, arrived at San Francisco International Airport on Sept. 25, 1991, without any travel documents or proof of identity. He claimed his name was Davinder Singh. He was placed in exclusion proceedings, but failed to appear for his immigration court hearing and was ordered excluded and deported on Jan. 7, 1992. Four weeks later, on Feb. 6, 1992, he filed an asylum application under the name Baljinder Singh. He claimed to be an Indian who entered the United States without inspection. Singh abandoned that application after he married a U.S. citizen, who filed a visa petition on his behalf. Singh naturalized under the name Baljinder Singh on July 28, 2006. Singh has been residing in Carteret, New Jersey.

 

Former Fugitive Indicted By A Federal Grand Jury After His Capture In Grenada Chelsea Man Listed On U.S. Diplomatic Security Service’s Most Wanted

BOSTON – A Chelsea man was indicted today by a federal grand jury for making false statements in his application for a U.S. passport.

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Glen Turczyn, 42, was originally charged by federal criminal complaint in December 2012. He is alleged to have falsely applied for a United States passport at the U.S. Embassy in St. George’s, Grenada, in October 2012 using an assumed identity of Francis H. Turczyn. Turczyn allegedly presented a fraudulently obtained birth certificate and Massachusetts Identity Card in support of his passport application.

As referenced in the charging documents, the Consular Affairs office in Grenada conducted an investigation into Turczyn’s United States passport application, and determined that a Glen Turczyn had previously made an application for a passport in prior years. The photographs for Glen Turczyn and Francis Turczyn matched which prompted a referral to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service for the United States Department of State for further investigation. 

Turczyn was detained by Diplomatic Security Service agents in coordination with law enforcement authorities in Grenada and returned to the United States in January 2013 where he was arrested. Turczyn had been listed on the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service’s Most Wanted List. 

The maximum sentence under the statute is 10 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. 

Oregon man arrested for using fake British passport of baby who died more than 50 YEARS ago and using his false identity to travel the world

Timothy Matthews, 53, assumed the identity of a dead British baby for 20 years,He used the fake passport to access seven countries including China and Russia, Matthews live in England after a rift with his family, before moving to Oregon.He remains in custody while his possible release is reviewed by a second judge. 

Timothy Michael Matthews, 53, assumed the identity of Peter Matthews, who was born and died in 1963 in Great Britain

Timothy Michael Matthews, 53, assumed the identity of Peter Matthews, who was born and died in 1963 in Great Britain

An Oregon man is accused of using a fake Great Britain passport with the identity of a baby that died over 50 years ago.

Timothy Michael Matthews, 53, of Newberg, assumed the identity of Peter Matthews, who was born and died on September 6, 1963 in Neath, Great Britain according to a federal complaint.

Timothy Matthews was born under the name Timothy Michael Schneidt in Wyoming and was estranged from his family. He moved to England to work in the 1980's before returning to the United States and settling in Oregon. 

He officially changed his name to Matthews in Portland in September of 2013. 'He decided he liked being Mr. Matthews,' defense lawyer Alison Clark told a judge Monday, according to OregonLive. 

Matthews gained access to at least seven countries using the baby's identity. He entered Mexico, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Russia, Guatemala and Kazakhstan with the forged passport.  

'Based on multiple photograph comparisons, the United Kingdom passport that was issued to Peter Matthews, bears the defendant's photo... On October 19, 2012 Her Majesty's Passport Office in the United Kingdom revoked passport number 7**** issued to defendant Matthews, based on fraud,' the complaint reads.  

A misuse of passport charge is a federal felony.  

Assistant US Attorney Benjamin Tolkoff says investigators suspect the man was 'up to something nefarious.' Clark argued for Matthew's release Monday, saying that he has community ties and is working as a residential manager of a transitional housing program for homeless men in Newberg. 

'He's willing to appear (in court) and be accountable for any offense he may have committed,' Clark told the judge. Tolkoff called it a 'very unusual case' and that his traveling under a false British passport raises suspicions.

'Traveling under an assumed name and doing so extensively around the globe raises real concerns,' Tolkoff said in court. 'Why wouldn't he just use his real name and passport?... His activities are at best suspect, if not criminal.''

US Magistrate District of Oregon Judge Paul Papak, didn't disagree, but first questioned: 'You have suspicions but you have no evidence of any criminal behavior?' 'Yes,' Tolkoff answered.

'I have all the suspicions you have, Mr. Tolkoff, but I don't think I can detain on that,' the judge said, according to OregonLive.

As of now, Matthews will remain in custody as a judge in California Justice reviews Papak's decision to release Matthews. Matthews was caught crossing the boarder from Tijuana, Mexico into California. The matter will ultimately be heard in the Southern District of California. 


 

American fugitive jailed over forged passport

An American woman, who is wanted in the United States, was yesterday sentenced to 18 months in a local jail for forging a passport and trying to use it to bypass immigration officials.

Convicted Stacy Hamilton

Convicted Stacy Hamilton

A city court heard that between January 1 and August 12, 2016, at Georgetown, Stacy Hamilton, 44, of Texas, USA, conspired with persons known or unknown and forged a Republic of Guyana passport under the name Tara Ashley Vaughn as having been issued by the Central Immigration and Passport Office.

It was also alleged that on August 12, at Lethem, Rupununi, with intent to defraud, Hamilton uttered the forged passport to an immigration officer.

Hamilton, who was represented by attorney Paul Fung-A-Fat, pleaded guilty to both of the charges when they were read to her by Magistrate Fabayo Azore.

According to Police Prosecutor Deniro Jones, Hamilton, who was charged with an offence in America and then skipped the country while on bail, came to Guyana and conspired with persons to forge a passport to go to Brazil. Jones said that at the immigration landing at Lethem, Hamilton gave her passport to the immigration clerk, who realised upon checking it that it was a forged document. Hamilton told police that she paid US$1,500 for the passport.

When Hamilton was given a chance to speak, she told the court that what the prosecutor said was the truth.

Fung-A-Fat said that Hamilton was living in Guyana for over a year and was encouraged by persons to forge the passport. He said the police in the United States have contacted his client and they will handle her as soon as she is deported back to the country.

However, the magistrate sentenced Hamilton to 18 months in prison on both charges. The sentences will run concurrently.