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Passport fraudsters dealt to

Media Release 22 February 2008

Passport fraudsters dealt to

Criminals attempting passport fraud can expect to be caught and face tough penalties for their crime, the Department of Internal Affairs says.

The Department in responding to the sentencing today of the Lavea brothers for historic passport fraud, says passport fraud is a serious crime that has victims. Romney Lavea was sentenced to two years imprisonment for 14 charges of using forged documents. His brother Al Harrington Lavea was sentenced to six months Home Detention and ordered to pay reparation.

They used the birth certificates of dead people to obtain several passports which were then supposedly provided to other people.

David Philp, Passports Manager for the Department of Internal Affairs says such offences are serious because they undermine the New Zealand passport and more importantly create victims. “The abuse of the identities of dead people is something we take extremely seriously. It rekindles distress and grief for the families of the dead person, whose identity is being misused, often from many years ago.”

“Since 2003 all new passport applications have been checked against birth and death records. We can also detect people who have used identities to obtain false passports prior to 2003,” says Mr Philp.

He says the Department will refer all cases, without exception, to the Police for prosecution.

“And the penalties are high, with up to ten years imprisonment and/or fines of $250,000 if convicted,” says Mr Philp.

The Department of Internal Affairs has introduced a range of initiatives to reduce passport fraud. These include reducing the validity of the passport from 10 to five years, the introduction of a chip enabled ePassport and new photographic requirements.

David Philp says the Department of Internal Affairs will continue to passionately protect the reputation and integrity of the New Zealand passport and that means actively identifying and acting on any breach of passport security.


ENDS

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