Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Sana'a
RR RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHKUK RUEHROV
DE RUEHYN #1729/01 2720421
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZDK
R 290421Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2832
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0943
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHEE/ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 0282
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0284
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0289
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 SANAA 001729
DEPARTMENT FOR CA/FPP, DS/CR/OCI, NEA/ARP
DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
POSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGERS
RIYADH FOR DHS/ICE ATTACHE
ATHENS FOR DHS/CIS OIC
CAIRO FOR RCO CHRISTOPHER ROWAN
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC YM
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - SANA'A
REF: A)SANAA 583
B)Turnbull/Hooshangi/Carothers/Sexton E-Mail 08/24/09
SANAA 00001729 001.2 OF 005
1. COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle
East, with an illiteracy rate of over 50% and unemployment rates
over 30%. Yemen is also home to upwards of 500,000 - 600,000
refugees, mostly of Somali origin. Due to lack of opportunities in
Yemen, the impetus for and volume of fraud witnessed at post is
high. Unfortunately, legitimate civil documents are easily obtained
based on falsely-provided information and therefore often must be
discounted. Fraud prevention efforts rely heavily on scientific
testing, trend analysis, and vigorous investigations.
2. NIV FRAUD: NIV fraud makes up less than 5% of Post's fraud
efforts, as cases suspected of even minor fraud are refused under
214(b). During this six-month period, Post has adjudicated 2268 NIV
cases, most of which are adjudicated by our half-time NIV officer.
One unique aspect of NIVs in Yemen is the frequent refusal of
applicants seeking B1/B2 visas, who are in possession of Diplomatic
or Official Yemeni passports. Low salaries and a history of Yemeni
officials overstaying their visas often results in an inability to
overcome a 214(b) inadmissibility finding. In Yemen, issuance of
diplomatic passports is not limited to diplomatic officials and
their immediate families.
Due to the large turnover in officers and understaffing of the FPU,
Post did not perform a validation study during this reporting
period. We are now in the process of conducting validation studies
3. IV FRAUD: Due to the pervasive fraud environment, all Immigrant
Visa (IV) cases are considered fraudulent until proven otherwise.
Interviews are complex, due not only to fraud, but also to the
illiteracy and poor education of applicants. "I don't know" and "I
don't understand" are common responses from the beneficiary to basic
questions about her family. Post, therefore, allows petitioners to
participate in interviews, as the petitioner is often the only one
able to locate and obtain documents, complete paperwork, and provide
information we would normally expect the beneficiary to be able to
articulate in the interview. This increases the difficulty of fraud
detection, as officers are forced to rely on a series of patterns
and interviewing experience in order to detect fraud successfully.
Post estimates that 1686, or two-thirds, of the 2542 IV cases
adjudicated during the reporting period were referred directly to
Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU). Approximately 226 of these were
referred for phone investigations and 1395 for DNA testing. Some
cases also require both DNA and a phone investigation. Since phone
numbers and names are provided by the petitioner and beneficiary for
phone investigations, Post waits several months before conducting a
phone investigation. As a result, even those who had been coached
on what to say often revert to the truth, having forgotten the story
they had been coached to tell.
Step-child fraud is increasing at Post (see para 3 of reftel A). In
this growing trend, the petitioner immigrated as unmarried when he
was in fact married and the "step-children" are actually his
children. When DNA testing reveals that the children are biological
and not step-children, the applicants must then obtain new, correct
identification documents in order to immigrate. It is both costly
and timely to obtain all new civil documents, applications,
affidavits of support, and all other documents, as all documents
were issued based on the false name provided for the
"step-children." Furthermore, A/RSO-I simultaneously coordinates
with local authorities to prosecute any applicant who returns to the
Consular Section in possession of two sets of ROYG-issued
identification documents in different names.
Recently, however, Post has noticed a twist in step-child fraud that
represents a new trend. The petitioner immigrated as unmarried, and
is now altering the date of marriage and dates of birth of the
children, since he was married at the time of immigration.
Falsification of the children's ages is necessary since children are
rarely born out of wedlock in Yemen. Post has caught on to this
fraud by noticing a recent spike in children who look much older
than claimed during their interviews. Post combats this type of
fraud through bone-age testing and again requiring the petitioner to
acquire new, correct identification documents for his children. In
cases where the petitioner is a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR),
SANAA 00001729 002.2 OF 005
however, A/RSO-I is able to pursue the revocation of his status
since his being married would have precluded him from an F-2B visa.
During the reporting period, Post received the results for
approximately 120 bone age tests indicating under reporting of age
in at least 85% of the cases.
In CR/IR cases at Post, it is very unusual to see an American
petitioner who is not of Yemeni origin. However, in these rare
cases, the Yemeni father has often overstayed on a B1/B2 visa and
adjusted status by marrying a non-Yemeni American. He then
convinces his new wife to petition for his children from a
"previous" marriage, when in fact the first wife is still alive in
Yemen and is still married to him. A/RSO-I refers these cases to
U.S.-based field agents who can pursue deportation of the Yemeni
father, and notify American authorities of a polygamous marriage.
Polygamous marriages are extremely common in Yemen (see para 3 of
reftel A). In cases with more than one wife listed, polygamy is
suspected, even if the petition claims previous marriages had
terminated in divorce or death. Yemenis frequently try to abuse the
divorce system to cover up polygamous marriages by claiming they
have divorced previous spouses when they are only separated.
Shari'a law, upon which Yemeni law is based, requires three decrees
for a divorce to become final and legal. Post only accepts the
final, third decree as evidence of divorce. FPU investigations
routinely reveal that claimed divorces were never finalized or that
previous spouses are not deceased.
Post remains skeptical of all cases involving children over the age
of 20 who claim to be single. According to a recent sociological
study, approximately 80% of Yemeni men and women marry by the age of
20, and nearly 50% by the age of 15. Post sees many Yemeni males in
their late 20s and 30s who claim to be unmarried, but subsequent
phone investigations often reveal they have wives and children. For
F-1s, they are simply requested to provide proof of their marriage
and are transferred to F-3s; IR-2s are similarly transferred to
F-1s. F-2s and those who refuse to confess have their cases sent to
DHS with the recommendation that they be revoked.
K-Visa: As per para 3 of reftel A, K-1 visas remain suspicious due
to Yemeni cultural norms that would prevent an unmarried woman from
traveling to meet a fianc. Phone investigations are conducted for
all K-1 visas, due to the suspicion that the beneficiary and
petitioner are in fact already married and therefore ineligible for
the K-1 visa. In over 90% of these cases, phone investigations
reveal that the petitioner and beneficiary are already married,
resulting in requests for revocation. Some phone investigations
also result in the discovery that the beneficiary is not the only
current wife of the petitioner.
Investigation Procedures: Country security conditions still prevent
FPU from performing field investigations. We rely almost
exclusively on phone investigations to combat the aforementioned
types of fraud. FPU has been remarkably successful in finding
"deceased" spouses and getting full confessions from them on the
phone. Phone investigations have also been successful in combating
polygamy-related fraud as the second wife will readily admit to her
status outside the interview window.
Of the 85 phone investigations performed during the reporting
period, 64 uncovered material fraud. In only about 10-15% of phone
investigations were we unable to obtain information due to
uncooperative or suspicious relatives. Post's ARSO-I obtains
several confessions each month from applicants and petitioners
during DNA sampling in addition to information voluntarily provided
by the petitioner when scheduling DNA testing.
Post's FPU remains severely overburdened and understaffed. The EFM
Fraud Prevention Supervisor position has remained unfilled since
January 2009, and ARSO-I has been acting as FPM in addition to his
other duties. Two LE Staff are responsible for all phone
investigations and work extra hours to perform DNA sampling. In
addition to the aforementioned duties, FPU performs approximately 14
document, video and picture analyses, and translations per day.
4. DV FRAUD: DV cases continue to be extremely difficult to evaluate
in Yemen due to the large number of Somali applicants. Neither Post
nor AmEmb Addis have the capacity to verify any Somali documents.
Therefore there is no concrete way to determine the bona-fides of
Somali DV applicants who attempt to qualify based on education.
SANAA 00001729 003.3 OF 005
Officers attempt to interview such applicants stringently, but
ultimately the burden of proof remains on the applicants. It is
equally challenging to evaluate most Yemenis who attempt to qualify
based on work experience, since documents can be easily obtained.
Post continues to train its new officers on the use of O*Net to
improve its interviewing capacity. The use of LE Staff field
expertise in medicine has also been vital to combating DV fraud, as
Post has seen several applicants from this field.
On the other hand, the bona-fides of Yemeni applicants who attempt
to qualify based on education are easily verified via contacts in
the ROYG Ministry of Education and at several universities. During
the reporting period, 7 of 30 Yemeni educational documents submitted
in DV cases that were sent for review turned out fraudulent.
Yemeni education standards are significantly lower than those of the
United States. 50% is a passing grade for Yemeni high school
graduates. Post is attempting to recalibrate its standards to meet
the FAM requirement that all DV applicants be "able to apply for
university in the US." Since Yemeni universities require at a
minimum a 70% passing grade from high school, Post recently
submitted an Advisory Opinion (ref B) requesting permission from CA
to change its requirement from 50% to 70% to be a passing high
school grade, in order to align with both Yemeni and U.S. university
(e) ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD: In many IV cases, the petitioner may
have sufficient physical presence in the U.S. to transmit U.S.
citizenship to the beneficiary of the IV petition. Of the 983
Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA) applicants interviewed
during the reporting period, Post estimates that 250 were referrals
from IV. Post has worked hard to streamline the communication
between these two sections and now each routinely refers to the
other's notes. This has greatly helped our fraud prevention
procedures as the fraud from IV carries over to ACS once the case is
The most common types of fraud in first time CRBA applications are
relationship related. Since many cases are refused simply for lack
of physical presence documentation, Post rarely has cause to pursue
document-fraud as it relates to physical presence. However, as our
applicant pool is uneducated and poor, they often do not possess
convincing proof of relationships. DNA testing was used in
approximately 96 such cases to ensure that only the children of
Amcits are obtaining passport benefits. More recently, we are
seeing falsification of dates of birth for children in order to
ensure sufficient physical presence to transmit citizenship. Post
combats this fraud through bone age testing.
In passport renewals, the first passport contains a photo of an
infant that is not easily matched to the young adult in front of the
officer. In these cases, Post requests photos showing the applicant
at different ages, or requests DNA testing to prove the relationship
with the parents.
6. ADOPTION FRAUD: Yemeni law has no provisions for legal adoption,
yet Post continues to witness attempts to petition for "adopted"
children in Yemen. These cases are returned to USCIS for revocation
since there is no petition-able relationship. During the reporting
period Post noted 4-5 such cases.
7. USE OF DNA TESTING: Post utilizes a Cellmark lab in Sana'a to
process all DNA requests. All DNA tests conducted by Cellmark tests
siblings and compare husband and wife. DNA testing is an
outstanding deterrent to fraud. Half of Post's applicants for DNA
testing fail to complete the required testing, preferring not to
spend money on a test that will only confirm fraud.
As mentioned above, FPU handles many Post-initiated requests for DNA
testing. In addition, FPU continues to receive requests from DHS
for DNA testing prior to the forwarding of some cases to Post. DHS
currently requests DNA testing for only selected family members in
each case. Post, however, requires that all family members submit
to DNA testing. As a result, Post has received DNA results showing
that "parents" are siblings, "children" are grandchildren,
"siblings" are not related to each other, and "step-children" are
children. Post's more-stringent DNA testing requirement has
revealed a much larger fraud picture.
In this six-month period, the FPU conducted DNA testing on
SANAA 00001729 004.2 OF 005
approximately 1400 people and has dramatically streamlined the
8. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD: There are no new developments
this reporting period.
9. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL:
Post currently does not have any open cases related to these topics.
Yemen's borders and coastline are porous and poorly monitored,
allowing regular movement from both sea and land. Additionally,
Yemen is coping with the continual illegal immigration of various
nationalities from the Horn of Africa region and has, as of yet,
been unable to stem the flow.
10. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: An A/RSO-I has been assigned
to the Consular Section since December 2008. The A/RSO-I reports
directly to the Consular Chief for all matters concerning consular
investigations and to the RSO for all security issues. The A/RSO-I
is currently collocated with the Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) and has
been serving as the acting Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM) since
January 2009. A Vice Consul will move into the FPM role on October
The local government has shown interest in prosecuting only those
document fraud cases which involve an imposter or someone with
Yemeni identification documents in two different names.
Fraudulently-obtained documents or legitimately-issued documents
obtained with incorrect information are of no concern to the local
The working relationship is improving between the A/RSO-I and local
law enforcement. Post is now able to get lead requests answered in
a timely fashion.
The A/RSO-I is the RSO and Consular Section's liaison with other law
enforcement entities at Post and assists with various inter-agency
investigations of mutual interest. The ARSO-I assists in the
entering of fraud related lookouts and watch phrases into the CCD
and assists Consular Officers with conducting criminal records
checks for visa and passport applicants.
11. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL REGISTRY:
Both fraudulent and legally-issued Yemeni civil documents are easily
attainable for a price. The Civil Status Authority (CSA) requires
no evidence of an event to issue civil documents, and Yemenis rarely
document births, deaths, marriages, or divorces when they happen.
Documents are procured only later when they are needed for a
bureaucratic procedure. A complete absence of record-keeping and
rampant corruption within the CSA and court system mean that even
legitimately-issued documents often reflect fraudulent information
or record events that never occurred. Given Post's serious security
concerns and rampant relationship fraud with immigrant visas,
Yemen's weak documentation is a significant border-security
The Immigration and Passport Authority is responsible for the
issuance of Yemeni Machine Readable Passports (MRP). They encounter
the same problems as the CSA regarding records management and fraud
prevention. Given that the breeder documents needed to obtain a
passport are readily available for a price, Yemeni passports can
easily be obtained with false bio-data.
12. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: FPU has a very
strong working relationship with ROYG Civil Status Authority (CSA)
officials. The CSA continues to share information and assist in
document validations and analysis of fraud patterns at Post. This
is a direct result of the continued effort on the part of the FPU
13. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: A more troubling version of IV
step-child fraud is on the rise, raising concerns at Post about
alien smuggling. Post is seeing an increase in petitions for IR-2
and F33 step-children, when in reality there is no
step-parent/step-child relationship. In these cases, the
"step-father" petitions for "step-children" after the "biological
mother" is supposedly deceased. However, given the easily-obtained,
legitimate civil documents which contain false information, our
applicants can acquire "step-children" with little cost and effort,
when in fact no such relationship exists.
SANAA 00001729 005.2 OF 005
Post is not certain how the petitioner is connected to these
beneficiary "step-children," nor do we know who these children are.
DNA results over the years confirm that Yemenis have no qualms
petitioning for relatives such as cousins, nieces and nephews, and
grandchildren as "children," believing that DNA will sufficiently
confirm a familial relationship, yet not reveal the specific nature
of the non-petitionable relationship that actually exists.
Therefore, we are certain that there is no familial
relationship-otherwise these beneficiaries would have been listed as
"children" and not as "step-children."
Furthermore, we seriously doubt the story of the deceased "mother"
that the petitioner supposedly had married. We also suspect that
the identity of the deceased "mother" has been altered, and
therefore phone investigations would not be effective, as we would
clearly be given away by using the fake name of both the mother and
the child in question.
We believe these children are from the same town or village as the
petitioner, and that the petitioner is smuggling the beneficiary
children to the U.S. We also suspect that the true parents are
seeking NIVs with the intention of settling permanently in the U.S.
with their children who were naturalized at the port of entry as
U.S. citizens, thanks to the petitioner who smuggled them in. We
would have no way of associating the real parents with their now
U.S. citizen children during NIV interviews, as the children would
most likely have been naturalized under the same false identities
they used while being smuggled.
Since DNA testing and phone investigations are not applicable in
these situations and document integrity is so poor, Post has no way
of determining who these children are and no method for refusing
these highly-suspect cases. Post has sent an Advisory Opinion to
the Department asking for guidance since Post currently does not
know how legally to refuse to issue these cases.
A disturbing, rising trend in ACS is criminal fraud in repatriation
cases. During the reporting period, every one of the 18 Amcits for
whom Post has begun repatriation cases involved breaking a law,
whether Yemeni or U.S., and in several cases there was a criminal
nexus. Even when asked directly about criminal charges, many of
these applicants lie to the consular officers, denying that such
charges exist. In these six months, Post has witnessed links to
kidnapping, terrorism, child abuse, forced marriage of a minor
child, armed robbery, assault, and murder. CONOFFs work closely
with contacts in LEGATT and RSO to investigate these situations
fully, but the exceptional difficulty they present continues to
strain the Section.
14. STAFFING AND TRAINING: Currently the A/RSO-I is waiting for
funding for an LES-I position. This is a critical asset that is
required since the A/RSO-I position was not initially coded for
language and every interview requires an FPU LES to assist. A
language designation has since been added to the A/RSO-I position,
but given the immense fraud portfolio and other issues that dovetail
with the A/RSO-I portfolio, an LES-I position is greatly needed.
Post is also trying to obtain funding for an additional Fraud
Analyst LE Staff position to assist with the overwhelming workload.
15. The POC for this cable is Consular Section Chief Kim Shaw, who
can be reached at 967-1-755-2154 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.