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Cablegate: Fraud Summary - Argentina

VZCZCXRO4703
RR RUEHAO RUEHCD RUEHGA RUEHGD RUEHGR RUEHHA RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHMT
RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHQU RUEHRD RUEHRG RUEHRS RUEHTM RUEHVC
DE RUEHBU #1113/01 2801757
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071757Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4453
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH
INFO RUEHWH/WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS
RUEADRO/HQ ICE DRO WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BUENOS AIRES 001113

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR CA/FPP AND DS/CR/OCI
DHS FOR CIS/FDNS
POSTS FOR CONS/FPU AND DHS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC AR
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - ARGENTINA

REFS: A) STATE 057623 B) Khilji-Lane email 8/31/09

SUMMARY: Per ref A, Buenos Aires submits its semi-annual fraud
summary for period March 1, 2009, to August 31, 2009. During this
time, FPU achieved full-staffing and addressed a broad range of
issues, from cooperation with local and interagency partners to
investigating NIV referrals. END SUMMARY.

a. COUNTRY CONDITIONS - Argentina has not been insulated from the
global financial crisis. Key economic indicators indicate that the
country is experiencing a slowdown. The Argentine peso lost
approximately 7% of its nominal value against the U.S. dollar during
this reporting period (from March 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009 the
peso went from 3.59 ARP/USD to 3.85 ARP/USD). High inflation has
particularly stressed middle- and low-income households, which are
spending and borrowing less, according to a Central Bank report,
which noted a 23% decline in the number of consumer loans approved
by banks from May to June 2009. Rising prices are taking their toll
on consumer confidence and public perception of economic
opportunities. According to an August 2008 TNS Gallup survey
conducted with the Universidad Catolica de Argentina, 52% of
Argentines characterized the economy as "bad," while 34% judged it
as uncertain. Despite rising inflation and economic uncertainty,
13% still consider the economy to be good.

Paradoxically, and countering the regional trend, NIV demand in
Argentina rose thirteen percent so far (as of September) this
calendar year over CY 2007. Argentina's periodic experience with
economic crises could explain the population's undiminished desire
to travel despite the adverse economy. In addition, substantial
discounts in airfare and attractive Disney packages continue to draw
applicants to the United States. Travel to the United States is a
mark of prestige in Argentine society, and it remains a popular and
affordable destination when compared to the expense of travelling
within Argentina. As these attractive deals encourage more
first-time travelers to the U.S., FPU is attentive to changes in the
applicant pool.

b. NIV FRAUD: During this reporting period, the NIV Unit
adjudicated some 68,000 applications - 13 percent more than the same
period last fiscal year - with FPU completing 33 percent more
investigations than during the same period in FY 2008.

VALIDATION STUDIES: Post conducted a validation study on B
referrals. The initial analysis of some 1,000 cases shows that less
than one percent of the applicants overstayed. Post will report its
complete findings via septel. FPU also tracks and analyzes DHS
deportations and port-of-entry turnarounds, and regularly shares
this info with officers.

--------------------------------------
Argentine Court Prosecuting Visa Fixer
--------------------------------------

Argentine courts are prosecuting a visa forger for the first time in
recent history. In June, FPU responded to a GOA request for
information regarding an FPU investigation of a visa fixer, the
daughter of a famous biographer. Argentine authorities took action
after a refused applicant sued the document fixer for charging
exorbitant fees. Argentine Federal Court Number 39 requested
information from the Embassy by Diplomatic Note, stating that the
visa fixer charged 3,200 Argentine pesos (approximately US$1,000) to
manipulate U.S. visa and Italian and Spanish citizenship
applications, presenting herself as an attorney who could deliver
visas and Argentine citizenship in short order. FPU submitted the
results of its investigation along with a 2003 report previously
submitted to the Senate, containing information relevant to the
case. The court confirmed three pending charges of fraud, one of
which is the result of FPU's investigation. The prosecutor may
request up to 18 years imprisonment.

----------------------------------
Investigating a Dirty War Criminal
----------------------------------

FPU concluded the investigation of a long-pending visa application
from a Dirty War participant, the current Environmental Secretary
for the city of La Matanza, Buenos Aires Province. The Secretary
and his family applied for B1/B2 visas in February 2008. He
disclosed in his interview that he was a member of the Montonero
insurgent group that fought against Argentina's military
dictatorship in the 1970s. He received an Argentine Presidential
Pardon in 1989, though a CLASS hit remained active. The SAO
response in July 2009 identified the applicant as wanted by Interpol
for kidnapping and extortion. Interpol advised that while the case
remained active and unenforced, no law enforcement entity currently

BUENOS AIR 00001113 002 OF 004


seeks his arrest on the international level. As a foreign pardon
does not exempt an applicant from ineligibilities based on
security-related grounds, Post found him permanently ineligible for
his prior activities.

--------------------------------------------- -
Interagency Cooperation Thwarts Visa Applicant
--------------------------------------------- -

With the assistance of RSO and ICE, FPU thwarted an applicant's
attempts to fraudulently obtain visas based on a bogus humanitarian
claim. In March, an applicant requested an expedited visa
appointment for her nine-month old child based on a medical
emergency. Before the visa interview, DS alerted FPU that the
applicant had ties to the Russian mafia. During the visa interview,
the applicant presented appointment letters from the Hospital for
Special Surgery in New York, a Polish birth certificate for her
daughter, the father's permission to leave Argentina, and a police
report stating that she had lost her previous passport. An
entry/exit check indicated that she had left the United States in
2007, but not when she entered. The NIV Chief and FSN Investigator
confronted the applicant, who admitted to having been unlawfully
present in the United States from April 2000 until September 2007.
She also admitted that the nurse at the Hospital for Special
Surgeries who signed the appointment letters was a friend of her
child's father. A CCD text search revealed more than 50 similar
visa applications for medical treatment, most of them from Pakistan
and Turkey. FPU referred the case to DS for further investigation.


--------------------------
Other Fraud Investigations
--------------------------

In August, FPU investigated questionable vacation prizes after
several applicants presented letters allegedly from Vacations724.com
awarding them hotel getaways in Orlando and Miami (ref B). FPU
believes that these prizes were a scam. While Vacations724.com
appears to be a legitimate wholesale travel provider like Expedia
and Travelocity, the entity using their name on popular radio shows
has taken advantage of many lower-income applicants who do not
qualify for visas, charging them additional exorbitant fees after
they "win" the prize, in some cases even charging their credit cards
without their knowledge. After contacting WHA/FPP, FPU found that
other WHA posts had also seen this scam.

We note that applicants who use the Vacations724.com website do not
have these problems, suggesting that the organization using the
radio advertisement is fraudulently using the website's logo to
borrow credibility. Applicants responding to the radio
advertisements also told FPU that Vacations724.com required them to
pay $29 USD for the "visa letter" and $200 USD for "administrative
fees" for the prize. Despite several calls, FPU was unable to
contact the offices listed on the letter, and a Google Map shows the
address as an empty lot in Miami. FPU plans to follow up with the
radio stations and FPMs in the region.

Finally, a 19 year-old Peruvian landscaper renewing an H2A temporary
work visa admitted to petition fraud in order to illegally work in
construction in Salt Lake City, Utah. While the applicant presented
well, an error in PIMS led FPU to call his "alleged" employer, who
denied petitioning for him. From there, FPU obtained a confession
from the applicant that he had previously worked illegally in
construction, instead of -as his first visa permitted - in
landscaping. The recent indictment of a Salt Lake City law firm for
falsifying information on work visa applications, and the high
incidence of fraud amongst Peruvian applicants here, highlights
landscaping jobs in Utah as an area for continued vigilance.

c. IV FRAUD - Immigrant visa fraud is relatively rare in Buenos
Aires. IV referred six cases to FPU this period that involved
checks on birth and marriage certificates and visa fraud interviews.
No fraud was found.

d. DV FRAUD - No DV cases were referred to FPU for investigation
during this time period.

e. ACS AND PASSPORT FRAUD- ACS Fraud in Buenos Aires has
historically been low. FPU is developing a new training program for
ACS staff to ensure that they are aware of, and alert to, current
trends in ACS fraud.

f. ADOPTION FRAUD - There were no adoption fraud investigations this
period.

g. USE OF DNA TESTING - No cases were recommended for DNA testing

BUENOS AIR 00001113 003 OF 004


this period.

h. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD - The Embassy has not
processed any asylum or refugee cases since 2001.

i. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST TRAVEL
- In March, Argentine Immigration noticed an increase in flights
from the Dominican Republic carrying groups of 25-50 women
supposedly coming for tourism, all of them stating the same address,
carrying little money and claiming no knowledge of the other women.
Given the long history of trafficking of Dominican women to
Argentina, this sudden increase raised suspicions amongst GOA
immigration officers, who subsequently refused their entry and
immediately returned them to Santo Domingo.
After Argentine Immigration denied entry to these initial larger
groups, the travelers changed their stories and started arriving in
smaller groups. According to Argentine Immigration, while many
women know their motive of travel, others are forced into
prostitution upon arrival. They are taken mostly to the south of
Argentina, where petroleum companies operate. There are also a
significant numbers of Bolivians, Paraguayans and Peruvians who are
trafficked into the country for forced labor in sweatshops and
agriculture. Argentina passed an anti-trafficking law in 2008 and
has made other important strides toward addressing the problem. It
remains on the Department's Tier II Watch List, with identified
shortcomings in the prosecution of traffickers and in victims'
services. GOA Immigration officials say they will continue to watch
the trends and keep FPU informed. Los delitos considerados en la
reciente normativa no sslo contemplan la explotacisn sexual; tambin
estn aludidas las prcticas esclavistas, como los trabajos forzados
y la reduccisn a la servidumbre; las privaciones de la libertad y la
extraccisn ilegal de srganos.
j. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS - FPU referred a case to RSO
last year involving the victim of a visa fixer who was intercepted
in Ezeiza airport. In May, FPU and RSO met with federal police
investigators, who reported that they were working with five victims
who had answered a newspaper ad for U.S. work visas. The
Investigators requested that Post contact them if another victim
came forward and suggested extra vigilance around the Embassy,
particularly with possible facilitators in the visa line. The judge
in charge of the case will consider charges of falsification of a
public document once the defendant is properly identified. This
carries a penalty of up to six years.

FPU worked closely with RSO in a case in which an IV applicant
claimed she had been visited at home by two alleged Embassy
employees, who provided her with an appointment date. The letter
shows applicant's personal information and contains a Department of
State seal that appears to have been pulled from the internet. She
also stated that when she appeared for her "appointment," she was
charged 160 Argentine pesos for the application by someone at
outside visa intake window who then requested she come at a later
time for her final interview. The applicant's lawyer contacted the
Embassy to report the incident. The case is still under
investigation with the RSO.

k. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL REGISTRY -
Argentine Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) officials recently
informed FPU that the GOA has opened the bid for the new Argentine
e-passport, to be issued sometime in 2010. They stated that the
increased security procedures and features of the new passport
should make it more difficult for mala fide persons to obtain
genuine Argentine passports.

In Argentina, Argentine Immigration processes residency
applications. After temporary residency is approved, the applicant
is referred to the Argentine Civil registry for a DNI application.
As the wait time for a DNI appointment is six months to one year,
Argentine Immigration is working with the Civil Registry to
streamline the process for temporary residents, which should allow
an applicant to complete the whole process, including the DNI,
through Immigration, avoiding a separate application to the Civil
Registry.

l. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES - FPU maintains
excellent working-level relationships with Argentine Immigration,
airport security, Civil Registry and Federal Police. FPU can
unofficially request entry and exit checks from contacts to aid in
fraud investigations. In return, we assist airport officials with
prompt visa or passport verification when they identify suspect U.S.
travel documents.

In April, FPU staff conducted the first-ever training for Argentine
immigration enforcement officials in Posadas, Misiones, the
second-highest volume entry point into Argentina after the
international airport in Buenos Aires. More than 100 employees from

BUENOS AIR 00001113 004 OF 004


Immigration, Coast Guard, Gendarmerie and the provincial police
participated in imposter detection and document examination
training. FPU also observed operations at both the bridge and port
immigration check points.

On July 29, FPU hosted the quarterly anti-fraud round table of
English-speaking Embassies. Representatives from New Zealand,
Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa attended the
meeting, with Argentine Diplomats from Consular Affairs as special
guests. The MFA representatives shared fraud trends with the
Embassies, explained the Argentine visa and passport issuance
policy, and details on the development of a new Argentine Mercosur
passport.

m. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN - FPU continues to work closely with
airlines to detect trends in fraudulent document use here. Mala
fide third country nationals often use Buenos Aires as a departure
point for flights to the U.S. because they know that airport
officials do not arrest, detain, or prosecute travelers with false
documents, nor do they confiscate the fraudulent documents. This
enables travelers to re-use the same false documents with different
airlines, or in neighboring countries. FPU has raised this concern
with Argentine immigration and airport officials on several
occasions, but they cite Argentine laws as constraining their
ability to retain documents. To compensate, FPU routinely notifies
all U.S.-bound airlines and Fraud Prevention Managers in neighboring
countries whenever it becomes aware of apparent mala fide attempts
to board U.S.-bound flights in Buenos Aires.

n. STAFFING AND TRAINING: Post's FPU is fully-staffed for the first
time in two years, with the Visa Chief serving as Fraud Prevention
Manager, one full-time Senior Investigator, a part-time rotating FPU
/NIV Officer; an H&L funded FSN investigator and an EFM assistant.
Regaining full staffing has helped the unit better address the full
gamut of projects such as outreach and training, fully investigating
H&L visas, and maintaining a strong network of local contacts.

During the reporting period, FPU conducted several fraud briefings
for the new consular officers, focusing on Argentine documents and
the more common fraud trends in Argentina. FPU also led training
session for Conoffs on Argentine tax documents and detection of
falsified tax forms.

MARTINEZ

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