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Cablegate: Fraud Summary -- Jerusalem

VZCZCXRO8357
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1804/01 2860937
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 130937Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6275
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH NH
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 0005
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 4631
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMCSUU/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHDC
RUEPWJF/HQ BICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEPINS/HQ BICE INTEL WASHINGTON DC
RUEPICA/USCIS WASHINGTON DC
RUEPICB/USCIS FDNS WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 JERUSALEM 001804

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP AND NEA/IPA
DEPT ALSO PASS TO KCC
DHS FOR USCIS FDNS AND ICE FDLPOSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION MANAGERS
ATHENS/ROME FOR DHS/ICE, DHS/CBP, AND DHS/CIS ATTACHES

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC ECON KWBG IS XF

SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY -- JERUSALEM

REF: (A) 08 Jerusalem 1954; (B) Tel Aviv 763; (C) 08 State 74840;
(D) Jerusalem 592; (E) Jerusalem 1090

1. Semiannual fraud report for Consulate General Jerusalem follows,
formatted per instructions in ref C.

(A) COUNTRY CONDITIONS: Jerusalem's consular district includes
Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem's diverse population includes Palestinian
residents of East Jerusalem (Jerusalem ID holders), secular
Israelis, and a disproportionate percentage of ultra-orthodox Jewish
Israelis compared to "Green Line" Israel. Poverty rates are higher
in Jerusalem than in the rest of Israel, and Palestinian residents
are twice as likely to live in poverty as Israeli residents. High
birth rates and large families among Palestinians and ultra-orthodox
Israelis underlie the poverty rate. The quality of life in
mostly-Israeli West Jerusalem differs markedly from
mostly-Palestinian East Jerusalem, where limited access to municipal
services, increasing social and economic isolation from the West
Bank, home demolitions and higher unemployment foment frustration
and anger.

Israel proclaimed Jerusalem as its capital in 1950 (although that
step has not been recognized by the United States), and
approximately half of the workforce is employed in the public
sector. Tourism is another primary economic driver with more than
1,000,000 tourists visiting Jerusalem annually. The unemployment
rate in Jerusalem is comparable to the rest of "Green Line" Israel
(roughly nine percent), though the average wage is lower in
Jerusalem. A relatively low percentage of Jerusalem's working-age
population participates in the work force (10 percent less than Tel
Aviv, for example). This is largely due to the high number of
Jewish ultra-orthodox families, in which the men pursue religious
studies full time and the women are rarely employed outside the
home. For these families, government welfare is the primary source
of income. The population of Jerusalem had been shrinking by a few
thousand residents annually due to migration to other cities in
Israel, but in the past year the population increased slightly.
Jerusalem residents enjoy easy access to the Consulate General.

WEST BANK: West Bank living conditions are difficult compared to
Jerusalem, with unemployment estimated at around 20 percent and
roughly half of the population living below the poverty line. Most
fraud at post involves West Bank Palestinians, for whom challenging
economic conditions, violence, restrictions on freedom of movement,
and other negative effects of the Israeli occupation provide a
motive for emigration. The West Bank also hosts Israeli
settlements, with an estimated population of over 275,000 Israelis.
Violence between settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank occurs
on a regular basis. A significant number of these settlers are dual
Israeli-American citizens.

Access to consular services is limited for Palestinian West Bank
residents, who must obtain a permit from Israeli authorities to
enter Jerusalem. Applying for a permit is time-consuming and
permits are often denied. Even an approved permit does not
guarantee passage through checkpoints, where delays and difficulties
are common. Crossings from the West Bank to Israel and/or Jerusalem
can be closed for extended periods, even to permit holders, due to
Jewish holidays or other events. Some West Bank residents seeking
consular services enter Jerusalem illegally.

GAZA: Living conditions in the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely
populated areas in the world, are extremely difficult. Hamas, a USG
designated terrorist organization, seized power in a violent coup in
2007 and maintains effective control of the territory. Conditions
progressively deteriorated, and in December 2008 after a significant
increase in rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli communities in the
north-west Negev which originated from Gaza, Israel launched a major
bombing campaign, followed by a military incursion, that left
thousands homeless and severely damaged infrastructure. Israeli
restrictions on the import from Israel of all but basic humanitarian
supplies have limited reconstruction and prevent normal economic
activity. Exports are almost entirely prohibited. Most Gazans live

JERUSALEM 00001804 002 OF 005


below the poverty line and subsist on handouts from international
aid agencies. The incentive for Gazans to relocate is high.
Israeli policy restricts virtually all travel in and out of Gaza, so
almost no Gazans have access to consular services.

(B) NIV Fraud:

ISRAELIS: NIV fraud among Israelis is mainly committed by young
adults under 30, often fresh out of the army, who travel to the
United States to sell Dead Sea products in malls or to work
illegally in Las Vegas (as well as elsewhere). Fake army enlistment
letters, employment letters or other documents are sometimes
submitted to establish ties. Post also sees occasional abuse of
H1B, E and O visas.

PALESTINIANS: Among Palestinians, the majority of fraud is carried
out by men under the age of 45 and women under the age of 30, in
part because unemployment rates are high in this demographic.
Palestinian students (F1) and tourists (B1/B2 applicants) regularly
submit fake bank documents and fraudulent high school test
certificates. Young single applicants submit fraudulent civil
documents such as marriage certificates and birth certificates in an
attempt to document false family ties. Most fake documents are
easily identifiable; many are poor-quality mockups created with a
scanner and PC. Referrals from post to the Palestinian police led
to the arrest of a number of document vendors, and the Fraud
Prevention Unit (FPU) continues to work with Palestinian police and
prosecutors to stop the production of false documents.

In the past, post aggressively pursued fraud involving fake bank and
civil documents. Post now only investigates applicants with
sophisticated document packages that suggest the involvement of a
document vendor, or have exact hits in CLASS that raise security
concerns. Prioritizing has allowed post to focus on the most
egregious NIV cases and complicated IV cases.

(C) IV FRAUD: Jerusalem handles all IVs for Israel, Jerusalem, the
West Bank and Gaza. Most cases in which post confirmed fraud
involved sham marriages and sham divorces, but post regularly sees
abuse of employment and diversity visas. From March 2009 until
September 2009, fraud was confirmed in 30 percent of the referred
cases brought to resolution. Continued success in countering fraud
results directly from dedicating more resources to investigations,
including the 2008 hiring of a Locally Engaged Staff Investigator
(LESI). Since security restrictions limit West Bank travel by
official Americans, the addition of an LESI to conduct field
investigations and expand contacts has made a tremendous impact.
Seventy-five percent of IV cases in this period with confirmed fraud
involved Palestinians.

MARRIAGE FRAUD: The most common fraud trend is Palestinian men who
secure a tourist visa, and then abuse the Sharia'a courts to quickly
divorce and then remarry their wives (sometimes the same day). They
then travel to the United States and marry an American, hiding the
remarriage. They then adjust to LPR status and then eventually
naturalize.

Post usually encounters and discovers this fraud at three common
points: during review and investigation of IR2 stepchild cases (when
the American wife is the petitioner); during NIV interviews of the
Palestinian spouse (who often identifies herself as married on her
NIV application); and during IR1 and IR2 applications benefiting the
spouse and child after the now-petitioning husband's naturalization
and divorce from his American wife.

Post has been extremely successful in countering this fraud as
result of developing a cooperative relationship with the Sharia'a
courts in the West Bank. Over the past year, post has sent for
revocation all but one IR2 stepchild case after confirming that the
father engaged in a bigamous marriage in the United States (and in
the one remaining case, this fraud was evident but not confirmable).
Post has referred several cases to ICE through VO/L/A, in which the
man has already naturalized, for consideration of denaturalization
proceedings. These cases remain pending.


JERUSALEM 00001804 003 OF 005


The best place to prevent this fraud is through 214(b) refusals on
the NIV line. However, many of these applicants appear otherwise
well connected to their homes and families (as they have not yet
engaged in the sham divorce when they seek an NIV) and thus are able
to qualify for a tourist visa.

The next best place to counter this fraud is at the time the man
seeks adjustment through his marriage to the American citizen. Post
requests the Department encourage USCIS to seek post's assistance in
verifying the validity of Sharia'a divorce certificates in any case
that matches this pattern. USCIS or other agencies can contact post
with the subject's name, date of birth and local identification
number at jerusalemfpu@state.gov. Most West Bank and Jerusalem
verifications can be completed within two weeks, to include Sharia'a
court verification and Ministry of Interior family status
registration.

(D) DIVERSITY VISA FRAUD: DV fraud at post typically involves fake
educational certificates or questionable derivatives such as
children not declared in the initial lottery entry. Most DV
applicants are African refugees or Israeli immigrants from Eastern
Europe. The rate of fraud is relatively low, with a handful of
fraudulent cases out of the 350 or so processed each year.

(E) ACS AND U.S. PASSPORT FRAUD:

CRBA FRAUD: Jerusalem is among the highest passport and CRBA
issuing posts in the world. The incentive for CRBA fraud is high,
given the thousands of dollars at stake for families applying for
cash benefits from the IRS, such as the earned income tax credit and
child tax credit. As evidence of the US physical presence required
to transmit citizenship, CRBA applicants regularly submit
questionable letters from U.S. Jewish religious schools (yeshivas)
and rabbis. To date, post has not identified a pattern of fraud
originating from any specific yeshiva or rabbi. In all CRBA cases,
evidence of U.S. physical presence is reviewed thoroughly and
corroborating evidence is required when yeshiva documents are the
only proof provided.

FALSE INFO ON CRBA APPLICATIONS TO CONCEAL PRIOR MARRIAGE FRAUD:
Among Palestinian-Americans, there is an emerging trend of
falsifying information in CRBA applications to hide prior,
successful adjustment-through-marriage fraud that eventually
resulted in naturalization. Such prior fraud is not readily apparent
in routine passport applications because information on prior
marriages and divorces is not part of the application. Post has not
devoted significant resources to tracking this trend because ICE has
indicated that the agency lacks resources to pursue
denaturalization, except in cases involving criminal or terrorist
activity.

ACS ASSISTANCE: The FPU has acted as a liaison for the ACS unit to
Palestinian security and Ministry of Interior officials on numerous
occasions. In one case, FPU assisted with the emergency passport
application of an abused American citizen who had previously
petitioned for an IV for her husband. The husband, who had been
arrested for physically and sexually assaulting his American citizen
wife, and was subsequently released from prison, had possession of
her U.S. passport and was threatening her. With the help of FPU and
its contacts, the American was able to travel to Jerusalem to obtain
a new passport and flee from her husband.

(F) ADOPTION FRAUD: None

(G) USE OF DNA TESTING: Post did not undertake any DNA testing
since the last report. DNA testing cannot be conducted in Israel
without a Family Court order.

(H) ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD: A significant portion of
asylum follow-to-join cases show indications of fraud, such as the
asylee claiming extended imprisonment, torture, etc., but family
members profess no knowledge of any abuse, imprisonment or extended
absences of the asylee. Post identified one case where the asylum
seeker in the United States was an active member of a USG-designated
terrorist group in the West Bank. Post receives a handful of

JERUSALEM 00001804 004 OF 005


requests each month from DHS offices requesting document
verification. Fraud is confirmed in a significant percentage of
these cases. Additional requests from USCIS are welcome.

(I) ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, TERRORIST
TRAVEL:

ALIEN SMUGGLING AND TRAFFICKING: Post has not encountered any
sophisticated trafficking rings. Some families have effectively
trafficked their entire extended family to the United States through
marriage fraud over a period of decades. Document vendors providing
fake marriage and divorce certificates facilitate this trend.

TERRORIST TRAVEL: Marriage fraud and asylum fraud, because of their
prevalence and the permanent status they confer, remain a
significant vulnerability for terrorist travel to the United States.
Post regularly interviews both immigrant and non-immigrant visa
applicants who are members of USG-designated terrorist
organizations. Post is often able to identify these ties despite
clean police records and a lack of matching CLASS hits. Other
vulnerabilities are 1) the lack of access to bio-data of individuals
arrested in the West Bank, and 2) inconsistencies in the length of
time arrest information remains available through police records.

Press reports indicate a high volume of individuals arrested in the
West Bank for terrorist activity and affiliation with terrorist
groups. Due to the volume of such arrests, post has inadequate
resources to track down sufficient bio-data to watchlist many
individuals. Occasionally, individuals are identified after the
fact. One example is an asylee in the United States who was later
identified as an active member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade with a
long list of criminal offenses in the West Bank. FPU uses contacts
on multiple levels to assist in collecting bio-data for the Visa
VIPER panel.

Post occasionally has applicants who confess to terrorist or
criminal activity, but produce clean police certificates. Israeli
police records are purged after seven to 10 years, and while
security-related offenses are reportedly not purged, even these may
be expunged upon request. In one case, an individual who was
sentenced to 20 years in an Israeli prison for planting a bomb at an
Israeli bus station in 1979 produced a clean Israeli police
certificate.

The FPU is following up on cases of visa fraud involving the
falsification of documents by travel agencies. In particular, a
travel agency in Ramallah was closed by the Palestinian police after
FPU informed them the agency was producing fake appointment letters
(stating that individuals had appointments at the Consulate
General).

(J) DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: DS has an open investigation
into a U.S.-based lawyer representing a significant portion of
post's applicants engaged in marriage fraud.

(K) HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS AND CIVIL REGISTRY:

The Palestinian Authority began issuing new passports with enhanced
security features and five-year validity (vice three) on March 29,
2009 (see reftel D). The previous, three-year Palestinian passports
are still in use and remain valid until they expire.
Passport-issuing facilities in Gaza and an unknown number of blank
passports were taken over by Hamas, a USG-designated terrorist
organization, on June 2, 2008. In Ref A, post recommended that the
Department not recognize passports issued in Gaza after that date as
valid travel documents and update the reciprocity schedule
accordingly.

(L) COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: Post receives
significant cooperation from Palestinian Authority officials,
particularly civil police, prosecutors, Ministry of Education and
Ministry of Interior officials. One of the key ingredients to
post's success in catching marriage fraud is the cooperation post
receives from Sharia'a Court officials. Police and prosecutor
contacts are also extremely helpful and are pursuing cases against a

JERUSALEM 00001804 005 OF 005


number of document vendors facilitating illegitimate travel to the
United States. There is no contact with any government officials in
Gaza, and post has limited ability to verify the validity of most
documents from Gaza.

(M) AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: NO CONSEQUENCES FOR MARRIAGE
FRAUD: Post has been informed by USCIS and ICE that despite the
confirmation of marriage fraud, resource constraints often prevent
denaturalization or deportation unless the perpetrator is involved
in separate criminal or terrorist activities.

RESOURCES: The FPU works closely with and has received excellent
cooperation from the Fraud Prevention Units in both Amman and Tel
Aviv, and has been able to verify a number of fraudulent documents
issued in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank as a result.

The FPU also receives a number of credible "poison pen" letters,
often leading to the successful denial of NIV applications and
revocation of IV applications. For example, in one case a local
resident informed post that her husband had traveled to the United
States on a B1/B2 visa, and had married an American in order to
adjust status, but had never divorced her. FPU was able to confirm
these facts and provide the information to USCIS and ICE for
consideration of revocation of her husband's status in the United
States.

The consular section constantly generates leads related to passport
and visa fraud, potential terrorist travel to the United States and
other countries, wanted individuals, document vendors and smuggling,
and other illegal activities. These issues deserve more attention
than post can currently give them, due to stretched resources.
Along with the establishment of an Assistant Regional Security
Officer-Investigator (ARSO-I) in Jerusalem, post has need of a
second LES investigator to manage the significant investigation
workload. Funding for this position will be requested in the
annual MRV budget cable.

(N) STAFFING AND TRAINING: FPU assisted the U.S. Department of
Treasury in training Palestinian prosecutors and police on
countering money laundering and other economic crimes. FPU also
arranged a briefing for consular officers with a well-respected
professor of religious studies on the cloistered and complicated
ultra-orthodox Jewish community, to better understand their travel
patterns and financial resources. FPU is also working with the
Public Affairs Section to develop an outreach program that will
educate the public to avoid visa and document facilitators. FPU
needs an additional locally engaged staff employee to handle the
growing fraud workload.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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