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Cablegate: Blind Coptic Girls' Choir Used for Alien Smuggling

VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #2205/01 3291444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 251444Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4334
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEAHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS CAIRO 002205

DEPT FOR CA/FPP, CA/EX, CA/OCS, DS/CR/OCI
ALSO FOR G/TIP, INL, DRL, PRM, NEA/RA, NEA/ELA, NEA/PPD

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

POSTS FOR FRAUD PREVENTION UNITS E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: KFRDKIRFCVISCMGTKOCIASECPHUMSMIGEG

SUBJECT: BLIND COPTIC GIRLS' CHOIR USED FOR ALIEN SMUGGLING REF: CAIRO 2178

1.(SBU) Summary: The Cairo Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU) has identified seven individuals who were successfully smuggled to the United States through their inclusion with a church group of blind Coptic girl singers. The church group was organized and sponsored by an Egyptian-American man in the United States and an Egyptian lawyer in Alexandria. The seven individuals included three Muslims who had converted to Christianity. End Summary. Bogus Support Staff -------------------

2.(SBU) Information developed by Egyptian State Security Investigative Services (SSIS) and the FPU in reftel was analyzed to uncover church groups that had traveled to the United States. With the Consolidated Consular Database's (CCD) Text Search function, the Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM) found one group of 21 individuals that included ten blind Coptic girl singers and eleven support staff that traveled to the United States in 2006. Of the eleven support staff identified as "musicians," "sound engineers" and "decoration coordinators," three had previously been refused a visa on several occasions. Checks of the exit/entry records in the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Arrival Departure Information System (ADIS) and with Egyptian immigration officials confirmed that seven of the eleven support staff individuals have not left the United States. Illegal Immigration Lawyer --------------------------

3.(SBU) The A/RSO-I and Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM) interviewed the ex-wife of one of the above seven individuals who stayed in the United States. She stated that both she and her husband at the time had agreed to pay about USD 10,000 each to a lawyer in Alexandria to be included in a church group traveling to the United States. Members of their Coptic Orthodox Church community had referred the couple to this lawyer who had a reputation of successfully smuggling individuals to the United States. The wife ultimately did not travel because of a difficult pregnancy, but her husband did arrive in the United States with the group and claimed asylum. He subsequently divorced his Egyptian wife and married an American. The A/RSO-I coordinated with a Diplomatic Security (DS) Special Agent assigned to the New York Field Office (NYFO) to interview the ex-husband in the United States who corroborated his ex-wife's story. The 2006 Tour -------------

4.(SBU) The blind Coptic girls' choir was organized to tour different Coptic Orthodox Churches in New Jersey and Virginia. Included in this group was a Coptic priest, his wife and a Coptic nun. The Coptic priest and his wife manage a house for blind Coptic girls and met with the A/RSO-I and the FPM on November 22 to discuss the 2006 tour. They confirmed that the tour was organized and sponsored by an Egyptian-American man and his cousin, the lawyer in Alexandria. In addition, they confirmed that they did not know any of the support staff besides the three converts from Islam and one musician. The priest stated that the converts, one man and his teenage son and daughter, were included in their tour group because they had converted to Christianity. He stated they would have faced hardships in Egypt if they remained. Finally, the priest added that all the other individuals who had stayed in the United States and claimed asylum did so purely for economic reasons. Comment -------

5. (SBU) The inclusion of mala fide travelers in a tour group is a fraud scheme that has often been repeated worldwide. The lessons to be drawn from the cases cited above will serve as a topic for one of the upcoming discussions that the Consular Section will hold with all consular officers on fraud indicators and visa adjudications. Post will heighten its vigilance in examining applications submitted by members of travel delegations, including those instances where the sponsoring organization is well and favorably known. Officers will be reminded that all applicants must demonstrate compelling ties to their home country and the merits of their individual application. Economic conditions in Egypt and the hope of real economic opportunities in the United States remain strong motivating factors for illegal immigration. SCOBEY

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