Cablegate: Fraud Summary - St. Petersburg
RR RUEHLN RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHLN #0132/01 3060924
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020924Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2864
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1768
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 0694
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0685
RUEHPNH/NVC PORTSMOUTH 0016
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 3233
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ST PETERSBURG 000132
DEPT FOR CA/FPP; CA/VO/KCC; RSO
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KFRD CVIS CPAS CMGT ASEC RS
SUBJECT: FRAUD SUMMARY - ST. PETERSBURG
REF: 08 STATE 102952; 09 ST PETERSBURG 43
A. Country Conditions: Economic growth in St. Petersburg has
slowed markedly over the past year. The average salary for St.
Petersburg's population of 4.5 million is still about double the
nationwide average of about $5,000 a year. Salaries
nevertheless lag behind those in Moscow, and have fallen by
about 5% since summer 2008 in the local currency, and by over a
third in dollars when the substantial ruble devaluation of the
past year is taken into account. Economic indices, including
income, cost of living, and jobless rates, vary from region to
region in Northwest Russia, though members of ethnic minorities
in particular tend to be underemployed while the elderly are
most vulnerable to broad inflationary pressures. As evidenced
from this and previous reports, the level of visa fraud in St
Petersburg is considered moderate..
B. NIV FRAUD: The worldwide economic crisis and ruble
devaluation have not spared Northwest Russia, and though over 90
percent of NIV applicants are issuable, post has witnessed an
increase in the number of mala fide applicants seeking admission
to and employment in the US. Even among otherwise legitimate
vacation travelers, many Russians still consider it necessary to
bolster their NIV applications with fabricated documents,
trumped-up employment letters, and inflated salary claims. In
addition, post has encountered an increasing number of
petition-based applications for work at non-existent companies
in the U.S.
Apart from the above-mentioned types of fraud, Post's FPU has
uncovered a sophisticated visa facilitating ring in Kaliningrad.
Investigation reveals so far that this ring may have begun its
activity as far back as 2004. The ring includes an inviter on
the American side, and a facilitator in Kaliningrad, both of
whom we have been able to identify by name and appearance.
Applicants have admitted to paying the Kaliningrad facilitator
up to 2,000 Euros for an invitation and package of supporting
documents. We will continue to monitor the activities of both
the broker and facilitator, and work with ARSO-I to root out any
illegal activity on the U.S. side.
St. Petersburg's FPU continues to see people affected by the
crisis who attempt to use the B1/B2 visa to move to the US in
search of work. Following up on poison pen letters, we
uncovered a plot by an applicant seeking work as a plumber in
FPU monitors the activities of local visa facilitating agencies
that try to deploy new methods for helping their clients receive
visas. One applicant hid the fact that she had a US LPR fianci,
and she admitted that a known visa facilitating agency rehearsed
a scenario with her, prior to the interview, coaching her on how
she should act and what she should say. After she was caught
making several contradictory statements, she admitted her ruse.
Also, a notarial company in the Consulate's neighborhood
unwittingly informed our FSN-I that they provide advice to visa
applicants, telling them to claim a high salary, "the higher the
better," in order to improve their chances of issuance. Thus,
several female applicants provided legitimate documents but
claimed much higher salaries than they received in reality.
Other variations on the same theme include the following: one
applicant provided a job letter from a company she had left a
year prior; another applicant who truly did work for a large,
famous company in St. Petersburg claimed her purpose of travel
as business, but instead intended to go live with a male friend.
During this year's Summer Work and Travel season, FPU paid
particular attention to Rospersonal, an SWT agency new to our
area. Initially, we discovered that the agency was providing
its students with job offers through Alliance Abroad Group at US
companies that no longer existed. Further investigation
revealed that they were also selling fake university IDs and
student record books for clients who were not bona fide students
but nevertheless were looking for a way to go to the U.S.
Another agency, NewWorkCity, remains of concern to the Consulate
after excessive appeals for unqualified applicants in previous
years. This year, although NewWorkCity recruited only a few
students for SWT, several proved to be less than prudent
selections. One applicant, for example, when questioned about
why she was not attending university, admitted that she works in
St. Petersburg at an erotic services salon.
ST PETERSB 00000132 002 OF 002
We also continued to encounter more "garden variety" SWT fraud.
Final year students, or those who graduated recently and
pretended to be students, would bring us fake university
certificates claiming they were in their third or fourth year of
Some students continued to bring fake job offers from U.S.
employers, even though the Consulate does not require a job
offer at the interview. Others provided letters from existing
jobs where they were accepted, but would add a fake signature,
presumably from the U.S. employer, believing only a fully
"complete" job offer letter would make the case stronger.
FPU continues to review questionable H and L petitions, often in
collaboration with post's ARSO-I. There are three petitions
currently under review, and three petitions were sent to KCC
with revocation requests during the reporting period. In most
cases, post has discovered that the supposed petitioning
business does not exist and is not doing business as claimed in
C. IV FRAUD: N/A
D. DV FRAUD: N/A
E. ACS AND U.S. PASSPORT FRAUD: No ACS or U.S. passport fraud
encountered during this reporting period.
F. ADOPTION FRAUD: N/A
G. USE OF DNA TESTING: N/A
H. ASYLUM AND OTHER DHS BENEFIT FRAUD: N/A
I. ALIEN SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING, ORGANIZED CRIME, AND TERRORIST
TRAVEL: Post encountered one visa applicant with a P3A2 entry
in CLASS. Subsequent investigation revealed his organized crime
ties, as well as allegations of murder and extortion. The
applicant was refused 3A2. Post also found one applicant
ineligible under 6E when FPU confirmed a prior P6E Minsk hit.
This applicant collaborated with a friend in the U.S. to commit
fraud in order to assist her brother in obtaining a J1 Summer
Work and Travel visa, including coaching the U.S. citizen on how
to lie on the brother's behalf.
J. DS CRIMINAL FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS: ARSO-I investigations have
concentrated on several H, L, and J-1 Summer Work and Travel
cases. The number of fraudulent H and L visa applications has
remained the same over the previous period. Most of these
investigations lead to revocations but no criminal convictions.
A current J-1 Summer Work and Travel (SWT) investigation
identified a document vendor who sells university documents. A
second J-1 SWT case appears to involve an insurance fraud scheme
to defraud the private insurance which students are required to
purchase. ARSO-I and Consular FPU cooperated on an
investigation of a Russian entertainer who used his employment
to obtain an A referral for his daughter, resulting in a 6E
finding for the entertainer; the same man also appeared in
Facial Recognition under a false identity for a pending DV
K. HOST COUNTRY PASSPORT, IDENTITY DOCUMENTS, AND CIVIL
L. COOPERATION WITH HOST GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES: FPU conducted
two training sessions with document inspection officials at
Kaliningrad's international airport. The sessions, on
identifying impostors and on detecting counterfeit documents,
were attended by all 9 members of the airport's inspection team.
As a follow-up, we shared the carrier liaison guide with them,
and we hope to develop closer collaboration with this part of
our consular district.
M. AREAS OF PARTICULAR CONCERN: N/A
N. STAFFING AND TRAINING: The Fraud Prevention Unit has one
Consular Officer, one Fraud Prevention FSN, and one ARSO/I. The
FP FSO and FSN attended a regional Fraud Prevention conference
in Kyiv in April 2009. The FP FSO attended the Fraud Prevention
for Managers training course at FSI in April 2008, and the FP
FSN last attended a fraud training program at FSI in April 2006.