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Cablegate: Disabled Colombians Used As Cover for Visa Fraud

VZCZCXYZ0005
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0398 0341756
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031756Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2482
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHRG/AMCONSUL RECIFE
RUEHRI/AMCONSUL RIO DE JANEIRO
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000398

SIPDIS
STATE FOR CA/EX, CA/VO, CA/FPP AND WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS SMIG KFRD CO
SUBJECT: Disabled Colombians Used as Cover for Visa Fraud

1. SUMMARY: AmEmb Bogota's consular Fraud Prevention Unit (FPU)
recently completed an investigation into a fraud scheme involving
unknowing disabled applicants traveling for medical appointments.
The fraud dates back to 2003 and appears to have involved at least
117 applicants. END SUMMARY.

2. The fraud was orchestrated by an individual who claimed to
represent several non-profit organizations that help people with
disabilities and drug problems. The disabled applicants applied
for visas to travel to the US for medical appointments or to be
fitted for prosthetics. Invariably they applied together with a
supposed employee of the non-profit who would be accompanying them
to their appointments. In reality, the accompanying applicants
were intending immigrants. In most cases the disabled individual
was unaware of the fraud.

3. As part of the cover, the applicants always presented a letter
from an organization called Volunteers of the World and bearing the
logo of the United Nations Volunteers (UNVs). Case notes from
refused cases found during the subsequent investigation often
referenced these letters as seeming odd given the mission of the
UNVs. Consular officers who denied the visas often pointed to the
weak ties of the accompanying individuals.

4. FPU conducted its investigation using text searches in the
Consular Consolidated Database (CCD), interviews with applicants,
and site visits to the various addresses at which the non-profit
organizations were listed. To close the investigation, FPU
discovered an applicant pretending to be deaf/mute, attending his
interview with his "interpreter." The interpreter turned out to be
the visa facilitator and FPU interviewed him. When confronted, he
admitted that he created the non-profits several years ago for the
purpose of committing visa fraud. He told FPU that the companion
is usually a person who wants to go the US to work or visit family
members, but agrees to accompany a disabled person to their medical
appointments. He admitted to charging the intending immigrants
between $1,000- $2,000, which he claimed financed the trips and
treatment of the disabled person, and left him with a profit. The
FPU is only aware of the one case in which he attempted to
facilitate a visa for an individual posing as disabled.

5. In all, some 117 individuals have applied through the scheme
since 2003. Twenty-three visas were issued, of which at least six
are confirmed overstays.

6. Immediately following the completion of FPU's investigation and
revocation of visas that were obtained by fraud, an individual
succeeded in boarding a plane to New York. Upon arrival, the
Diplomatic Security (DS) New York Field Office informed the
Assistant Regional Security Officer - Investigator (ARSO-I) that
the individual was arrested and charged with visa fraud at the John
F. Kennedy Airport. FPU and the ARSO-I has referred the entire
investigation to DS and Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE)
for possible action against the six individuals who remain in the
United States.

7. Though the FPU expects that the scheme has ended, due to
catching the facilitator in the act, the case pattern has been
presented to adjudicating consular officers for their knowledge as
they continue to adjudicate visas.
BROWNFIELD

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