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Cablegate: Passport Fraud: Tales of the Sophisticated And

VZCZCXYZ0004
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0400/01 0341757
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 031756Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2483
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 000400

SIPDIS
STATE FOR CA/PPT, CA/FPP AND WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CPAS SMIG KFRD KCSY CO
SUBJECT: Passport Fraud: Tales of the Sophisticated and
Unsophisticated

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SUMMARY

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1. Over a three week period in January, the Fraud Prevention Unit
(FPU) in Bogota investigated three separate incidents of US
passport fraud. Two involved attempts to smuggle alien children,
while the third was a case of an American fugitive assuming a
different identity to avoid detection by US law enforcement. Two
cases were spotted thanks to airline personnel and Colombian
immigration officials, the third due to information received in the
FPU.

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Unsophisticated Imposters

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2. On January 4, Avianca Airlines notified FPU of the case of a
sixteen-year old imposter who was traveling alone. Avianca
referred the case to Colombian immigration officials (DAS) who
agreed that the passenger (presumably a Colombian national) was not
the rightful bearer of the US passport. DAS turned the passport
over to FPU. FPU requested that the minor and his Colombian father
present themselves at the Embassy to confirm the teenager's
identity, but the family has failed to show. The passport has been
cancelled and local prosecutors are pursuing possible criminal
charges against the minor's Colombian father for human smuggling.

3. On January 18, DAS notified FPU of a twenty-year old US citizen
who under questioning admitted to being an imposter. The subject
remained in DAS custody until he was deported on January 20 under
his true identity and on an emergency passport issued by the
Embassy. US law enforcement checks on the individual revealed that
he was a wanted person. FPU worked closely with DHS and USSS to
have the individual arrested upon arrival in the United States.

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Sophisticated Passport Fraud

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4. The third case of fraud revealed a much more sophisticated
scheme. On January 14, an informant detailed the mala fide travel
intent of a family of four. The individual told FPU that a
nine-year old Colombian national had obtained a US passport in the
name of another individual. Using PIERS and the Consolidated
Consular Database (CCD), FPU discovered that the photograph in both
a denied visa record and the US passport application were of the
same child. In other words, a US passport containing the
biographical data of a US citizen child bore the photograph of the
Colombian child who would attempt to use it.

5. FPU believes that the child's six-year old sister succeeded in
traveling to the US in December under the same scheme. However,
because we do not know the identity she used - and existing
consular systems do not allow for facial recognition on demand
using photographs from visa records - this could not be confirmed.
The father of the children allegedly has been in the US illegally
for several years. The mother intended to follow her son to the US


by traveling to Mexico and then crossing the border with the
assistance of a smuggler.

6. With the information provided by the walk-in individual, FPU
referred the case to the Assistant Regional Security
Officer-Investigator (ARSO-I). ARSO-I worked closely with the
airlines and Colombian immigration to flag the travelers at
check-in. Diplomatic Security's (DS) Colombian vetted law
enforcement unit confiscated the fraudulently obtained passport and
detained the US citizen adult who was accompanying the child.

7. The AmCit adult has since been charged in Colombian courts with
human smuggling of a minor. The child's mother is also under
investigation and will likely be charged for human smuggling.
Furthermore, the vetted unit discovered that the US passport of the
child had a false Colombian immigration stamp; the officer
responsible for that stamp is now under investigation for
corruption.

8. The ARSO-I will refer the case to the DS Los Angeles Field
Office for further investigation once the investigation by the DS
Colombian vetted unit is complete. This investigation will include
a review of policies and procedures to identify any existing
irregularities or vulnerabilities at the passport acceptance
facility.

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COMMENT

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9. FPU does not have evidence that this sudden spike in passport
fraud is anything but a coincidence. In FPU's on-going training of
airline personnel and immigration officers we will continue to
emphasize the security features of US passports and the importance
of being on the look-out for imposters.

10. The last case, however, is particularly disturbing as the
would-be traveler was in possession of an authentic unaltered US
passport bearing his photograph. The personal appearance
requirement instituted in 2004 for all passport applicants did not
catch that the photograph on the application did not match the
child actually appearing. As the Department continues to roll-out
new technologies to enhance the security of passports, it bears
mention that facial recognition technology that runs passport
applicants against visa records would likely have caught this fraud
as the child had previous visa applications in the Consolidated
Consular Database.
BROWNFIELD

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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