Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Fraud Prevention Unit’

25th June 2010

Marriage Fraud as well as Immigration Fraud are a serious issues in the eyes of those agencies tasked with the job of adjudicating visa petitions and enforcing American law with regard to admission to the United States. With that in mind, it should be noted that domestically the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service (USICE) has jurisdiction to enforce immigration regulations as well as decisions issued by Immigration courts. The following is a direct quote from a recently promulgated press release from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A U.S. citizen, who was paid to engage in a phony marriage with a Cambodian national to evade immigration laws, pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court. The guilty plea resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Justin Michael Martin, 25, of Georgetown, Ky., pleaded guilty June 22 in the Western District of Kentucky
to conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and marriage fraud. Martin admitted that between Jan. 1, 2000 and April 7, 2010, he knowingly reached an agreement with Yota Em, Phearoun Peter Em, aka Sophea Lim, and Michael Chanthou Chin to knowingly enter into a marriage to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that Phearoun Peter Em drove Martin to a U.S.
Post Office in Lexington to apply for a U.S. passport, and that Phearoun Peter Em paid the passport
application fee. On June 17, 2004, Michael Chanthou Chin drove Martin and others to the Louisville airport. In exchange for a fee, Martin, Phearoun Peter Em, and others traveled from Kentucky to Cambodia. Once in Cambodia, Martin met with Cambodian national Yota Em and agreed to marry her to evade the immigration laws of the United States.


Photographs were taken of Martin and Yota Em during an engagement ceremony on June 25, 2004, and at other locations in Cambodia. While in Cambodia, members of the conspiracy paid for Martin’s lodging, food, transportation, sexual services from a Cambodian female, and other expenses.
On June 27, 2004, Martin returned to the United States and was met at the airport by Michael Chanthou Chin. Thereafter, certain immigration forms were completed by Martin and Yota Em, which falsely represented the marriage as genuine. On Sept. 27, 2005, Yota Em entered the United States using a K-1 (fiancée) visa. On March 5, 2007, Yota Em and Martin participated in a civil marriage ceremony in Lexington, knowing that the marriage was not entered into in good faith, was in exchange for something of value, and that the purpose of the marriage ceremony was to enable Yota Em to obtain U.S. permanent resident status in the United States. Phearoun Peter Em and Michael Chanthou Chin served as witnesses at the civil marriage ceremony.


Martin and Yota Em subsequently participated in a marriage interview with immigration officials in Louisville and falsely claimed that they married in good faith. Phearoun Peter Em acted as an interpreter for Yota Em. On June 30, 2009, Martin and Yota Em were divorced. The marriage between Martin and Yota Em was fraudulent and was entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. Martin admitted that he was paid about $7,000 for participating in the marriage fraud scheme.
Defendant Yota Em is currently a fugitive. Anyone with information about her whereabouts should call 1-866-DHS-2ICE. The maximum potential penalties for Martin are 10 years’ imprisonment, a $500,000 fine, and supervised release for a period of six years.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Claire Phillips, Western District of Kentucky, is prosecuting the case. For more information, visit www.ice.gov.

It is unfortunate to see this type of fraud occurring as it makes it increasingly difficult for bona fide couples to receive immigration benefits due to the fact that the American government must expend resources in an effort to catch fraudulent visa petitions and applications. As time and resources are spent investigating visa fraud, the overall visa process for all applicants could slow down. That said, Officers of the United States government should be commended for their diligence in apprehending the individuals involved in the conspiracy noted above. Fraud Prevention is a serious issue that must be dealt with in order to forestall an erosion of the integrity of the US Immigration system.

In recent weeks it has been announced that fees associated with the K1 visa and the K3 Visa are increasing. There is speculation that the funds derived from the increase in fees will be used to combat immigration fraud on a wider scale as the fee is being increased by the Department of State for those applications filed at a US Consulate or US Embassy abroad. Many feel that the funds will likely be used to increase the resources available to each Fraud Prevention Unit attached to US Missions overseas. Hopefully, by increasing resources available to Fraud Prevention Units outside of the USA, there will be fewer people entering the United States illegally based upon sham relationships.

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23rd January 2010

The United States Consulate at the American Embassy in Bangkok conducts most, if not all, of the immigrant and non-immigrant family based visa application interviews submitted by those resident in the Kingdom of Thailand. The Immigrant Visa Unit is a division of the United States Consulate which has been given the specific task of adjudicating Immigrant visa applications for travel documents such as the IR1 and the CR1 visa as well as the non-immigrant dual intent travel documents such as the K1 visa and the K3 visa.

The visa interview itself is viewed by many applicants with apprehension and fear as they are worried that it will be used in an attempt to undermine the applicant’s visa application. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. In cases where the applicant has been candid, told the truth on the application forms,  and provided proper documentation the interview is simply an exercise on the part of the Consular Officers to determine that the applicant is who they say they are and that they meet the legal and factual requirements for visa issuance. The interview is not conducted in an effort to somehow humiliate or degrade the applicant, it is truly an investigation into the facts of the case. This being said, those that lie on an application or falsify documentation will likely have an unpleasant experience at the US Embassy as an Administrative Processing interview with the Fraud Prevention Unit can be a less-than-pleasant undertaking. Although courteous, the Consular Officers will often conduct their due diligence zealously in order to uncover the truth regarding the facts of the application.

Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to US Immigration matters. Unfortunately, some so-called “visa agents” in Thailand encourage applicants to lie in order to cover up some perceived problem with the application.  Not only is this practice unethical, but in the case of visa interviews it is almost cruel to send a non-native English speaker into the Embassy to be interrogated by officers trained and experienced in conducting these kinds of due diligence.

After the visa interview, should the application be approved, the Consular Officer will usually take the applicant’s passport and provide them with a “Red Card.” Many who research US Immigration are quite familiar with the so-called “Green Card,” which is the Resident Alien Card provided to aliens in the US as proof of lawful permanent residence in America. A “Red Card,” is the appellation that some Immigration attorneys in Thailand as well as Thai visa applicants have applied to the the small index card that the US Embassy in Bangkok provides the applicant should their passport be taken for visa issuance. The reason that this card is referred to it as a “Red Card” is due to the fact that the stamp on the card, which denotes (in Thai and English) the date and time that an applicant can pick up the passport and visa, is red.

Red Cards are not necessarily a guarantee of visa issuance as in rare cases necessary documentation is overlooked and must still be presented by the applicant. However, in the vast majority of cases when a Red Card it issued it means that the visa will more than likely be issued and can be picked up a few days after the conclusion of the interview.

Please note that each US Embassy or US Consulate has different administrative procedures and rules. Therefore, the information regarding “Red Card” issuance at the US Embassy in Bangkok may be completely irrelevant when it comes to other posts such as the US Embassy in Myanmar or the US Consulate in HCMC. Therefore it is advisable to refer to each Embassy’s individual website for specific information about processing a visa application through that particular post.

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19th August 2009

Each year the United States Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand processes numerous applications for visas to the United States. In recent years, their caseload has become increasingly large particularly since tourist visa applicants and applicants for other non-immigrant visa categories (student, exchange visitor, etc.) have required interviews at the consular post. With this in mind, the Embassy also must conduct due diligence to ensure that those applying for visas are presenting a bona fide application.

In some cases, applicants attempt to defraud the United States consular officers by presenting a knowingly false application or attempting to acquire immigration benefits based upon a relationship that is not bona fide. Due to increasing demand for access to the United States, there has been an increasing number of instances where fraudulent applications are submitted. In an effort to curtail fraudulent applications, the United States Embassy has a division called the Fraud Prevention Unit.

The Fraud Prevention Unit’s mission is best described using the following excerpt from the website of the United States Embassy in the Dominican Republic:

“Welcome to the Fraud Prevention Unit of the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo.  Our principal mission is to safeguard U.S. borders by detecting and stopping fraud in applications for U.S. passports, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas.  We accomplish this critical goal by training Consular Section staff on fraud detection, maintaining close cooperation with U.S. and Dominican law enforcement agencies and deploying our staff of highly trained investigators to conduct interviews and investigations.”

The US Embassy Bangkok also has a Fraud Prevention Unit with a similar, if not identical mandate. The Unit screens applications and applicants for red flags which could denote fraudulent activity. For instance, if an application for a K1 visa does not have a great deal of evidence that shows a bona fide relationship between the petitioner and beneficiary, then the case might be forwarded to the Fraud Prevention Unit for review. Most applications will never be placed under the scrutiny of the Fraud Prevention Unit, and the staff of the United States Embassy in Bangkok is very cooperative with regard to visa applications, but fraud prevention is a legitimate reason to scrutinize applications where the underlying bona fides are questionable.

For couples in a truly bona fide relationship, it is important to produce adequate documentation to show that the relationship is real and the parties are serious about their intentions. Further, lying to the officials at the Embassy or intentionally misrepresenting oneself before the Embassy is a good way of increasing the odds that the Fraud Prevention Unit will be looking over your visa petition and therefore it is not only ethically correct to tell the truth, but a better strategy for achieving one’s immigration goals.

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