Passport and Visa Fraud
In this Post 9/11 world, few Federal and New York State crimes attract as much attention as those involving forged immigration or citizenship documents (passports, visas, green cards, etc.). For obvious reasons, there is great concern for terrorism and our homeland security. However, in most instances, visa fraud or passport fraud involves individuals who are, themselves, trying to achieve the American dream instead of the real criminal targets of the FBI, United States Attorney’s Office or other governmental agency.
Each year, the United States Department of State issues over 13 million new passports and almost 500,000 visas. These documents are a security device to make sure everyone in the United States belongs here and that those attempting to do us harm cannot enter. They are also an effort to allow foreigners who can be productive members of our society to come to the United States to study, work or be with their families. Sometimes, however, individuals attempt to cut corners or work the system by either providing false information in an effort to obtain a visa or passport, or by creating fake documents themselves.
Because of the added attention to immigration matters, anyone charged with obtaining false documentation will receive heightened scrutiny by Federal law enforcement and is likely to find themselves as the target of a federal criminal investigation.Understanding the Elements of the Various Passport and Visa Fraud Criminal Statutes
Passport or Visa Fraud can be prosecuted through several Federal criminal statutes such as Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Consipracy or Perjury. However, the most prevalent charges relate directly to Visa and Passport Fraud codified under Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1541-1546, which attempt to cover all possible methods that a an individuals may employ to issue, obtain or use a false and fraudulent passport or visa.
- Wire Fraud: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1343
- Mail Fraud: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341
- Federal Bank Fraud: Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344
- Federal Conspiracy Crimes
- Federal White Collar Crimes
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1541 makes it illegal for any employee of the United States or any State to grant, issue or verify any passport or visa without lawful authorityFalse Statements Related to a Passport: 18, United States Code, Section 1542
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1542 criminalizes anyone who willfully and knowingly makes any false statement in an application for passport, or uses passport obtained through false statementsForgery or False Use of a Passport: 18, United States Code, Section 1543
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1543 makes it illegal for anyone to make, forge, counterfeit, mutilate or alter any passport with the intent that it be used. It also criminalizes anyone who uses or attempts to use any such passport.Misuse of a Passport: 18, United States Code, Section 1544
Under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1544, it is illegal for anyone to willfully and knowingly use or attempt to use any passport issued or designed for the use of another person. It is also illegal to furnish or deliver any passport to another person for use by anyone other than the person for whose use it was originally issued and designed.Visa Fraud: 18, United States Code, Section 1546
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546 makes it illegal to create, use or attempt to use any immigrant or non-immigrant visa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card or other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States
For any violation of these Passport and Visa Fraud offenses, the conduct must be done knowingly and fraudulently, not merely by accident, mistake or error.
To do something knowingly means to have the conscious aim or objective to commit that act – in other words, voluntarily and intentionally. The government does not have to prove that the defendant intended to break the law.
To act fraudulently means that the act was done with the intent to deceive.Federal Passport and Visa Fraud: Punishment, Sentence and Collateral Consequences
Any violation of these Passport and Visa Fraud offenses is typically punishable by up to 10 years in Federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine for each offense. However, if the crime involves drug trafficking, the sentence can be up to 20 years and if it involves terrorism, the sentence can be as high as 25 years in prison.
Any Federal criminal investigation into passport or visa fraud will hamper any attempt to enter or remain in the United States, regardless of the outcome. This can surely create turmoil for an immigrant, his business, family and personal life. Sometimes individuals intentionally deceive the Federal government, but in many other cases, an honest mistake, error or omission can be looked at by law enforcement as willful acts and can subject that person, at best, to a lengthy investigation, and at worst, to a long term in prison.New York State Passport and Visa Fraud: Forgery and Forged Instruments
It is worth noting that even if you are fortunate enough to avoid Federal prosecution for possessing or falsifying a real or fake passport or visa, the New York State Attorney General’s Office or a District Attorney’s Office can still prosecute you for other crimes. Punishable by as much as seven years in prison, these crimes include Second Degree Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument and Second Degree Forgery.
- Forgery in the Second Degree: New York Penal Law 170.10
- Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree
For all of these reasons and many more not addressed here, if you or a loved one has been accused of or charged with any of the Federal white collar crimes relating to Passport Fraud or Visa Fraud, it is critical for you to talk with and obtain an experienced Federal criminal defense lawyer who can help you work through the technical nature of these Federal criminal statutes. In doing so, your Federal criminal attorney can implement your strongest and most viable defense to your arrest or indictment. The unfortunate alternative is to risk your family, livelihood, and possible financial future and freedom.
- Federal Law Enforcement: From the FBI to the US Attorney & Their Respective Roles
- From Witness to Target: Potential Exposure & Consequences of a Federal Investigation
- The Federal Court Process From Arrest to Potential Sentence
- Understanding the Federal Arrest Process: The Importance of Knowledgeable Counsel
- Federal Sentencing Guidelines: Understanding Your Criminal Exposure
Contact the criminal lawyers and former prosecutors at Saland Law’s and let their experience, advocacy and knowledge work for you.Call the Federal Passport Fraud and Visa Fraud lawyers and former prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.