Arnaldo Cortes-Mestres Arrested in Puerto Rico
Special agents from the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), in conjunction with the United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG), arrested United States Postal Worker Arnaldo Cortes-Mestres in Puerto Rico on January 22, 2009, for the embezzlement of passport application fees.
According to the U.S. Postal Service OIG, from May 22 to July 27, 2007, while working as a postal clerk in the branch in Cabo Rojo,
Arnaldo Cortes-Mestres received more than forty U.S. passport applications and renewals, along with the required processing fees totaling over $6,000. He is accused of converting those funds for his own use or exchanging that money for other funds or property without authorization. The U.S. Postal Service OIG says Cortes-Mestres failed to account for and turn over those funds to proper officers.
When applicants did not receive the passports they were expecting, they contacted the U.S. Postal Service, which had executed the passport applications. In April 2008, Diplomatic Security Service officials, in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspectors General, interviewed more than twenty applicants who had not received passports. DSS special agents searched databases and records to locate who had processed the passport applications. Additionally, in order to prove that Cortes-Mestres had processed all of the victim’s passport applications, DSS special agents provided photo lineups to the victims, which included photos of Cortes-Mestres.
Based on that investigative work, on January 21, 2009 a federal grand jury in San Juan, Puerto Rico indicted Arnaldo Cortes-Mestres for misappropriation of postal funds. The next day, DSS and OIG agents arrested Cortes-Mestres at his home. DSS special agents assisted in the search of his home and inventory of evidence. That search turned up more than one-hundred passport applications and associated birth certificates Cortes-Mestres had hidden.
J. Michael Foster, the Special Agent in Charge of the Diplomatic Security Service’s Miami Field Office said, “The San Juan Resident Office did an outstanding job investigating this case. The apprehension of Cortes-Mestres demonstrates Diplomatic Security’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of the passport and visa process. Passport and visa fraud are serious crimes with substantive national security, economic, and personal consequences.”
Because the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service is the most widely represented law enforcement organization in the world, DSS’s capability to track and capture fugitives who have fled U.S. jurisdiction to avoid prosecution is unmatched. During 2007, DSS assisted in the resolution of 113 international fugitive cases from over 30 different countries. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security is the U.S. Department of State’s law enforcement and security arm. The special agents, engineers, and security professionals of the Bureau are responsible for the security of 285 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. In the Untied States, Diplomatic Security personnel protect the U.S. Secretary of State and high-ranking foreign dignitaries and officials visiting the United States, investigate passport and visa fraud, and conduct personnel security investigations. More information about the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security may be obtained at www.state.gov/m/ds.