During a two-day, joint operation in Imperial County led by the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), federal authorities arrested 12 individuals and seized fraudulently obtained or altered travel documents, including five valid U.S. passports and seven B1/B2 Laser Visa Border Crossing Cards that were used by imposters.
From February 1-2, "Operation Linebacker," a joint enforcement operation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California, targeted persons attempting to use stolen, lost, counterfeit or altered travel documents to illegally cross into the United States at the Calexico West Port of Entry, California.
All of the individuals arrested using U.S. passports or visas will be either prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or removed expeditiously to Mexico in lieu of criminal prosecution. The fraudulently obtained or altered documents were seized and the violators’ information updated to show inadmissibility to the United States.
U.S. travel documents have a high value for criminals and smugglers. This fact prompted the operation, which included DSS agents from offices in San Diego and Los Angeles.
"The success of this investigation and enforcement operation – a dozen cases of documents seized -- shows that the Department of State and the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) are committed to protecting the integrity of U.S. passports and visas -- the most sought after travel documents in the world," said Wesley Weller, Special Agent-in-Charge of the DSS Los Angeles Field Office.
"DSS has a very strong relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and many other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Southern California," he said. "With this type of collaboration and teamwork we can more effectively combat travel document fraud and illegal entry into the United States. There are foreign nationals who fraudulently acquire U.S. passports and visas to carry out criminal activities inside our borders. These crimes threaten the national security of the United States, plain and simple."
The agencies will conduct regular joint enforcement initiatives in the future.
Those convicted of passport and visa fraud can face a maximum of 10 years in federal prison. Offenders also may be charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of two years, to be served consecutively with the underlying offense.
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 United 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. In 2010, DS participated in 2542 arrests globally, primarily for passport and visa fraud, including 297arrests overseas in cooperation with foreign police. Read more in the U.S. Department of State’s Visa and Passport Security Strategic Plan at: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/79895.htm. Additional information about the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security may be obtained at www.state.gov/m/ds
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