July 9th, 2007 11:33 EST
U.S. Diplomatic Security Service
The U.S. Department of State`s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is a Federal law enforcement agency mandated with enforcing the laws of the United States pertaining to the illegal issuance, use, or manufacture of passports and visas.
DSS Special Agents have the authority to make arrests for violations of relevant passport and visa statutes as well as to conduct investigations of crimes that occur overseas on U.S. Government property. DSS Special Agents have conducted international document fraud investigations for the past 73 years.
DSS is a unique organization within the Federal law enforcement community because its agents are posted at U.S. embassies throughout the world as Regional Security Officers. They coordinate with police departments from all countries where the United States has diplomatic relations.
This website will explain the types of offenses that DSS investigates and provide some examples of how the team of DSS, State, and local law enforcement agencies can work effectively together to fight certain international crimes that, regardless of where they are committed, violate the laws of the United States.
Jurisdiction: International Fraud
A passport is a document issued by a government that certifies the identity and citizenship of the person to whom it is issued. Passport fraud occurs when someone fraudulently applies for, uses, or possesses a passport of any nation.
The most common instances of passport fraud occur when an individual applies for a passport using false documentation or when they possess or use passports that were not issued to them but have been altered to appear as if they had been. Passport fraud is a Federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, 15 years if the offense is related to narcotics trafficking and 20 years if related to acts of international terrorism.
A visa is a stamp placed in a passport by the government of a country a traveler wishes to visit. The visa allows the traveler to apply to enter that country for a specific Purpose (e.g., work or tourism). Visa fraud is the fraudulent obtaining, use, or manufacture of a visa. It is a Federal offense punishable under the same guidelines as passport fraud violations.
In the enforcement of passport or visa fraud, DSS Special Agents investigate the use of false documents. The Federal Document Fraud Law, under its felony provision, provides severe penalties for the production, transfer, or possession of false identification documents such as birth certificates, driver`s licenses, or personal identification cards, and the implements for making them. The law covers not only documents that are or appear to be issued by the Federal Government, but also documents issued by a State, political subdivisions of a State, a foreign government, or quasi-governmental organizations.
Overseas Security Advisory Council
OSAC initiated a program to assist the U.S. private sector with the establishment of country councils in foreign cities to enhance the exchange of security related information abroad. These organizations encourage managers of U.S. enterprises with security responsibilities to organize themselves to cope with security problems by pooling their resources.
Key representatives of these councils and U.S. Embassy security officers, as well as other post officials, develop working relationships to create an exchange of information through which pertinent, unclassified, security information is shared in a timely fashion.
Overseas Security Advisory Council Web site provides links to information from around the world.
DSS and Other Agencies: Working Together
In 1993, DSS Special Agents investigated an Egyptian national operating in New Jersey who used a highly sophisticated reproduction process to manufacture hundreds of counterfeit U.S. visas. Working with Immigration agents and Egyptian police, a joint undercover operation was conducted that exposed the international visa fraud ring. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the primary suspect and the seizure of the counterfeit visa manufacturing equipment.
In a recent case in Texas, DSS agents joined with other Federal and State enforcement officers to halt a multi-million dollar international money laundering and phony investment operation. An individual, who was believed to be arranging the murder of a criminal associate, purchased a passport in an assumed identity from a DSS undercover agent that resulted in his immediate arrest.
In 1993, DSS initiated a program to help combat the rising tide of Russian Organized Crime (ROC) in the United States. In coordination with local, State, and Federal law enforcement agencies, DSS launched major investigations into the fraudulent procurement of U.S. visas by ROC groups. Not only are Federal prosecutions pending, numerous crime family members have been prevented from obtaining visas to enter the United States.
DSS Special Agents assisted the Montgomery County, Maryland, Sheriff`s Office by coordinating the successful capture and return of two fugitives from a remote African country. A husband and wife team, indicted for the theft of $3 million, assumed false identities to fraudulently obtain U.S. passports to flee before trial. DSS agents obtained arrest warrants on passport fraud charges, then worked with foreign police in six countries, through DSS officers in our embassies, to locate, capture, and return the fugitives to face justice in the United States.
In May 1994, DSS agents, working with Florida Department of Law Enforcement, arrested an individual who had assumed a false identity, fraudulently obtained a passport, and purchased numerous firearms. Searches of his house and storage facilities on DSS warrants revealed firearms, burglary and bank robbery tools, and child p*rnography. The individual also may have been involved in two murders and the sale of women to an international organized crime ring for prostitution.
In 1993, DSS took steps to enhance responsibilities for reporting and investigating allegations of child exploitation. Working with the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney`s Office, DSS Special Agents conducted an investigation involving a State Department employee suspected of s*xually molesting youths overseas. The allegations were confirmed and the individual was prosecuted in U.S. District Court. The employees plead guilty and was sentenced to 6 years in custody.
Passport and visa fraud offenses often are committed in association with other criminal activities. International terrorists, narcotics smugglers, white-collar criminals, and fugitives all seek to change their identities as part of their criminal activities.
DSS Special Agents stand ready to work with State and local law enforcement agencies. In any of the following circumstances, joint investigations can be productive:
- A suspect on a local felony warrant may have fled the United States in an assumed identity;
- An individual is arrested with documents, ,especially international travel documents (passports), in multiple identities;
- Local investigation has developed significant information on a suspect`s criminal
activity that does not quite provide probable cause, and it is believed that the suspect is using a false identity, especially in international travel;
- A suspect in a local felony fraud investigation claims to be a U.S. citizen, but there are substantive doubts about his true citizenship.
Special Agents-in-Charge of DSS field offices and resident agent offices in the cities listed at the end of this publication are available to accept inquiries from other agencies on any matters that may be of mutual interest.
In addition, DSS is responsible for conducting protective security investigations concerning threats to foreign consulates and embassies in the United States. DSS has officers throughout the United States and at almost every U.S. embassy abroad.
Finally, DSS is responsible for the Counter-terrorism Rewards Program. Up to $4 million can be paid for information leading to the successful resolution or prosecution of an international terrorist attack on U.S. citizens or property. For more information about this program, call (202) 429-2207.