WASHINGTON - Fraudsters in Texas and Puerto Rico beware. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is going to establish new Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBTFs), in Houston and San Juan, raising the number of DBTFs nationwide to 19.
"Immigration benefit fraud harms everyone who seeks to enter the United States lawfully by cluttering the system with fraudulent applications," said ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton. "Benefit fraud wastes government resources better spent on adjudicating legitimate applications. ICE's Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces allow us to partner with federal, state and local agencies to combat immigration fraud, protect the integrity of the immigration system and punish those who profit from promoting fraudulent schemes."
ICE's DBTFs were established in April 2006 and focus on detecting, deterring and disrupting benefit and document fraud. Investigators from a variety of agencies with expertise in different aspects of document and benefit fraud collaborate with U.S. attorney's offices around the country to formulate a comprehensive approach in targeting the criminal organizations and the beneficiaries behind their fraudulent schemes.
ICE partners with the Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Department of State and various state and local law enforcement agencies on these task forces.
"This task force expansion is another example of a total DHS-wide effort to combat immigration fraud," said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. "Immigration fraud undermines the integrity and fairness of our immigration system and can provide dangerous individuals access to our country. Together with our DHS colleagues, we are sharpening our focus on those who would commit fraud to enter or remain in the United States as well as on those who prey on immigrants with the false promise of services and benefits."
"Passport and visa fraud are potential threats to our national security. U. S. passports and visas are among the most coveted documents in the world. Terrorists and criminals could use fraudulent passports and visas to enter the United States to commit acts of violence. Travel document fraud makes the United States more vulnerable to crime and terrorism, plain and simple, said Patrick Donovan, acting director of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service."
ICE's Forensic Document Laboratory, the only federal crime laboratory dedicated to the forensic examination of travel and identity documents, the ICE Cyber Crimes Center and the USCIS Office of Fraud Detection and National Security provide critical support to DBTFs nationwide.
DBTFs currently operate in 17 major cities including Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, N.J., Philadelphia, Phoenix, Saint Paul, Minn., San Francisco, Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia.
From April 2006 through June 2009, DBTFs have initiated more than 2,130 investigations, helped bring about 1,534 indictments and 1,815 criminal arrests and resulted in 1,293 convictions.
Document fraud is the manufacturing, sale, or use of counterfeit identity documents such as fake driver's licenses, birth certificates, Social Security Cards or passports for immigration fraud or other criminal activity. Document fraud also involves efforts to obtain genuine identity documents through fraudulent means and often supports the crime of benefit fraud.
Benefit fraud is the misrepresentation or omission of material fact on an application to obtain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to, such as U.S. citizenship, political asylum or a valid visa. Because these benefits provide the ability to freely enter, work or reside in the United States, they are highly valued by illegal aliens, terrorists and other criminals.
Using false and fraudulent documents to obtain government benefits is a threat to national security and undermines the integrity and fairness of all government programs, and the U.S. immigration system. The coordinated interagency efforts of the DBTFs will help prevent future abuses while enabling the identification of criminals who utilize and manufacture false documentation.