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March 28, 2023Charlotte, NC, United StatesEnforcement and Removal, Document and Benefit Fraud

Convicted child molester found guilty of naturalization fraud

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On March 16, a federal jury in Charlotte convicted Gregory Maxwell Palmer, 48, a naturalized citizen of Jamaica, of naturalization fraud. U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney presided over the two-day trial.

Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Atlanta Field Office Director Sean Ervin and U.S. Attorney Dena J. King made the announcement.

“Palmer’s attempts to exploit our nation’s immigration system have been discovered and now he faces the consequences of his actions,” said Ervin. “ERO and its law enforcement partners will continue to target those who seek to violate the sanctity of the U.S. immigration system.”

“Palmer used lies and deceit to cheat his way into an American citizenship,” said King. “Today’s guilty verdict holds Palmer accountable for his actions and sends a warning message to those who attempt to compromise the integrity of our naturalization process and violate our country’s immigration laws: You will not go unpunished.”

According to filed documents, evidence presented at trial and witness testimony, while Palmer was residing in Gastonia in 2008, he sexually abused a minor. Palmer later obtained his U.S. citizenship fraudulently by providing materially false information on his citizenship application. Trial evidence established that during the naturalization process, Palmer lied about his criminal history and failed to admit that prior to applying for citizenship, he had knowingly committed sexual acts with a child.

According to evidence, on May 5, 2011, Palmer applied for naturalization to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Palmer lied on the application form by responding “No” to the question “Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” Palmer signed the form under penalty of perjury and certified that his answers were true and correct.

On Oct. 5, 2011, Palmer appeared at the USCIS office in Charlotte for a naturalization interview. During the interview, Palmer swore under oath that his responses on the naturalization application were true and that he had never committed a crime for which he had not been arrested. On Oct. 20, 2011, Palmer participated in a naturalization ceremony at the USCIS office in Charlotte and was granted U.S. citizenship.

According to court records, on June 6, 2013, in the Gaston County Superior Court, Palmer pleaded guilty to attempted statutory rape and was ordered to serve between 157 and 198 months in prison. Palmer admitted to having committed the crime on June 17, 2008, by taking advantage of a position of trust with a minor victim. Palmer was not arrested for the crime until after he became a naturalized citizen. Court documents show that while Palmer was going through the naturalization process, immigration officials were not aware of his criminal actions.

Palmer is currently serving a state prison sentence. The maximum penalty for unlawful procurement of citizenship is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.

In making the announcement, King thanked ERO for its investigation and credited Operation False Haven, which led to Palmer’s conviction. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Smith and Katherine Armstrong of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte are leading the prosecution.

Operation False Haven is an ongoing ICE initiative with support from ERO and Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force and the U.S. attorney’s office. The operation identifies and prosecutes child molesters and other egregious felons who were convicted after petitioning for immigration benefits, of crimes they committed prior to applying.

Since 2019, Operation False Haven has resulted in 56 criminal cases, 26 civil cases, 21 convictions, 15 judicial revocations of citizenship, and seven judicial removal orders against defendants convicted of crimes involving serial rape, child molestation, incest, child pornography, kidnapping, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, tax fraud, prescription fraud, embezzlement, aggravated identity theft, and elder abuse. As one of ICE’s three operational directorates, ERO is the principal federal law enforcement authority in charge of domestic immigration enforcement. ERO’s mission is to protect the homeland through the arrest and removal of those who undermine the safety of U.S. communities and the integrity of U.S. immigration laws, and its primary areas of focus are interior enforcement operations, management of the agency’s detained and non-detained populations, and repatriation of noncitizens who have received final orders of removal. ERO’s workforce consists of more than 7,700 law enforcement and non-law enforcement support personnel across 25 domestic field offices and 208 locations nationwide, 30 overseas postings, and multiple temporary duty travel assignments along the border.

For more news and information on how the ICE ERO Atlanta field office carries out its immigration enforcement mission in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, follow us on Twitter @EROAtlanta.