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Document and Benefit Fraud

ICE assists Colombian authorities in dismantling visa fraud scheme

BOGOTA, Colombia — Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assisted the Colombian Attorney General's Office in the arrest Friday of two individuals who were at the center of a U.S. visa fraud scheme.

The arrests came after a two-year investigation by HSI Bogota special agents and the Colombian Attorney General's Technical Investigative Corps (CTI) Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU). The investigation found that the visa fraud scheme was orchestrated by a Colombian national identified as Erno Braulio Bula-Bula. Bula-Bula claimed that he could acquire and purchase U.S. visas for 8 million Colombian pesos (approximately $4,000 USD) through a contact at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota. The contact was later determined to be fictitious, and no Embassy employees were found to be involved in the criminal acts.

Bula-Bula attempted to extort an additional fee ranging from 1.5 to 8 million Colombian pesos ($750 to $4,000 USD) in order to deliver the passports with visas to those applicants who had been legitimately granted U.S. visas. A second individual, identified as Jimmy Quitian-Mahecha, was arrested for his involvement in the scheme. Quitian-Mahecha intercepted the approved visas at a DHL facility in Bogota and provided them to Bula-Bula.

HSI Bogota agents and CTI TCIU interviewed numerous victims of the fraud scheme that included entire families who were extorted out of their savings. DHL cooperated in the ongoing investigation.

Through ICE's Office of International Affairs and the State Department, HSI has 67 attaché offices in 48 countries around the world. This presence includes an on-the-ground relationship-building effort of HSI special agents working closely with foreign law enforcement agencies, and through a robust network of specialized vetted units known as Transnational Criminal Investigative Units. Additionally, HSI brings personnel from host countries to the United States to train at the Department of Homeland Security Federal Law Enforcement Training Center at Glynco, Ga.