What to Do If You Face a Federal Passport Fraud Charge?
A U.S. passport serves as proof of a person’s identity and citizenship. There are strict regulations regarding the issuance, control and use of U.S. passports. A Visa is also an important immigration document obtained at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to grant a foreign traveler permission to apply to come into the U.S. at a port of entry. Federal laws also impose rules and restrictions on the issuance and use of visas. If any of the rules related to passports and visas are violated, you can be charged with a criminal offense and face penalties including imprisonment.
Bukh Law Firm, PLLC. has represented numbers clients accused of passport or visa fraud. Contact us to learn about your legal options for responding to charges and about how a passport fraud lawyer can help with your case.
Passport Fraud Laws and Punishment
Passport fraud takes different forms including using false birth certificates to obtain a passport; using a passport that has been altered or stolen; assuming someone’s identity to apply for a passport; or circumventing a rule requiring that both parents provide signatures before a passport is issued to a child.
Diplomatic Security, a division of the Department of State, has authority to investigate allegations of passport fraud, and a violation of any laws related to passport use, applications, control or issuance will generally result in federal criminal charges. Federal statutes establishing crimes related to passport fraud include:
- 18 USC 1541 Issuing a passport without legal authority: This is a felony that could result in up to 25 years incarceration if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism; 20 years imprisonment if the offense was committed to facilitate drug trafficking; or 10 years for any other first offense.
- 18 USC 1542 Making false statements in applying for or using a passport: Willfully making false statements in applying for or using a passport can lead to 25 years in prison if the offense was related to international terrorism; 20 years for drug crimes; and 10 years for other false statements or use.
- 18 USC 1543 Forging a passport or false use of a passport: Mutilating, counterfeiting, or altering passports results in the same penalties as issuing a passport with no authority or making false statements in a passport application.
- 18 USC 1544 Misusing a passport: Knowingly using someone else’s passport, violating the rules for passport use, or delivering a passport for someone else to use improperly can also result in the same penalties as other related offenses.
- 18 USC 371 Conspiring to defraud the U.S.: This offense can result in five years
- 18 USC 911 Making false claims of citizenship: This offense can result in up to three years imprisonment.
- 18 USC 1028 Fraud related to identifying information or identifying documents: Penalties vary depending upon the nature of the fraudulent activity. If the fraud is related to the production or transfer of an identification document issued by the U.S. government, the potential penalties can include 15 years
- 18 USC 1028A Aggravated Identity Theft: Using, transferring or possessing someone else’s identification as part of the commission of a felony can result in two additional years imprisonment separate from any penalties for the underlying felony offense. If the use of the ID occurs during a terrorism offense, the additional penalty for the misuse of identifying documents is up to five years.
Visa Fraud Laws and Penalties
The federal code also criminalizes visa fraud including using false documents when applying; hiding information that would normally disqualify you from obtaining visa; selling, transferring or trafficking a legitimate visa, forging or altering a visa, counterfeiting a visa, and misrepresenting the reasons for a visa application. Federal code sections that impose penalties for visa fraud include:
- 18 USC 1001 Making false entries or statements
- 18 USC 1028 Fraudulent acts connected to identifying documents
- 18 USC 1546 Fraudulent use or misuse of a visa
- 18 USC 201 Bribing government officials
- 18 USC 371 Conspiring to commit fraud against the U.S.
These are serious offenses that, like passport fraud, could potentially result in decades imprisonment if convicted. A New York City visa fraud lawyer can advise you on potential penalties associated with conviction for a visa fraud offense.
How a New York Passport and Visa Fraud Defense Attorney Can Help
Negotiating a plea bargain in an attempt to reduce charges or limit penalties is one possible option when accused of passport or visa fraud. Your attorney can speak with the federal prosecutor assigned to your case about options for a plea deal.
Pleading not guilty is another option. You can avoid conviction by successfully raising affirmative defenses or by introducing doubt into a prosecutor’s case, since the prosecutor has the burden of proving guilt.
A New York passport and visa fraud lawyer at Bukh Law Firm, PLLC can advise you on available courses of action when responding to charges and can help you try to secure a not guilty verdict.