US Embassy Guyana Rumor Galore: Another Visa Scandal Ready to Break?

— By Domani Spero

 

There is another alleged visa shenanigans involving a visa officer making the news.  The Guyana Observer reported on July 4 that a US embassy official in Georgetown, Guyana is alleged to have issued “dozens of visas to Guyanese women for sex” and as well as reportedly being “accused of selling visas to many corrupt businessmen, drug dealers etc. for as low as US$15,000.”

The Kaieteur News of Georgetown, Guyana also reported on July 4 that the Foreign Service Officer was “a frequent patron of a popular Middle Street restaurant where he would meet with brokers, some of whom were prominent local businessmen.”

Large numbers are being thrown about – from reportedly $10,000 for a new visa issuance to$30,000-$40,000 for alleged re-issuance of visas previously cancelled or revoked.

According to AFP, its government sources said that the officer had been removed from his post, two months before his tour of duty was due to end in September 2013.

The Daily Caller picked up the news and described the report as this: “A State Department officer has been accused of selling visas for sex and money in what may have been a massive human trafficking operation” citing two Guyanese journalists.  One of the Guyanese journalists says that “We became aware of a scam going on at the embassy when many legitimate visa applicants were being turned down.”

Many applicants who are turned down for visas think they are legitimate and ought to get visas, so that in itself does not hold much water as an argument that there is a scam going on.   Issuance, cancellation, revocation of visas all have electronic trails since no one does paper and pen adjudications anymore. If there is anything there, the investigators will find it. More importantly, the money trails, because you got to have a way to take all that alleged dirty money out of the country.  Any witness to the sex for visa exchange should contact Diplomatic Security here.

The DC and Guyanese news outlets have identified and published a photo of the FSO. We have chosen not to name the FSO here since he has not been charged with a crime.

A source did tell this blog that the person in question in Guyana (we don’t have a confirmed name) a first tour FSO, was sent back to Washington during the investigation, and is currently working in a regional bureau pending the criminal investigation.

Local media published a statement from the US Embassy in Georgetown (not posted online):

“The Department of State is aware of allegations of improprieties relating to a Consular Officer formerly assigned to Georgetown, Guyana.

The Department takes all allegations of misconduct by employees seriously. We are reviewing the matter thoroughly. If the allegations are substantiated, we will work with the relevant authorities to hold anyone involved accountable.”

We have previously blogged about the US Embassy in Georgetown (See US Embassy Guyana: Is this a consequence of midlevel staffing/experience gaps?).

The embassy is headed by D. Brent Hardt who was sworn in as Ambassador to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana on August 19, 2011. According to the embassy website, the “Chief, Consular Affairs” is Mark O’Connors.

On the same week that FSO Michael T. Sestak (See USDOJ:  FSO Michael Todd Sestak Charged With Conspiracy to Defraud and Conspiracy to Commit Bribery and Visa Fraud) was formally charged charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit bribery and visa fraud at the District Court of the District of Columbia, we heard that former FSO, Thomas Patrick Carroll was released from a Chicago federal prison.  Mr. Carroll, a former vice consul at US Embassy Georgetown in Guyana who notably kept some of his ill gotten assets in gold bars, was arrested in 2000.  He was originally sentenced to 21 years imprisonment in 2002, a term that was subsequently reduced on appeal.

Perhaps it should not be a surprise that visa fraud is big news in Guyana.  The Thomas Carroll incident was huge, huge news over there. There is an ebook written about it — The Thomas Carroll Affair: A Journey through the Cottage Industry of Illegal Immigration by David Casavis available at amazon.com. We have not read the book but  according to News Source Guyana,  “the author considers it one of his best works.”

We will have a follow-up post if there are further developments on this case.

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