On May 27, the State Department announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr. to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton, Bermuda (see Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda).
Since the announcement, there has been two protests at the consulate, and an online petition expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the rejection of the Rizzuto appointment. As of this writing, the petition has over 79,000 signatures. The island noted for its sandy beaches and cerulean blue ocean waters has an estimated 2018 population of 71,176.
The Consulate closed on June 1st when the first of two protests took place in front of the consulate (Demonstration Alert – U.S. Consulate General Hamilton, Bermuda, June 1, 2020).
A second demonstration against the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr by the United States Consulate. pic.twitter.com/TsaXH5slHb
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) June 3, 2020
— Bernews (@bernewsdotcom) June 3, 2020
Reject Rizzuto: protesters are outraged at the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr and racial injustice in the US, highlighted by the killing of George Floyd
Photography by Akil Simmons pic.twitter.com/MHfsMTkT84
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) June 2, 2020
today in Bermuda, a peaceful protest was held to call for justice in the case of George Floyd and against the appointing of Lee Rizzuto Jr. (a Trump supporter and thus appointed by Trump) as Bermuda’s US Consulate #blacklivesmatter 🇧🇲 pic.twitter.com/JgfOOVpnaK
— königin (@_iamPRYCELESS) June 2, 2020
A controversial beauty products tycoon scheduled to take up the US Consul General’s post this summer made headlines in America after he shared “conspiracy theories and unfounded attacks” about President Donald Trump’s political opponents on Twitter. https://t.co/MhmIpLIKeJ
— The Royal Gazette (@TheRoyalGazette) May 29, 2020
— Hannah 🇧🇲 (@rennah) June 1, 2020
Updated 1135 am PDT
On January 2018, we posted about the nomination of Leandro Rizzuto to be U.S. Ambassador to Barbados (Prominent Businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr to be Ambassador to Barbados, But Wait – #ForgotSomething?). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and was resubmitted for renomination by the White House in 2019 (see White House Submits Some @StateDept/Related Agencies Re-nominations to the Senate). This nomination was sent to a GOP majority Senate in the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress with no action from the Senate. The last actions according to congress.gov for PN136:
01/16/2019: Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
01/03/2020: Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate;
On May 27, 2020, Mr. Pompeo announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda, a post typically held by career diplomats. Actually, we could not recall a political appointee at this level in more than a decade of blogging. This position does not require Senate confirmation, which means, they could chuck out the current consul general this week and have this guy packed out and sent down to the island before the month is over.
Foggy Bottom’s top champion of diplomacy strikes again!
According to its website, “the American Consulate General in Hamilton plays an integral role in Bermuda’s political, social and cultural communities. The main office is located at “Crown Hill,” a historic property, just outside the city of Hamilton, that is owned by the US Government. Approximately 40 employees, including the Consul General, Deputy Principal Officer, Consul, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director and officers are assigned to the Consulate General.”
Updated: We understand that the Reagan Administration started the tradition of a political appointee in Bermuda (Thanks K!). In December 1981, Max L. Friedersdorf an assistant to the President for legislative affairs resigned and was announced simultaneously as the next consul general to Bermuda, “a post that usually goes to career Foreign Service employees rather than to political appointees.”
In 2005, George W. Bush appointed Gregory Slayton as U.S. Consul General to Bermuda (Thanks K2). He was sworn in by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on August 15, 2005.
Note that Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. That’s right. The U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton is part of the United States Mission to the United Kingdom.
Also quick question, once Pompeo is done installing a political donor to USCG Hamilton, which post is next? The U.S. Virtual Presence Post in Wales may also be available. For the record, there are 75 more consulates general in the U.S. Foreign Service, and there are still 160 days till election day.
- WH’s Pick For Barbados Ambassadorship “Should Feel Free to Put on His Tinfoil Hat” Sez @SenSasse Spox 2018
- Top Most Expensive Places to Live in the Foreign Service2009
Pleased to announce Lee Rizzuto will be the next Principal Officer at our Consulate General in Hamilton. There he will lead our great @StateDept team in further strengthening our economic and cultural ties with Bermuda.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 27, 2020
Lee Rizzuto – a big Trump donor and hair dryer heir – nomination to be ambassador to Barbados was never taken up after we reported he spread conspiracies.
The admin. just circumvented Senate approval by naming him "principal officer" at the consulate.https://t.co/h05UWMRUe1
— andrew kaczynski🤔 (@KFILE) May 27, 2020
Two years into what is usually a three year post, Trump is replacing a senior foreign service officer with the heir to a beauty products fortune as U.S. Consul General, Bermuda.https://t.co/F6sekdKIsj
— Dan Baer (@danbbaer) May 27, 2020
New: Trump names billionaire son of Conair founder Lee Rizutto as US Ambassador to Barbados. WH statement >> pic.twitter.com/7gAGdOIhJM
— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) January 5, 2018
Updated/1:35 pm PDT
Authorized departure is an evacuation procedure, short of ordered departure, by which post employees and/or eligible family members are permitted to leave post in advance of normal rotation when U.S. national interests or imminent threat to life requires it. Authorized departure is voluntary, requested by the chief of mission (COM) and approved by the Under Secretary for Management (M). The incumbent to this office is Brian Bulatao.
Ordered departure is an evacuation procedure by which the number of U.S. government employees, eligible family members, or both, at a Foreign Service post is reduced. Ordered departure is mandatory and may be initiated by the chief of mission or the Secretary of State.
Posts with very few exceptions, report to their regional or geographic bureaus headed respectively by an Assistant Secretary, a Senate confirmed position. Four of the seven regional bureaus at State are headed by officials in their acting capacity (EUR, SCA, WHA, IO).
We’ve heard from one post in Africa where COM was apparently told by a senior State Department official that non-emergency personnel should leave with the authorized departure flight or be involuntarily curtailed from post.
Can you still call a voluntary evacuation voluntary if non-emergency personnel are under threat of curtailments if they don’t go? Is this unique to this one post or is the arm twisting more widespread within AF posts or other bureaus.
Another post in Africa told us that its COM has raised the possibility of involuntary curtailment if folks don’t want to depart on AD but that this was COM’s idea not Washington’s. One source explained that from a post perspective, you do not want to go on OD because “you lose control.” This is probably a limited perspective based on the circumstances of specific posts. Or is it?
What about from the mothership’s perspective? To OD post or not to OD? Why, or why not?
We were told that the “challenge” with “ordered departures” is that Washington is “involved in micromanaging” the termination of the OD but also with the staffing/movement of personnel. Every time post permits anyone to return to post for any reason, the mothership has to review it. Our source told us that the amount of time to review every tweak and revision of staffing would probably be considerable even if just half the posts worldwide are on OD.
We note that per 3 FAM 3774 “official travel to a post or country where an authorized or ordered departure is in effect is prohibited without the formal approval of the Under Secretary for Management (M) following approval of a post policy that clearly describes appropriate restrictions and limits exceptions, in accordance with the procedures described under Waivers of Travel Prohibitions (3 FAM 3776).” Excerpt:
b. In limited circumstances, M may delegate to the COM the authority to approve travel to and from a post under authorized departure (including travel related to rest and recuperation (R&R), home leave, annual leave, etc.) for permanently assigned employees, family members, and MOHs who do not elect authorized departure status. M also may delegate to the COM, in limited circumstances, the authority to approve travel to post for employees who were away from post when ordered departure was approved.
c. In situations in which the Under Secretary for Management (M) has not delegated authority to the COM, waiver requests will be forwarded to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial. If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M. To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel. Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date.
d. For posts where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations: Requests for a waiver of the prohibition on official and personal travel to a post or country where operations have been suspended or countries where the United States is engaged in contingency operations must be approved by the Under Secretary for Management, who may waive the prohibition in unusual or compelling circumstances. The request must be made initially to the regional bureau executive director for review and a recommendation for approval or denial. If approved in principle by the regional bureau, the request will be forwarded to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) for clearance and returned to the regional bureau executive director for submission to M. To provide time for the review and approval/denial process, travelers must allow a minimum of 20 working days following submission of requests to the Department for all but the most urgent medical or casualty-related travel. Given changing conditions in these locations, requests should not be submitted to the Department more than 35 days prior to the proposed departure date. Approvals for such travel can be revoked at any time by M and M can impose conditions on the traveler’s length of stay, whereabouts, and/or activities in country. The traveler must explain in detail where he/she will reside during his/her stay; unless approved by the Under Secretary for Management, no employee, family member, or member of household may reside in State Department leased or owned facilities while operations are suspended.
Anyhow, if you have further thoughts on this, drop us a line. Below is a revised evacuation tracker, no additional AD/OD posts since March 28 but we’ve now added the two post closures, the Consulates General in Wuhan and Vladivostok. Note updated date of post closure for Wuhan. We could not locate an announcement of post closure except as part of an update on the China Travel Advisory dated February 19, which may not be the actual date when USCG Wuhan was officially closed.
Also, please note that the term “non-essential” personnel has been generally replaced with the term “non-emergency” personnel. However, we still occasionally see this term used in official releases from overseas posts. Also as late as 2018, the Foreign Affairs Manual in its danger pay section still makes references to “non-essential” personnel.
On March 10, the US Embassy in Rome issued a Health Alert noting that only emergency consular services will be available at all posts in Italy due to the reduced staffing that goes into effect on March 11, 2020:
Event: Due to reduced staffing that went into effect March 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence.
The CDC advises travelers to avoid nonessential travel to Italy and State Department currently recommends U.S. citizens reconsider travel. See CDC information regarding high-risk traveler categories.
On March 9, the Italian government released a decree prohibiting movement in public places except for justifiable work reasons (commuting, public and commercial transport is allowed), basic necessities (i.e., food shopping), and health emergencies. The decree also cancels sporting events and public gatherings and closes schools, universities, and recreational facilities through April 3. The Italian government has stated the new decree does not prevent travelers from departing Italy.
The Italian government has announced that law enforcement authorities would establish checkpoints at airports and train stations to collect self-declaration forms from travelers specifying the purpose of their movement and their destination. Italian officials have also noted that checkpoints may established on highways to collect these forms.
In areas of Italy with large numbers of COVID-19 cases, the local healthcare system is under significant strain.
Public transportation including airlines, trains, and buses continue to operate, but with reduced frequency. Travelers should check carrier schedules for the latest updates and work directly with the carrier or travel agent to arrange or reschedule travel. Travelers should be prepared for the possibility of additional travel restrictions to be implemented with little or no advance notice.
#Italy: Due to reduced staffing that went into effect Mar. 11, only emergency American Citizen Services and emergency visa services are available at the U.S. Embassy in Rome and Consulates General Milan, Naples, and Florence. https://t.co/9pXmPHWbNe pic.twitter.com/VRMyHCfuHZ https://t.co/syxOT13bNd
— ConsolatoUSA Firenze (@USCGFlorence) March 10, 2020
The world exposition Expo2020 is set to open in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 20, 2020. In December 2019, InPark Magazine reported that nearly 200 countries have signed up to participate, each participant with a national pavilion. The per-pavilion investment was reported to be in the millions with China’s pavilion cited at a cost of $100 million. (see The U.S. could be a no-show at Expo 2020 Dubai). In fall last year, UAE’s The National also reported that the United States has yet to secure funding and begin construction on its $60 million pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai. The US Consul General in Dubai Philip Frayne was reportedly confident that funding would be available despite failure of a private consortium to raise the needed funds (see Financial troubles stall construction of US pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai).
On January 16, UAE’s The National reported that the US will participate at Expo 2020 Dubai with UAE funding:
American participation had been in doubt due to a law, passed in the 1990s, which prevents public funds being used for Expos. In the past, businesses have met the bill, but despite a lobbying effort led by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, the US failed to attract enough private funding for Dubai. Legislative efforts to get around the rules proved unsuccessful.
It is not yet known how much money the UAE will provide to the US. However, it is understood that the original design of the US pavilion, which was estimated to cost $60 million (Dh220m) will be changed, not least because of time pressures with the opening of the event just nine months away.
The National also got a quote from Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council: The US State Department would be “100 per cent” in charge of the pavilion, Mr Sebright said, with the UAE government to offer support and assistance “as appropriate”.
Below is the State Department’s announcement citing the generosity of the Emirati Government in making America … er great anew by providing funds for the building of the USA Pavilion and making U.S. participation in Expo2020 Dubai possible.
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) January 15, 2020
#UnitedStates was unable to secure the $60 million needed for a national pavilion at #Expo2020 #Dubai from either private or government sources. Thank you to the government of the #UnitedArabEmirates for your generous contribution which will allow us to participate. pic.twitter.com/sFqQSes8Fs
— Joe Kleiman (@ThemedReality) January 16, 2020
— ExpoMuseum.com (@ExpoMuseum) November 28, 2018
— Expo 2020 Dubai (@expo2020dubai) December 31, 2019
On Sunday, September 8, a massive crowd of pro-democracy protesters marched to the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong seeking support from the U.S. Congress to pass H.R.3289 – Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.
On June 13, 2019, the house bill was introduced by Rep. Smith, Christopher H. [R-NJ-4]. It has 21 co-sponsors and was “referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and in addition to the Committees on the Judiciary, and Financial Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.”
There is also related bill in the U.S. Senate, the S.1838 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, introduced on June 13, 2019 by Sen. Rubio, Marco [R-FL]. The bill with nine co-sponsors has been read twice and referred to the Foreign Committee on Foreign Relations (SFRC).
A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law. GovTrack gave the house bill a 20% chance of being enacted citing Skopos Labs (details); and the Senate bill a 41% chance of being enacted citing Skopos Labs (details).
As for the U.S. Consulate General, due to the unique status of the Hong Kong and Macau SARs under the “one country, two systems” frameworks, U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong and Macau reports directly to the State Department in Washington, D.C. It is not part of U.S. Mission China.
Post is currently headed by Consul General Hanscom Smith who assumed his duties as the Consul General representing the United States to Hong Kong and Macau in July, 2019. According to his bio, Mr. Smith is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, most recently acting as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for China affairs. Mr. Smith previously served as Consul General in Shanghai and as Director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs at the Department of State. His foreign languages are Mandarin Chinese, French, Danish, and Khmer.
Post’s Deputy Consul General is DCM Paul Horowitz, a career member of the U.S. Department of State Senior Foreign Service assumed his duties in June 2019. According to his bio, Mr. Horowitz has spent much of his career in East Asia, focused primarily on economic and trade issues, including assignments in Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Bosnian.
▶️ Hong Kong police fired tear gas at protesters calling for help to bring democracy to the city at the U.S. Consulate, Sunday, September 8.
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) September 9, 2019
Thousands of protesters march to U.S. Consulate to demand the congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. #hongkongprotests #antielab #standwithhk #freehk pic.twitter.com/U7yQC6e5zO
— Jessie Pang (@JessiePang0125) September 8, 2019
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong marched to the U.S. Consulate on Sunday in an effort to drum up support for American legislation that would penalize officials who suppress freedoms in the cityhttps://t.co/8d8wCVFaXg
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 8, 2019
The sounds of today’s renewed #HongKongProtests. A masked, black-clad #HongKong protestor drums while brandishing an American flag. Thousands of people are marching up, past the U.S. consulate asking the U.S. Congress to pass a human rights act to support them. @CBSNews is here. pic.twitter.com/EhPsr3Sf32
— Ramy Inocencio 英若明 (@RamyInocencio) September 8, 2019
Update: On August 1st, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Acting USUN Jonathan Cohen to be U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.
On July 31st, the U.S. Senate confirmed the US Ambassador to Canada Kelly to be Trump’s new Ambassador to the United Nations in a 56-33 vote. The GOP has a majority in the U.S. Senate, and with the Senate Majority Leader’s support, this confirmation was never in doubt in our minds even with the Democrat’s scathing report. But it looks like five Democrats also joined all but two Republicans in confirming this nominee. Seven Democrats, two Republicans and one Independent were listed as “not voting.”
At the United Nations, we anticipate that her transition will not be easy given the deep experience of most of her predecessors and her diplomatic counterparts from 193 member states. Four of the five permanent members at the UN: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom also did not send political donors to the international body as their representatives. The Chinese ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun has over 30 years of diplomatic experience. Moscow’s man at the UN Nebenzya Vasily Alekseevich similarly has over three decades of diplomatic experience. The French representative to the UN Nicolas de Rivière has diplomatic experience going back all the way to the 1990s. United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Karen Pierce has been with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office since 1981. So … there you go. We’re all going to have to start watching UNTV.
Ambassador Craft will also arrive at USUN while the mission’s deputy and Acting Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Jonathan Cohen is on his way out. The seasoned career diplomat has been nominated to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Egypt.
His nomination is currently pending on the Executive Calendar awaiting Senate confirmation. His nomination was just confirmed by the U.S. Senate on August 1st.
At US Mission Canada, we expect the embassy’s DCM Richard Mills, Jr. will now assume office as Chargé d’Affaires pending the nomination/confirmation of a new ambassador. Ambassador Mills previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia from 2015-2018. He assumed his position as Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Ottawa in November 2018. He was also Chargé d’Affaires at U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta from 2010-2012.
Confirmed, 56-34: Executive Calendar #402 Kelly Craft to be the Representative of the U.S. to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador, and the Representative of the U.S. in the Security Council of the United Nations
— Senate Cloakroom (@SenateCloakroom) July 31, 2019
Senate past votes on US Amb to UN:
Kelly Craft (2019) 56-34
Nikki Haley (2017) 96-4
Samantha Power (2013) 87-10
Susan Rice (2009) Voice Vote
Zalmay Khalilzad (2007) Voice Vote
— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) July 31, 2019
The democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just released a rather blistering assessment of Kelly Craft ahead of her confirmation vote https://t.co/9DuOj8yYz7
— Mark Leon Goldberg (@MarkLGoldberg) July 31, 2019
Congratulations to newly confirmed U.S. Representative to the @UN, Ambassador Kelly Craft. We look forward to welcoming you to NYC, and supporting your key agenda items, like UN reform, humanitarian aid, and public-private partnerships. https://t.co/qZFIo9K9Bl
— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) August 1, 2019
The Senate just confirmed @POTUS's impressive nominee for the critical role of @USUN Ambassador: Kelly Knight Craft of #Kentucky. I’m confident our entire nation will be proud of the fine service she will render as our Ambassador to the United Nations. pic.twitter.com/8yZTeICXW0
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) July 31, 2019
New U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tueller arrived in Baghdad in early June to assume charge of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
Ambassador Tueller, of the State of Utah, is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. His other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Yemen, Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman. His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.
Ambassador Tueller holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He was confirmed by the Senate to be Ambassador to Iraq on May 16 and presented his credentials to the Iraqi government on June 9, 2019. Ambassador Tueller is married to DeNeece Gurney of Provo, Utah and they are parents of five children.
Ambassador Tueller’s arrival completes the top leadership roles in Mission Iraq. Joey Hood is now the Deputy Chief of Mission after serving as CDA; Timmy Davis as Consul General for Basrah (mandatory evacuated in September 2018), and Steven Fagin as Consul General in Erbil.
Welcome Ambassador Tueller!
On June 9, 2019, Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller presented his credentials to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq to President Barham Salih and Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim. pic.twitter.com/evxdFXdHB8
— U.S. Embassy Baghdad (@USEmbBaghdad) June 10, 2019
Productive meeting with the new United States ambassador to Iraq, Matthew Tueller today at the Barzani Headquarters. We spoke of the latest political developments in the Kurdistan Region and in Iraq. pic.twitter.com/DuKK2gPIgD
— Masoud Barzani (@masoud_barzani) June 15, 2019
— U.S. Consulate Erbil (@USConGenErbil) June 19, 2019
On March 13, SDNY announced that two individuals were charged for visa fraud conspiracy involving the Moroccan Consulate and Mission in New York. The complaint includes an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”), a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. Footnote #5 in the complaint says that the USG anticipates that it will enter into a non-prosecutorial agreement with each of the seven domestic workers, all nationals of the Philippines). Footnote #6 notes that the DSS Special Agent is aware that as an ambassador accredited to the Moroccan Mission of the United Nations, CC-1 possesses full diplomatic immunity under Article V of the United Nations Agreement and Article (39)1)of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Christian J. Schurman, Director of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (“DSS”) at the United States Department of State, announced today the arrest of MARIA LUISA ESTRELLA JAIDI (“JAIDI”), who was charged by complaint along with her brother, RAMON SINGSON ESTRELLA (“ESTRELLA”), for their involvement in a conspiracy to commit visa fraud, make materially false statements, and induce aliens to illegally come to, enter, and reside in the United States. JAIDI was arrested today in Ancramdale, New York, and will be presented this afternoon in White Plains federal court before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul E. Davison. ESTRELLA remains at large.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman stated: “As alleged, the defendants abused our nation’s process for admitting consular officials in order to bring domestic workers into this country for their own monetary gain and lifestyle. On top of that, Maria Luisa Estrella Jaidi exploited these workers by not providing them the critical protections and benefits they would have been entitled to had they been properly brought to this country with the appropriate visas. Today’s charges demonstrate that fraud and abuse of this type will not be tolerated.”
DSS Director Christian J. Schurman said: “DSS demonstrated its commitment to protecting the integrity of U.S. travel documents and the rights of foreign nationals visiting the United States. We will continue to pursue those who abuse domestic worker visas to manipulate and exploit their employees for personal gain. DSS’s strong relationship with our law enforcement partners and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, continues to be essential in the pursuit of justice.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint unsealed in White Plains federal court:
From approximately 2006 up to 2016, JAIDI and ESTRELLA conspired with an individual not named as a defendant in the Complaint (“CC-1”) to fraudulently procure visas for at least seven Filipino domestic workers (the “Domestic Workers”). CC-1 is a diplomatic agent accredited to the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations (the “Moroccan Mission”) with the rank of Ambassador. From approximately 1980 through approximately 2016, CC-1 and JAIDI were married.
In order to fraudulently obtain visas for the Domestic Workers, JAIDI and CC-1 caused the Domestic Workers to submit visa applications containing materially false statements and to submit fraudulent employment contracts in support of those visa applications. ESTRELLA – who is JAIDI’s brother and who resides in the Philippines – helped recruit several of the Domestic Workers in the Philippines to work for JAIDI and CC-1 in the United States and instructed the Domestic Workers to make false statements in their visa applications and to officials at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
In particular, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused five of the Domestic Workers to falsely state in their visa applications that they would be employed as secretaries, administrative assistants, or technicians at the Moroccan Mission or at the Consulate General of the Kingdom of Morocco in Manhattan. In addition, ESTRELLA, JAIDI, and CC-1 caused each of the Domestic Workers to submit fraudulent employment contracts to the State Department in support of their visa applications. The fraudulent employment contracts also overstated the Domestic Workers’ salaries, understated their hours, and falsely guaranteed benefits, including, among others, sick leave, dental insurance, and medical insurance.
Once the Domestic Workers arrived in the United States, JAIDI and CC-1 employed the workers as their personal drivers, domestic helpers, farmhands, and assistants at their residence in Bronxville, New York, as well as at their farm in Ancramdale, New York. JAIDI and CC-1 paid the Domestic Workers significantly less than the minimum salary required by law and regularly compelled them to work far in excess of 40 hours per week. In addition, JAIDI and CC-1 generally denied the Domestic Workers the benefits set forth in their employment contracts, compelled the Domestic Workers to work seven days a week, and required the Domestic Workers to surrender their passports.