USDOJ: Armenian Citizen Pleads Guilty for His Role in For-Profit U.S. Visa Fraud Scheme

 

Via USDOJ:

Armenian Citizen Pleads Guilty for His Role in For-Profit U.S. Visa Fraud Scheme

A man residing in Glendale, California, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to unlawfully bring in aliens and visa fraud for his role in a multi-year visa fraud scheme that brought Armenian citizens into the United States for profit.

Hrachya Atoyan, 32, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sanket J. Bulsara in the Eastern District of New York.  Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie.  According to the indictment, Atoyan allegedly participated in a transnational network of co-conspirators who engaged in a widespread visa fraud scheme to bring Armenian citizens into the United States by fraudulently claiming to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that the Armenians were members of performance groups, and thus qualified for P-3 “Culturally Unique Artist” visas.

“Exploiting the P-3 non-immigrant visa classification system for culturally unique artist and entertainers makes a mockery out of the legitimate performers for whom that visa was intended,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “We will work hand in hand with our law enforcement partners to rid the system of fraudsters, like Mr. Atoyan and his co-conspirators, who seek to take advantage of and profit from our immigration system.”

“Atoyan’s guilty plea brings down the curtain on an elaborate visa fraud scheme to falsely portray applicants as artists and entertainers in order to circumvent our country’s P-3 visa program,” said U.S. Attorney Richard P. Donoghue of the Eastern District of New York.

“The Diplomatic Security Service builds strong teams overseas and in the United States to protect the integrity of all U.S. visas and travel documents – especially those, like the P-3 visa, which allow for entertainers to visit the United States to perform in culturally unique events and deepen our understanding of different cultures,” said Todd J. Brown, Director of the Diplomatic Security Service.  “DSS values our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies around the world to prevent and jointly combat U.S. passport and visa fraud. Deterring, detecting, and investigating U.S. passport and visa fraud is essential to safeguarding our national security.”

[…]

The P-3 nonimmigrant visa classification allows foreign nationals to temporarily travel to the United States to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, under a program that is culturally unique.  A U.S. employer or sponsoring organization is required to submit a USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Non-Immigrant Worker, along with supporting documentation, attesting that the performances in the United States are culturally unique.

In February 2018, Stella Boyadjian of Rego Park, New York; Atoyan; and Diana Grigoryan, aka “Dina Akopovna,” 42, of the Republic of Armenia were charged in a 15-count indictment with visa fraud and with conspiracy to: defraud the United States, commit visa fraud, and illegally bring aliens into the United States.  Boyadjian and Grigoryan were also charged with related money laundering charges, and Boyadjian was charged with aggravated identity theft.  Boyadjian previously pleaded guilty on March 4, 2019 in the Eastern District of New York.

As alleged in the indictment, Boyadjian ran a non-profit organization called Big Apple Music Awards Foundation (BAMA) based in Rego Park, New York.  Boyadjian used the Big Apple Music Awards Foundation as well as formal and informal music industry contacts in the United States and Armenia to perpetuate the scheme.  Atoyan, Boyadjian, and others solicited Armenian citizens who wanted to come to the United States and charged them between $3,000 and $10,000 to be included on the Form I-129 Petitions.  Boyadjian and other associates in Armenia then acquired fraudulent performer certificates and organized staged photo sessions where the aliens wore traditional Armenian folk outfits to make it appear as though they were traditional Armenian performers.  After being trained how to defeat U.S. visa interviews, the individual aliens presented these certificates and photos to U.S. consular officers during their visa interviews.  Once the Armenians entered the United States, some would pay Boyadjian and her associates additional money to be included in another fraudulent petition asking for P-3 visa extensions.  As alleged in the indictment, Atoyan himself came to the United States on a P-3 visa obtained in connection with a Form I-129 submitted by BAMA.

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@StateDept Contracting Officer Zaldy N. Sabino Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

 

This is a follow-up to our post on April 16, 2019 @StateDept Contracting Officer Faces 17-Count Indictment For Bribery and Procurement Fraud.  On October 4, 2019, the Justice Department announced the conviction of State Department Contracting officer Zaldy N. Zabino of  13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

State Department Contracting Officer Convicted of Bribery and Procurement Fraud

A contracting officer with the U.S. Department of State was convicted today of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Marc Meyer of the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General and Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

Zaldy N. Sabino, 60, of Fort Washington, Maryland, was convicted of 13 counts of conspiracy, bribery, honest services wire fraud and making false statements.  Sentencing has been set for Feb. 14, 2020.

Sabino was indicted in April 2019.  According to the indictment, between November 2012 and early 2017, Sabino and the owner of a Turkish construction firm allegedly engaged in a bribery and procurement fraud scheme in which Sabino received at least $239,300 in cash payments from the Turkish owner while Sabino supervised multi-million dollar construction contracts awarded to the Turkish owner’s business partners and while Sabino made over a half million dollars in structured cash deposits into his personal bank accounts.  Sabino allegedly concealed his unlawful relationship by, among other things, making false statements on financial disclosure forms and during his background reinvestigation.

The Department of State’s Office of Inspector General, led by Steve A. Linick, and the FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Hanly of the Eastern District of Virginia prosecuted the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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@StateDept Re-Issues Level 2 Travel Advisory For Saudi Arabia Over Threat of Missile and Drone Attacks on Civilian Targets

 

On September 17, the State Department issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory (Exercised Increased Caution) for Saudi Arabia due to “terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets.” It previously issued a Level 2 Travel Advisory on June 26, 2019 but the advisory was reissued “with updates to security information.”
Via travel.state.gov:

Exercise increased caution in Saudi Arabia due to terrorism and the threat of missile and drone attacks on civilian targets.

Do not travel to:

Within 50 miles of the border with Yemen due to terrorism and armed conflict.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Saudi Arabia. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. Terrorists have targeted both Saudi and Western government interests, mosques and other religious sites (both Sunni and Shia), and places frequented by U.S. citizens and other Westerners.

Regional actors hostile to Saudi Arabia have conducted destructive and sometimes lethal attacks against a variety of targets including critical infrastructure, military facilities, airports, and energy facilities throughout the country, as well as vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes. Riyadh, Yanbu, areas in proximity to Jeddah, the civilian airport in Abha, military installations in the south, and specific oil and gas facilities are examples of recent targets. The Islamic Republic of Iran has supplied Yemen-based Houthis and other regional proxy groups with weapons, including drones, missiles, and rockets. Houthi militants continue to plan and conduct attacks against locations in Saudi Arabia. Violence associated with Iran-supported groups represents a significant threat. U.S. citizens living and working near military bases and critical civilian infrastructure, particularly in the Eastern Province and areas near the border with Yemen, are at heightened risk of missile and drone attack.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the following locations, as U.S. Mission personnel and their families are restricted from travel to:

    • Within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border, including the cities of Jizan and Najran, and
    • Qatif in the Eastern province and its suburbs, including Awamiyah.

U.S. Mission personnel and their families are not permitted to use the airport in Abha without Chief of Mission approval.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman region, including Saudi Arabia, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued an advisory Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). For more information U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Saudi Arabia:

    • Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
    • Obtain comprehensive medical insurance that includes medical evacuation.
    • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
    • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
    • Review the Crime and Safety Reports for Saudi Arabia.
    • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

Yemen Border

Violence in Yemen has spilled over into Saudi Arabia on a number of occasions. Rebel forces in Yemen fire artillery at Saudi border towns and launch cross-border attacks against Saudi military personnel. Civilians who are near the border with Yemen are at risk.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the Saudi-Yemen border as U.S. government personnel and their families are restricted from travel to this area.

Visit our website for information on travel to high-risk areas.

 

ALSO THIS:  Who’s going to do it, and what kind of props will he/she bring to the United Nations? The last time one of our guys did it, he brought a vial he said could contain anthrax as he presents evidence of Iraq’s alleged weapons programs to the United Nations Security Council in 2003.

Related items:

 

John Lansing Resigns From USAGM to be CEO For National Public Radio (NPR)

 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM, @USAGMgov) will soon be without a chief executive officer. USAGM released a statement on the departure of its CEO John Lansing. He joined USAGM (then known as BBG) as CEO and Director in September 2015. Excerpt below:

After four years serving as the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), John F. Lansing will be leaving USAGM—an independent federal agency providing accurate, objective, and professional news and information worldwide—at the end of this month to start the next chapter of his career as the President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs also released a statement. Excerpt below:

“It’s important that when John steps down, there is continuity of leadership at USAGM. Changes in the law adopted in 2016 provided for a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CEO to lead the agency. But the Senate has not confirmed such a nominee and until it does so, the existing Board of Governors retains the power to name a replacement. I urge the Board to do so immediately, as we can’t predict when the Senate may act on the President’s nominee. This is too important a job to be left vacant for even a day.”

 

US Embassy Nassau: #HurricaneDorian 🌀 Aftermath, @USAID/OFDA, @USCGSoutheast

 

This is a follow-up to our post on August 31, US Embassy Bahamas on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #HurricaneDorian.  The NOAA Hurricane Update of 1100 PM EDT Mon Sep 02 2019 notes that devastating hurricane conditions continue on Grand Bahama Island and that a life-threatening storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 12 to 18 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds on Grand Bahama Island.

USAID/OFDA announced on Twitter that a team of Caribbean-based disaster experts is in the Bahamas to work w/ national authorities & humanitarian partners to help assess impacts & humanitarian needs.

The US Coast Guard Southeast said that its Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews, forward deployed to Andros Island, medevaced 19 people from the Marsh Harbour Clinic to Nassau International Airport on Monday, September 2. 

USCIS to Shrink Overseas Presence to Seven Locations

 

We almost missed a recent announcement from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) dated August 9 concerning its “international footprint.” It will maintain its presence at seven locations but will close 13 field offices and 13 district offices within the next year.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today plans to maintain operations at its international field offices in Beijing and Guangzhou, China; Nairobi, Kenya; and New Delhi, India. Previously, Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli directed the agency to continue operating in Guatemala City, Guatemala; Mexico City, Mexico; and San Salvador, El Salvador, as part of a whole-of-government approach to address the crisis at the southern border.

While retaining these seven international offices, USCIS plans to close the remaining thirteen international field offices and three district offices between now and August 2020. The first planned closures are the field offices in Monterrey, Mexico, and Seoul, South Korea, at the end of September. These organizational changes will allow more effective allocation of USCIS resources to support, in part, backlog reduction efforts.

“This cost-effective and high value international footprint allows USCIS to efficiently adjudicate complex immigration petitions that require in-person interviews, to enhance integrity through fraud detection and national security activities, and to liaise with U.S. and foreign government entities to improve migration management capacity,” said Cuccinelli. “In the months ahead, USCIS will close its other international offices on a staggered schedule, ensuring a smooth transition of workloads to USCIS domestic offices and State Department consular sections, while mitigating impacts on USCIS staff who will rotate back to domestic positions.”

Many functions currently performed at international offices will be handled domestically or by USCIS domestic staff on temporary assignments abroad. As part of this shift, the Department of State (DOS) will assume responsibility for certain in-person services that USCIS currently provides at international field offices. In addition to issuing visas to foreign nationals who are abroad, DOS already performs many of these service functions where USCIS does not have an office. USCIS is working closely with DOS to minimize interruptions in immigration services to affected applicants and petitioners.

As of this writing, travel.state.gov’s newsroom remains pretty sparse with news.

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#USCIS Badly Written ‘Policy Alert’ on Citizenship Blows Up, Causes Wildfire

 

 

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services published a Policy Alert on August 28, 2019 on “Defining Residence in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship.”  The same day, the agency had to issue a USCIS Policy Manual Update and the Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli subsequently had to issue a statement clarifying the policy update, “This policy update does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period.  This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens.  This does NOT impact birthright citizenship.  This policy update does not deny citizenship to the children of US government employees or members of the military born abroad.  This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedure, that’s it.”
That’s it! The end. But that doesn’t make it so. There was a hashtag trending already.
So, first, we need to point out that the Foreign Affairs Manual (see 8 FAM 301.1) already dispels the myth that birth on a U.S. military base outside of the United States or birth on U.S. embassy or consulate premises abroad constitutes as “birth in the United States:”

(1) Despite widespread popular belief, U.S. military installations abroad and U.S. diplomatic or consular facilities abroad are not part of the United States within the meaning of the 14th Amendment.  A child born on the premises of such a facility is not born in the United States and does not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth;

(2)  The status of diplomatic and consular premises arises from the rules of law relating to immunity from the prescriptive and enforcement jurisdiction of the receiving State; the premises are not part of the territory of the United States of America.

Children born at U.S. military installations overseas or at U.S. diplomatic and consular premises are not born in the United States and do not/do not acquire U.S. citizenship by reason of birth in the United States or outlying possessions; they could acquire citizenship through one or both their U.S. citizen parents.  We’re throwing this out there because various reporting appears to perpetuate the misconception that birth in these premises accord children their U.S. citizenship; it doesn’t.
Now, we’ve read USCIS’s multiple justifications for this update (pages 9-10), and we still don’t understand the reasoning for rescinding the previous interpretation. What precipitated this update? If true that this affects only approximately a hundred annually, why is this update even necessary?  Supposedly, the original  policy determination was made in 2004, and there were changes in 2008, but the previous Administration did not clean it up or reconcile the conflicts in the various  parts of the Immigration Act so the current Administration is now updating the policy? That’s basically what USCIS is saying on the Alert.
Also, the previous policy apparently “produced confusion” which obviously, this policy update does not.
One blog pal who did consular work called it “messy and contradictory prior guidance.” But we think part of the problem is that this Administration has such a poor record on immigration that it even when it is providing a policy guidance to clean up or sort out the conflicts in the law, it causes a wildfire in our heads.
We have some thoughts about this updated USCIS policy; just that  – some thoughts based on the published regs because we’re nerdy that way and the wildfire caused by this interests us. That USCIS Policy Alert is frankly, a convoluted piece of work but it makes two points:  one, it makes a distinction between a “residence” and “physical presence” in the United States, and two, it talks about change specific to INA 320.

Residence vs. Physical Presence

The USCIS Policy Alert basically says that an individual may be physically present in the United States for summer camps or while visiting relatives for weeks or even months but those would not constitute a residence  for the purposes of transmission of citizenship. Page 4 of the Alert notes:

Residence is more than a temporary presence or a visit to the United States. Therefore, temporary presences and visits are insufficient to establish residence for the purposes of transmitting citizenship. For example, someone who resides along the border in Mexico or Canada, but works each day in the United States, cannot use his or her workplace to establish a residence.”

We found a similar language in the State Department’s 8 FAM 301.7-4(B)  Birth in Wedlock or of Wedlock to Two U.S. Citizen Parents, updated in June 2018, which notes the following:

Residence is not determined solely by the length of time one spends in a place, but also takes into account the nature and quality of the person’s connection to the place.  This is a very fact-specific test.  However, at all times and in all cases, residence involves the connection to a specific physical place.  Residence is not a state of mind that travels with a person.  Department guidance clearly states that residence is more than a temporary presence and that visits to the United States are insufficient to establish residency for the purposes of citizenship transmission under INA 301(c).

8 FAM 301.7-4(B) also notes that “a child born abroad to two U.S. citizens acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if, before the child’s birth, one of the parents had a residence in the United States or its outlying possessions.  No specific period of residence is required.”
Is that why USCIS want to clarify this? The USCIS Policy Alert description of documents required to demonstrate residence is almost identical to the State Department’s list enumerated in the 8 FAM 301.7-4(B) section, by the way.
This FAM citation also helpfully points out:

The concept of “residence” should not be confused with the term “physical presence” which is used elsewhere in the INA as the test for transmitting citizenship, and which is a more literal concept that may be easier to apply.  INA 301(g), for example, requires that when only one parent is a U.S. citizen, that citizen parent must have a specific duration of physical presence — not residence–in the United States prior to the birth of the child in order to transmit U.S. citizenship to the child.  Unlike in INA 301(g), in INA 301(c), Congress chose to use the term “residence,” and not set a time requirement.  The rationale being that the nature of a residence presupposes the sort of relationship to a place that mere physical presence does not.

INA 320/INA 322

The USCIS Policy Manual Update explains the Policy Alert better:
      • Clarify that temporary visits to the U.S. do not establish U.S. residence;
      • Explain the distinction between residence and physical presence in the United States; and
      • Explain that USCIS no longer considers children who are living abroad with a parent who is a U.S. government employee or U.S. service member as “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320.
That’s simple enough when put that way. It also links to Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship after Birth (INA 320) and the  General Requirements for  Genetic, Legitimated, or Adopted Child Automatically Acquiring Citizenship after Birth.
So we looked up INA 320 in the FAM. Per 8 FAM 301.10-1(A), the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), Public Law 106-395, which took effect February 27, 2001, amended INA 320 to extend U.S. citizenship automatically to certain foreign-born children of U.S. citizens.  It extended citizenship to three categories of children:

(a)  Children of naturalized citizens;
(b)  Children adopted abroad by U.S. citizens; and
(c)  Children born abroad to a U.S. citizen and who do not otherwise acquire U.S. citizenship at birth under INA 301 as made applicable by INA 309.

The law also amended INA 322 to apply only to children who reside outside the United States and who do not have Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status; amended INA 322 to provide for expeditious naturalization to children born outside the United States and who do not have LPR status.;  and stepchildren cannot avail themselves of the CCA unless they have been adopted by the U.S. citizen step parent.
The FAM notes that children acquiring U.S. citizenship under the Child Citizenship Act are not eligible for form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad of Citizen of the United States of America or form DS-1350, Certification of Birth, which are processed by consular sections at US embassies and consular posts overseas.
The acquisition of U.S. citizenship under the revised INA 320 or revised INA 322 is a form of expedited administrative naturalization.  The FAM cite further notes that Section 322 INA is administered exclusively by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
So it looks like what this policy update does in attempt to clarify what “residence” means, and it removes the exception  under the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA) for children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States. One of the requirements under INA 320 is that “The child is residing in the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent. [5]  
One source who did consular work told us that it may be that U.S. military serving overseas are considered resident on, for instance, a U.S. base in Germany. Well, in fact, the USCIS still has this in their footnotes as of this writing: 

“5. [^] See INA 320. See 8 CFR 320.2. Children of U.S. government employees temporarily stationed abroad are considered to be “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320. 

We borrowed another head which happens to be a consular one, and he/she thought that with this policy change of what is a “residence,” U.S. citizens could not just be on TDY to the United States or on a visit to obtain citizenship for their children, they have to be residing in the United States. Whereas in the past, military members or FS members may be able to arrive in the US. and get naturalization for their children then return overseas to continue their assignment, it appears that this new update would make it so that U.S. citizen parents have to do the naturalization on behalf of their minor children at the end of their overseas tours and when they are permanently relocating to the United States. At least, that’s how we’re reading this policy update at this time. We’re happy to entertain other interpretations.
We’ve checked the USCIS website to see what this means in terms of processing fees and time.  The USCIS website which has not been updated yet as of last night notes that per INA 320, the child must be under 18 years of age and must be a legal permanent resident in order to qualify. In order to obtain a Certificate of Citizenship, a child who has automatically acquired citizenship must follow the instructions on the Application for Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-600). This cost $1,170 and the fee applies even if the applicant is filing as an adopted child or as a child of a veteran or member of the U.S. armed forces. Processing time for an N-600 case according to USCIS is between 5 Months to 24.5 Months (same for Newark, NJ, and WashDC but may vary for other areas).
Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS no longer considers children of U.S. government employees and U.S. armed forces members residing outside the United States as “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquiring citizenship under INA 320, but they may still apply under INA 322.

In general, INA 322 provides that a parent who is a U.S. citizen (or, if the citizen parent has died during the preceding five years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born and residing outside of the United States who has not acquired citizenship automatically under INA 320. The child must naturalize before he or she reaches 18 years of age.

See Children of Service Members Residing Abroad (INA 322). (Form N-600K) This also cost $1,170. Processing time for an N-600K case in El Paso, TX is between 6.5 Months to 28.5; same processing time for Los Angeles, CA, although the time may vary in other locations; we haven;’t checked all the locations).
Based on USCIS info, the processing fees are the same either way, but applications under INA 322 may take slightly longer than applications INA 320.  Are there any other ways where the INA 322 process is different or more challenging to applicants? We’ll update this post if we learn anything more.

 

Related items:

301.7 IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT OF 1952

301.1 (U) ACQUISITION BY BIRTH IN THE UNITED STATES

8 FAM 301.10 ACQUISITION OF U.S. CITIZENSHIP BY THE CHILD CITIZENSHIP ACT

 

@USAID May Get a New Logo For ‘America First’ Era, Then What?

 

 

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IRS to Individuals With Significant Tax Debts: Act Now to Avoid Passport Revocations

 

We’ve blogged previously about the potential revocation of passports for those with substantial tax debts to the Internal Revenue Service (see Officially On: Revocation/Denial of Passport For Americans With Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt;   IRS to Start Certifying Unpaid Taxes of $50K+ in Early 2017 For Revocation/Denial of US PassportsNew Law Authorizes Revocation or Denial of U.S. Passports to Certain Tax Delinquents).
Recently, the IRS again reminded individuals with significant tax debts to act promptly to avoid the revocation of their passports. See the sample IRS notice below or click this PDF file. Click here for a guide in understanding the IRS notice.

Click on image to see the “seriously delinquent” IRS notice

Via IRS:

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the IRS notifies the State Department (State) of taxpayers certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, which is currently $52,000 or more. The law then requires State to deny their passport application or renewal. If a taxpayer currently has a valid passport, State may revoke the passport or limit a taxpayer’s ability to travel outside the United States.

When the IRS certifies a taxpayer to State as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, the taxpayer receives a Notice CP508C from the IRS. The notice explains what steps the taxpayer needs to take to resolve the debt. IRS telephone assistors can help taxpayers resolve the debt. For example, they can help taxpayers set up a payment plan or make them aware of other payment options. Taxpayers should not delay because some resolutions take longer than others.

Don’t Delay!

It’s especially important for taxpayers with imminent travel plans who have had their passport applications denied by State to call the IRS promptly. The IRS can help taxpayers resolve their tax issues and expedite reversal of their certification to State. When expedited, the IRS can generally shorten the 30 days processing time by 14 to 21 days. For expedited reversal of their certification, taxpayers will need to inform the IRS that they have travel scheduled within 45 days or that they live abroad.

For expedited treatment, taxpayers must provide the following documents to the IRS:

      • Proof of travel. This can be a flight itinerary, hotel reservation, cruise ticket, international car insurance or other document showing location and approximate date of travel or time-sensitive need for a passport.
      • Copy of letter from State denying their passport application or revoking their passport. State has sole authority to issue, limit, deny or revoke a passport.

The IRS may ask State to exercise its authority to revoke a taxpayer’s passport. For example, the IRS may recommend revocation if the IRS had reversed a taxpayer’s certification because of their promise to pay, and they failed to pay. The IRS may also ask State to revoke a passport if the taxpayer could use offshore activities or interests to resolve their debt but chooses not to.

Before contacting State about revoking a taxpayer’s passport, the IRS will send Letter 6152, Notice of Intent to Request U.S. Department of State Revoke Your Passport, to the taxpayer to let them know  what the IRS intends to do and give them another opportunity to resolve their debts . Taxpayers must call the IRS within 30 days from the date of the letter. Generally, the IRS will not recommend revoking a taxpayer’s passport if the taxpayer is making a good-faith attempt to resolve their tax debts.

Ways to Resolve Tax Issues

There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify State of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include the following:

      • Paying the tax debt in full,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
      • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
      • Having a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
      • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.
The IRS says that taxpayers may ask for a payment plan with the IRS by filing Form 9465. Some taxpayers may also qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the tax liability for less than the full amount owed.  The IRS notes that it will not certify a taxpayer as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt or will reverse the certification for a taxpayer under certain circumstances. For instance, taxpayers who are in bankruptcy, those who have been identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft, or those who are located within a federally declared disaster area will not be certified for purposes of passport revocation.
There is also an exception for those serving in combat zones: “taxpayers serving in a combat zone who owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department of the delinquency and the taxpayer’s passport is not subject to denial during the time of service in a combat zone. Read in full here.

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Ex-Diplomat William Patrick Syring Gets 60 Months in Prison For Hate Crime

 

We’ve posted previously about William Patrick Syring, a former foreign service officer who was indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) on February 21, 2018.  Syring was previously charged in 2006 for similar threats in four emails and three voicemails. He retired from the State Department in July 2007 and he pled guilty to that previous case in June 2008. He was sentenced on federal civil rights charges for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin. Syring was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 12 months of imprisonment followed by 3 years of post-release supervision, 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. He reportedly was released from prison early in January 2009.
In February 2018, he was again  indicted for hate crime and threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.
On August 15, USDOJ announced that Syring was sentenced to 60 months in prison for committing hate crime by threatening employees of the Arab American Institute.  He will be in prison until 2024.

Via DOJ: Virginia Man Sentenced To 60 Months In Prison For Committing Hate Crime By Threatening Employees Of The Arab American Institute

William Patrick Syring, 61, of Arlington, Virginia, was today sentenced to 60 months in prison for threatening employees of the Arab American Institute (AAI) because of their race and national origin, threatening AAI employees because of their efforts to encourage Arab Americans to participate in political and civic life in the United States, and transmitting threats to AAI employees in interstate commerce.

“Threats aimed to intimidate individuals based on their ethnic or racial origin are despicable violations of civil rights freedoms protected by our constitution,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “The Department of Justice will continue to fight to preserve the basic rights of people to live, work, and speak in their communities without the fear of hostility based on racism.”

“Investigating hate crimes is one of the FBI’s highest criminal priorities; these hateful acts are not only an attack on the victim, but are meant to intimidate an entire community,” said Timothy R. Slater, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to holding accountable those who seek to violate the civil rights of the people of our community through violent threats.”

Evidence presented at trial established that from 2012 to 2017, Syring sent over 700 emails to AAI employees, culminating in five death threats in 2017. According to court documents, Syring previously pleaded guilty in 2008 to sending threatening emails to AAI employees. Evidence presented at trial showed that Syring used nearly identical language that he admitted were threats in 2008 as he did in 2017.

According to testimony in court, AAI employees were frightened of Syring because he had sent them death threats in the past and continued to do so over a decade later. Additionally, according to witness testimony, many AAI employees lived in fear that Syring would follow through on his threats and physically harm them. They further testified to the toll it took on them personally and their families and loved ones.

On May 9, Syring was convicted on all 14 counts in the indictment, including seven hate crime charges and seven interstate threats charges. The case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Senior Legal Counsel Mark Blumberg and Trial Attorney Nick Reddick.

Co-founder of the Arab American Institute, James Zogby, who along with his staff were the recipients of Syring’s threats wrote about it here:

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