08/25/13 - McClatchy Washington Bureau - Fraud turns US focus to phony Cuban birth certificates
When immigration authorities broke up a scheme last year that allowed
scores of foreigners from Latin America to easily claim legal U.S.
residence and obtain a green cards, the federal government immediately
focused attention on one key document: the Cuban birth certificate.
Investigators found that fraudulent birth certificates were being sold to
dozens of foreign nationals by a Kissimmee, Fla., man who pretended to be a
high-ranking immigration official.
The group, led by Idel Morejon, 41, sold fake Cuban birth certificates to
about 50 undocumented immigrants, bringing in more than $500,000. Morejon
used elaborate tactics to ensure that his clients persuaded immigration
officials that they were really Cubans, even coaching them on what to say.
A Cuban birth certificate is a valuable document because undocumented Cuban
nationals can be admitted into the United States and apply for a green
cards after more than a year in the country under the Cuban Adjustment Act
The arrest and prosecution of the Cuban-born Morejon and his counterfeit
birth certificate ring prompted federal immigration authorities to step up
scrutiny of permanent U.S. residency applications. Up until the fraud case,
most Cuban applicants could file their applications and receive their green
cards - all by mail.
Now, immigration officials are scheduling more face-to-face interviews of
applicants whose paperwork raises red flags, spending more on overtime to
check documents and backgrounds and sending teams around the country to
train other officials on how to spot fraudulent documents.
Linda Swacina, director of the Miami U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Services district Director, confirmed that her agency and other federal
agencies have implemented stricter measures to detect fraudulent
applications and refer them to investigators and prosecutors.
"Every application is getting more scrutiny," she said. "We've been around
for 10 years now as (part of the) Department of Homeland Security and we're
continuing to learn and we're continuing to develop stronger fraud
detection methods to be able to identify the patterns better. We want to
get the word out that we're looking very closely and we're a lot better at
finding (fraud) than we used to be."
A fraud detection and national security directorate, in place for several
years, has enabled the immigration agency to more efficiently detect
fraudulent documents. The discovery of Morejon's ring of counterfeiters
turned out to be one of the unit's biggest catches.
Morejon began his counterfeit birth certificate ring in 2009, selling the
fake documents to Argentines, Colombians, Costa Ricans, Mexicans,
Peruvians, Salvadorans and Venezuelans - all of whom were already in the
United States without papers. Each paid on average $10,000 to $15,000 per
Here's how the scheme worked, according to federal court records:
Morejon would take some foreign nationals to the Florida Keys and leave
them there to pose as newly arrived rafters from Cuba. When immigration
officials picked them up, he told them to say they were Cuban and advised
them to know every detail of their birth certificate.
"So, if I tell you: 'Where were you born?' At this moment you have your
(birth certificate). Where were you born?" asks Morejon, according to a
transcript of a recording, made secretly. secretly recorded tape.
"I was born in Havana .?.?. no, in Guinness, Guinness, Cuba," replied the
migrant referring to the town of Guines, 30 miles southeast of Havana.
Morejon also advised migrants not to talk too much while in the custody of
immigration authorities, apparently to avoid detection of their non-Cuban
On Jan. 28, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga sentenced Morejon to 33
months in prison and three years of supervised release.
It was at Morejon's sentencing in Miami federal court that the first
details emerged about the immigration agency's increased efforts to detect
Lorraine Tashman, an assistant U.S. attorney, listed all the measures that
immigration authorities, specifically USCIS, have taken, as a way to
persuade U Altonaga to impose a tougher sentence on Morejon.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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