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 You are in: Under Secretary for Management > Bureau of Diplomatic Security > News from the Bureau of Diplomatic Security > Bureau of Diplomatic Security: Testimonies, Speeches, and Remarks > 2004

The Danger Marriage Fraud Poses to the National Security of the United States

Tom Depenbrock, Special Agent in Charge, San Francisco Field Office, Bureau of Diplomatic Security
Remarks to members of the Seattle media at a press conference on Operation Pit Boss, a 19-month investigation of a marriage fraud ring.
Seattle, WA
December 9, 2004

[As prepared for delivery.]

I am Special Agent Tom Depenbrock of the San Francisco Field Office of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security with the U.S. Department of State. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security has worked closely with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Seattle for more than 19 months on Operation Pit Boss, an investigation of marriage fraud ring.

I am here today to deliver a clear message. Marriage and visa fraud potentially threaten the national security of the United States. Terrorism is an additional type of threat associated with these crimes. The U.S. visa is one of the most coveted items in the world, and foreign nationals have acquired visas fraudulently to enter the United States with the intent to harm people. Americans who marry strangers from countries known to harbor terrorists make the United States more vulnerable to terrorism, plain and simple.

These crimes affect the American economy as well. These foreign nationals who enter the country illegally via marriage fraud or any other type of fraud are defrauding the United States of immigration benefits to which they are not entitled. These crimes violate the legal immigration process. They also threaten the integrity of the system for others who abide by U.S. immigration laws.

Marriage fraud also threatens Americans who are lured into committing this crime through monetary gain. Frequently, the scheme will require the American to live with a stranger who is now his or her new “spouse.” We have seen instances where the foreign spouse has gained access to bank accounts and other personal information and left the American in financial trouble.

We have also seen cases of human trafficking related to marriage fraud. Foreign women have become involved in mail-order bride scams to escape their lives in their native country. Instead of living the life of comfort they were promised, many are subjected to physical violence or prostitution once they reach the United States. These women are bound to a life of abuse because they know if they lose the sponsorship of their spouse, they will be deported and will never again be eligible for a U.S. visa.

Marriage fraud is a serious crime. Participants may think their single fraudulent marriage will not be discovered, but by committing this crime, they face prosecution along with the larger ring. In previously prosecuted marriage fraud cases, individuals were sentenced up to 5 years in prison and fined as much as $250,000 for involvement in the scheme.

In closing, I want to reemphasize the seriousness of these crimes. They threaten our national, economic, and personal security. No one wins, and the consequences are far greater than the potential gains. Diplomatic Security is firmly committed to working with our law enforcement partners in the United States and around the world to fight marriage and visa fraud, and bring those who commit these crimes to justice. Thank you.

Released on December 8, 2004

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