Identity and Benefit Fraud
ICE places a high priority on investigating document and benefit fraud. These types of fraud pose a severe threat to national security and public safety because they create a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, other criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States.
Document and benefit fraud are elements of many immigration-related crimes, such as human smuggling and human trafficking. critical infrastructure protection, worksite enforcement. visa compliance enforcement and national security investigations.
Document fraud. also known as identity fraud. is the manufacturing, counterfeiting, alteration, sale, and/or use of identity documents and other fraudulent documents to circumvent immigration laws or for other criminal activity. Identity fraud in some cases also involves identity theft, a crime in which an imposter takes on the identity of a real person (living or deceased).
Benefit fraud is the willful misrepresentation of a material fact on a petition or application to gain an immigration benefit. Benefit fraud can be an extremely lucrative form of white-collar crime, often involving sophisticated schemes and multiple co-conspirators. These schemes can take years to investigate and prosecute.
The Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit is charged with investigating and disrupting document and benefit fraud schemes. It coordinates its investigative efforts with other U.S. Department of Homeland Security components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. as well as other federal agencies such as the U. S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Labor .
The unit also develops and advances policy initiatives and proposes legislative changes to address vulnerabilities in the immigration process to deter fraud and reduce the incentives for committing document and benefit fraud.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) enforces an array of laws related to combating criminal organizations and individuals that exploit the United States immigration process.
Document and benefit fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States. Document fraud, also known as identity fraud, is the manufacture, sale or use of counterfeit identity documents such as fake driver’s licenses, birth certificates, Social Security cards or passports for immigration fraud or other criminal activity. Benefit fraud refers to the misrepresentation or omission of facts on an application to obtain an immigration benefit one is not entitled to, such as U.S. citizenship, political asylum or a valid visa.
To combat this type of fraud, HSI has partnered with federal, state, and local counterparts to create the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, a series of multi-agency teams developed to target criminal organizations and beneficiaries behind these fraudulent schemes.
These task forces maximize resources, eliminate the duplication of efforts and produce a strong law enforcement presence. They combine HSI’s unique criminal and administrative authorities with a variety of tools and authorities from other law enforcement agencies to achieve focused, high-impact criminal prosecutions and financial seizures.
HSI will continue to establish new document and benefit fraud task forces in major metropolitan areas as resources permit. Expanding the coordinated interagency efforts of the document and benefit fraud task forces will prevent future abuses, while ensuring that those who do abuse the system are prosecuted to the fullest extent under the law.
Currently there are 28 Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force locations in the United States:
- El Paso
- Los Angeles
- New Orleans
- Newark, N.J.
- New York
- Orlando, Fla.
- Saint Paul, Minn.
- Salt Lake City
- San Antonio
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Juan, Puerto Rico
- Washington, D.C.
Document Benefit Fraud Task Force Map (PDF | 292 KB)
Marriage fraud is a threat to U.S. national security, public safety and the integrity of the immigration system.
Marriage fraud investigations conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have revealed massive schemes that involve complex criminal organizations.
Neither victimless nor limited in scope, the crime of marriage fraud is anything but a trivial matter. Engaging in this fraud and trading America’s security for financial gain is a felony with serious criminal penalties and consequences.
Types of Marriage Fraud
- A U.S. citizen is paid, or asked to perform a favor, to marry a foreign national;
- “Mail-order” marriage where either the U.S. citizen or alien knows it is a fraud;
- Visa lottery fraudulent marriage; and,
- A foreign national defrauds a U.S. citizen who believes the marriage is legitimate.
An individual will be charged with marriage fraud if they entered into a marriage for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration law. This felony offense carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000, and applies to both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens who perpetrate this crime.
Those charged with marriage fraud may also be charged with visa fraud, harboring an alien, conspiracy and making false statements; each charge carries additional prison sentences and financial penalties.
U.S. citizens who enter into fraudulent marriages assume great personal liability. The foreign spouse may gain access to sensitive, personal information including, but not limited to, bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, retirement and investment accounts, personal identity information, and family heirlooms.
Terrorists and other criminals can use marriage fraud as a vehicle to enter the United States, often due to the willingness of U.S. citizens. They can then hide their identity, gain unlawful employment, access government buildings, and open bank accounts and businesses to conduct further criminal activity.
Participants in marriage fraud may, knowingly or unknowingly, be aiding terrorists, foreign intelligence or other criminal organizations, and will be held accountable.
Marriage Fraud Initiative
HSI has recently launched a nationwide marriage fraud outreach campaign to raise public awareness, educate partner organizations, and deter individuals from engaging in this criminal activity. The Marriage Fraud Initiative (MFI) seeks to counter the common perception among the public and in popular culture that entering into a fraudulent marriage, with the sole purpose of assisting a foreign national with gaining U.S. immigration status, is a harmless transgression with little or no consequences. The MFI highlights not only the damaging impact on public safety, national security, and the integrity of the lawful immigration system, but the potential adverse personal, financial and legal ramifications for U.S. citizens who either knowingly or are duped into participating in sham marriages. The MFI strives to combat and prevent marriage fraud through increased public knowledge, forging long-term partnerships and renewed vigilance.
Marriage Fraud Brochure (PDF | 3.2 MB)
One of the fundamental challenges in combating document fraud at state-level Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) locations is the identification of employee misconduct. In order to enhance identification efforts, ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) developed an outreach initiative to raise awareness about employee misconduct and alert law enforcement to identity and benefit fraud schemes perpetrated at DMV facilities. HSI developed outreach materials that promote accountability and vigilance in an effort to reduce fraud and preserve the integrity of the DMV process. HSI encourages the public and DMV employees to report corruption via the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE and via local DMV tip lines. Reporting this crime gives the public and employees an opportunity to be a part of the solution.
DMV Outreach Poster (PDF | 668 KB)
Operation Genesius was launched in 2009 as a voluntary partnership with the printing industry to share information and develop investigative leads about the practices of organized document fraud rings. Operation Genesius is based upon a similar and successful voluntary partnership project between the London Metropolitan Police Department and printing companies that affords an opportunity for the printing industry to collaborate with ICE to identify and disrupt document fraud. Operation Genesius expanded this collaboration to the stamp making and marking device industries.
Operation Genesius Brochure (PDF | 251 KB)