NYC Theft Attorney Discusses Charges of Visa Fraud
If you are one of the many legal immigrants living and working in the United States, you likely recall the painstakingly lengthy process involved in applying for and obtaining legitimate immigration papers. Theft of these documents not only raises concerns over national security, but can place your legal alien status in jeopardy. If you are facing a recent charge of visa or passport theft under New York or federal laws, a New York Theft Attorney should be your first line of defense against prosecutors eager to revoke your legal status and send you to your native country. To avoid this disastrous result, we encourage you to contact our office right away so that we can help you negotiate with the government and remain lawfully within the United States. Likewise, if you are an American citizen charged with any sort of immigration fraud crime, our New York Theft Attorney can help you avoid the hefty state and federal penalties awaiting anyone convicted of this sort of violation.
Types of Immigration Documentation Crimes and Scams
Immigration documentation includes work visas, passports and any other papers necessary for maintaining a lawful identity within the U.S. Theft of these documents often occurs pursuant to scams against vulnerable, unsuspecting victims, many of whom are working through the obstacles of a language or cultural barrier. Other visa theft scenarios involve outright criminal conspiracies or enterprises by unscrupulous individuals looking to make quick money from foreign citizens seeking entry into the U.S. Common visa theft crimes and scams include any of the following:
- Producing counterfeit and forged documents for use by foreigners seeking admission to the U.S.
- Using or possessing counterfeit documents
- Falsifying the age, date of birth or legal name of any individual seeking admission to the U.S.
- Forging or altering nonimmigrant visas
- Impersonation of others
- Use of falsified naturalization or citizenship documents
- Engaging in marriage fraud
Crimes Under New York Law
While the majority of visa and passport fraud violations are prosecuted under federal law, New York theft laws also apply to the situation, resulting in serious fines and penalties for the alleged perpetrator. First, New York Penal Code Law 170.0 makes it a crime to intentionally and knowingly forge a document, including a visa. In fact, New York law contains three distinct forgery crimes, ranging in severity depending upon the type of document involved. Forgery in the second degree, which carries a maximum possible jail sentence of up to four years, involves the falsification of several important legal documents, including those which are created or issued by the state or federal government.
Secondly, New York law imposes additional potential criminal culpability upon an individual in possession of a forged document, including any official instrument issued by the state or federal government. This New York crime is considered a “Category D” felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Federal Visa Fraud Laws
The bulk of the criminal culpability associated with visa theft is found in the federal criminal codes, and the penalties awaiting any person convicted of these crimes are steep. First, federal law prohibits “Fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents” under Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1546. More specifically, the statute criminalizes the act of knowingly “forging, counterfeiting, altering or falsely making any immigrant or non-immigrant visa, permit, border crossing card, alien registration receipt card or other document prescribed by statute or regulation for entry into or as evidence of authorized stay or employment in the United States.” This crime carries a potential jail sentence of up to 25 years (if relating to international terrorism), 20 years (if related to drug trafficking), 15 years (for a repeat offender) or 10 years for a first or second offense. In addition, the federal government can impose a fine up to $250,000 for each offense.
In addition to the straightforward statute directly addressing visa fraud, visa theft can fall under several other criminal categories, including:
Defenses to Visa Fraud
If you are facing a Visa fraud charge, there are several possible defenses available to your New York visa theft attorney. First, these crimes require a certain mental element specifically showing that the alleged perpetrator intended to commit the fraudulent act. The first line of defense, therefore, is to assert a lack of the requisite mental intent, which is accomplished by asserting that the defendant did not know he was committing a visa fraud or theft crime at the time of the incident.
If you are facing an enhanced sentence due to the government’s assertions that you have prior visa theft charges, are involved in drug trafficking or are in some way connected to international terrorism, your New York theft attorney will work diligently to refute these claims and reduce your sentence to an appropriate level. Likewise, an experienced New York visa theft lawyer will highlight positives in your case and other mitigating circumstances, thereby shedding the most possible light on your defense.
Contact a New York Theft Attorney Today
If you are facing a Visa fraud or theft crime, a New York theft attorney can offer thorough and aggressive representation on your behalf. If you are an immigrant, any criminal conviction could result in a deportation and removal from the United States, which we will work hard to avoid.
In order to protect your rights and keep your reputation intact, please contact our office right away to set up your appointment. To work with a New York theft crimes attorney you can trust, reach out to attorney Frederick L. Sosinsky by calling (212) 285-2270 today.