FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATE DEPARTMENT CONSULAR OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY TO VISA FRAUD
WASHINGTON, D.C. Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division announced today that State Department consular officer Alexander J. Meerovich, of Burke, Virginia, pleaded guilty this afternoon before the Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to visa fraud, a felony violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1546.
From August 1999 until July 2002, Meerovich was a Consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic. His duties included interviewing applicants for U.S. visas, reviewing the applications, and approving non-immigrant visas for travel to the United States.
According to the plea documents, in January 2000, Meerovich entered into an illegal scheme to accept money in exchange for providing U.S. visas. Between April 2000 and May 2002, Meerovich arranged for the fraudulent processing of at least 85 visa applications in exchange for such cash payments, which totaled at least $50,000.
The maximum penalties for a violation of section 1546 are 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Meerovich, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 3, 2003.
"The illegal sale of U.S. visas strikes at the very heart of the government's efforts to secure our borders and protect the national security," said Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff. "Those who betray the public's trust for their own financial gain will be prosecuted."
Ambassador Francis X. Taylor, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security, said: "The State Department has no tolerance for employees who commit visa fraud. We will continue to investigate all visa fraud allegations vigorously and seek to prosecute and punish those engaged in this criminal activity to the full extent of the law."
This case is being prosecuted by the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, and was investigated by the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service. The Departments of State and Justice have worked together on a number of investigations into visa fraud at U.S. consular offices, including a probe that led to the closing of the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and the arrest of four individuals.