This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 SAN SALVADOR 000198
DEPT FOR CA/FPP; DEPT ALSO PASS TO KCC; POSTS FOR FRAUD
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR FRAUD SUMMARY 1ST QUARTER FY06
REF: 05 STATE 205073
In response to reftel, Post is updating its fraud
summary information for the first quarter of FY06.
1. Political Structure: El Salvador is a constitutional
democracy with three branches of national government; a
unicameral legislature, a judiciary, and an executive branch
headed by a president. El Salvador has a multi-party
political system, although in reality two parties, the right
leaning National Republican Alliance (ARENA) and the left
leaning Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN),
garnered more than 92 percent of the votes in the 2004
Presidential Election. The country is divided into fourteen
administrative departments, and further divided into 262
municipalities that are led by elected mayors.
2. Economy: El Salvador has a market-based economy and
uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency.
Historically, agricultural exports (including coffee, sugar,
and shrimp) accounted for a majority of the Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) but during the 1990s the service sector and
light manufacturing became the leading contributors. The
agricultural sector continues to be an important employer of
the country's approximately 6.8 million citizens, but over
half the population is employed in services, led by retail
services. The average monthly income is 250 USD.
Remittances from Salvadoran expatriates in the United States
and elsewhere are the largest single source of foreign
income, equaling 16.6 percent of 2005 GDP. In 2005 El
Salvador received 2.8 billion dollars in remittances.
3. Gangs: Violent crime, especially homicide, is at a
critical level in El Salvador. Many urban areas, including
sections of the capital, provide an environment in which
gang members, such as the MS-13 and 18th Street, may
transit, live and operate with relative freedom from
prosecution. These gangs engage in alien smuggling and drug
trafficking to the United States. The Salvadoran government
through the National Civil Police (PNC) is attempting to
combat the gang problem with a specialized task force and
targeted programs. Enhanced cooperation with other
countries, especially the United States, has the potential
to stem the increase of gang-related violence.
4. Illegal Immigration: El Salvador is a source of chronic
illegal immigration into the United States. Conservative
estimates put the number of people leaving El Salvador at
approximately 300 per day. Alien smugglers, also known as
"coyotes," make a lucrative income from these illegal
immigrants by charging thousands of dollars per person.
Many Salvadorans admire the coyotes for their on- the-ground
success in assisting Salvadorans to reach the United States
and send back money on which many families, and indirectly
the country, depend.
5. Document Unreliability: Salvadoran civil documents have
an extremely low level of credibility. Each of the 262
municipalities independently issue birth, death, and
marriage certificates. Each municipality established its
own format for these documents and periodically updates the
format with no set schedule. Most municipalities require
little or no proof of the information they formally
document, and fraud perpetrated by both individual citizens
and municipal civil registry officials is commonplace.
Consequently, consular officers encounter numerous civil
documents with no standardized format or security features
and minimal credibility. A Salvadoran law mandates the
National Civil Registry (RNPN), to assume responsibility for
centralizing and standardizing the issuance and archiving of
all civil documents, but the municipalities are resisting
compliance, claiming the law infringes municipal authority.
6. National Identity Document: The most secure civil
document in El Salvador is the National Identification Card
(DUI) issued by the RNPN. The DUI is available to all
Salvadorans over the age of eighteen and is required for
bank transactions, many business transactions, voting, and
for issuance of a Salvadoran passport. The DUI's
sophisticated security features, including biometric
fingerprinting, gives the document a high degree of
credibility. According to the RNPN, more than 90 percent of
the adult population is documented with a DUI.
7. Air Traffic to the U.S.: El Salvador's international
airport hosts over ten direct flights per day to U.S.
destinations, including Houston, Washington, D.C., Los
Angeles, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Miami, and Dallas-Fort
Worth. With so many direct flights to the United States, El
Salvador is experiencing an increase in the use of its
international airport as a transit point by alien smugglers.
Those being smuggled by air most often originate from Asia,
notably China, but Ecuadorians, Brazilians, Cubans and other
nationalities have attempted to transit El Salvador for the
U.S. using false or fraudulently obtained travel documents.
8. Background Conclusion: El Salvador offers a large
portion of its population poor living conditions. Fraudulent
civil documents are commonplace and easily obtained. The
large size and relative affluence of the Salvadoran
community in the United States encourages other Salvadorans
to seek a better life for themselves and their families by
immigrating to the United States, legally or otherwise. El
Salvador's geographic proximity to the U.S. and regular air
connections make it an attractive transit point for alien
smugglers. In combination, these factors create an
environment of chronic fraud and established El Salvador as
a strategically important location for alien smugglers.
9. Ninety-four percent of visa applications at Post are for
B1/B2's, and most NIV fraud is detected in this category.
Fraudulent and fraudulently-obtained documents such as birth
and death certificates, immigration stamps, tax documents,
job letters, and even passports are presented regularly to
support NIV applications. Document vendors often offer a
"package" of false documents and coach applicants for their
10. The most common NIV document fraud involves the
purchase of false Salvadoran immigration stamps to hide the
applicant's overstay in the United States. Applicants most
often present their own passports with false stamps for visa
renewal. Also common is the presentation of the
fraudulently stamped passport of a family member of the
applicant. While the stamp indicates the family member has
returned to El Salvador, in fact, he or she remains in the
United States. Consular officers are trained to recognize
false stamps and refer these cases to FPU for confirmation
with Salvadoran Immigration officials before final
11. Also common is the presentation of false Salvadoran
birth certificates submitted in efforts to smuggle minors
into the United States. In most cases the minor's
grandparents or other relatives pose as the parents for the
visa interview, because the actual parents are in the U.S.
illegally. The minors and the putative parents apply for
visas with authentic, but fraudulently-obtained, birth
certificates. Late birth registrations of one year or more
is a common indicator of this type of fraud.
12. Applicants often submit fraudulent tax documents, job
letters, and bank statements in an effort to overcome 214b.
These documents are among the easiest to detect, but are
nonetheless popular with applicants who often purchase them
from document vendors.
13. The number of H2B visa applications rose in the past
year by 66 percent, although Post's H2B volume still trails
the two regional leaders, Mexico and Guatemala. The
increase in H2B applications accompanied an increase in H2B-
related fraud. A recent case involved a local recruiter
advertising the opportunity to work in the United States.
Interested applicants were charged a 10 USD consultancy fee
to be evaluated for acceptance into the program. If
accepted into the work program the applicant must pay an
additional 500 USD to the recruiter. The applicant's name
is then included in a valid petition sponsored by the U.S.
company that the recruiter represents. If the applicant is
granted a work visa under this petition they are required to
pay upwards of 4,000 USD from their US salaries to the
recruiter. In preparation for their visa interviews, the
applicants are coached by the recruiters to answer all
questions according to a practiced script and to deny that
any additional fees were required to be included in the
petition. When consular officers detect this type of fraud
they refuse the applicants under 214b. Post is conducting
outreach efforts to warn the general public about these
schemes and is cooperating with Salvadoran police to
identify and convict these recruiters.
14. Post encounters frequent family-based IV fraud.
Applicants often submit false birth certificates to qualify
for immigrant visas. Some cases involve beneficiaries who
are relatives, but not the children, of the petitioner and
consequently are not eligible for immigrant visas. In these
cases, the petitioner submits a false birth certificate that
documents the beneficiary as the petitioner's child. In
other cases, beneficiaries submit fraudulent birth
certificates to hide the fact that they have aged out of
their category. Salvadoran documents have such low
credibility that DNA testing to prove parentage is required
for all beneficiaries who submit birth certificates
registered one year or more after the child's purported date
of birth. When faced with the prospect of DNA testing many
beneficiaries admit to attempted fraud.
15. Employment-based IV fraud is rarely detected in El
16. El Salvador is not a Diversity Visa Lottery Program
ACS and Passport Fraud
17. The most common type of passport fraud in El Salvador
is perpetrated by imposters using authentic U.S. birth
certificates to fraudulently obtain U.S. passports. In most
of these cases, the parents of Salvadoran minors obtain
authentic U.S. birth certificates and either claim their
child lost a previous passport or provide false identity
evidence to obtain a U.S. passport for the child.
18. Another form of imposter fraud involves U.S. citizens
lending, selling, or renting their valid passports to others
with similar physical characteristics for illegal entry into
the United States. Imposters also have attempted to renew
valid U.S. passports so that the new passport will contain
their photograph instead of that of the original passport
19. Following wide-spread kidnapping and adoption fraud
during El Salvador's civil war (1980 - 1992), the Salvadoran
Government instituted a rigorous and time-consuming adoption
process. Given the bureaucracy associated with the adoption
process in El Salvador, very few US citizens choose to adopt
in El Salvador. No adoption fraud has been detected.
Asylum and other DHS benefit fraud
20. DHS's USCIS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) have offices in El Salvador. The Consular Section
does not process Visa 92/93 cases.
Cooperation with Host Government Authorities
21. The Consular Section enjoys outstanding cooperation
with the PNC, airport security, Immigration, and the RNPN.
22. In May 2005 Post's Consular Section coordinated with
the PNC Border Division to initiate a program in which the
PNC arrests perpetrators of civil document fraud. Under
this program, when FPU confirms civil document fraud it
notifies the PNC, which apprehends the perpetrator
immediately after he or she leaves the Embassy compound.
The PNC then questions the detainee to gather more
information about document vendor rings.
23. Per FAM guidance, Post regularly complies with PNC law
enforcement requests to verify visa information related to
ongoing criminal investigations. These requests also enable
Post to obtain information about criminal suspects,
including their name, date of birth, and the nature of the
crime for which they are being investigated. If the crime
involves a visa ineligibility, the FPU enters a related P
hit for the individual in CLASS.
24. The FPU conducts an airport visit program that includes
regular visits by officers and LES staff. The visits give
consular personnel opportunities to present counter-fraud
training for airline personnel, Salvadoran Immigration, and
Airport Security officials and to reinforce the excellent
relationships the Consular Section has with airport
25. Post regularly requests that the RNPN confirm the
identity and civil status of visa applicants. Host
government response to these requests is excellent.
Areas of Particular Concern
26. El Salvador and the United States share an increasing
problem with crime committed by the Salvadoran-based but
transnational gangs MS-13 and 18th Street. To limit the
ability of Salvadoran gang members to enter the United
States, in June 2005 the Departments of State and Homeland
Security approved an expanded interpretation of INA
ineligibility 212(a)(3)(a)(ii) to exclude active members of
Salvadoran-based gangs from receiving immigration benefits.
Since then, Post has denied immigrant visas to several
applicants using this ineligibility. Post also entered the
names of more than 6,500 suspected active gang members into
CLASS under the expanded ineligibility. The names were
provided by the FBI and the Salvadoran Gang Task Force.
Post is exploring ways to expand its cooperation with
Salvadoran authorities and the FBI to better identify gang
members and track their efforts to cross international
Staffing and Training
27. Post's FPU consists of two full-time LES Fraud
Prevention Investigators (FPI), one full-time LES Fraud
Prevention Analyst (FPA), and a full-time consular officer
as Fraud Prevention Manager (FPM). Both the FPM and the FPA
are one-year rotational positions that will have new
incumbents in June 2006.
28. The current FPM attended the Fraud Prevention for
Consular Managers course (PC-541) at FSI in February 2005.
The senior investigator attended the FSN Fraud Prevention
Course in Washington in November 2002 and attended training
at Post in April 2005 on how to investigate money
laundering. The FPU's deputy FPI and the FPA never received
formal fraud prevention training, but the unit would greatly
benefit from such training. The incoming Fraud Prevention
Manager should attend the Fraud Prevention for Consular
Managers course before assuming the role of Fraud Prevention
29. Fraud detection training materials for U.S. documents
in Power Point would be extremely useful. The materials
would provide a degree of consistency for training post's
partners around the world and would ensure that future
updates to training materials could be made globally.
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