My commentary today is predicated upon a Department of Justice (DOJ) press release titled, “U.S. Navy Reserves Officer Appeared on Charges of Alleged Bribery and Visa Fraud.”
The statement raises many more questions than it answers — both about the specific case and more broadly about how the Biden DOJ pursues, or refuses to pursue, investigations involving elements of the immigration system.
The effective and accurate screening of aliens who seek to enter the United States is a key responsibility and primary purpose of our immigration system. Indeed, 8 U.S. Code § 1182 enumerates the classes of aliens who are inadmissible because they would pose a threat to public health, public safety, national security, and/or the jobs and wages of American workers.
The issuance of visas is a critical element of the immigration system that is supposed to properly vet aliens and also make certain these aliens are entitled to the categories of visas for which they apply.
The preface of the “9/11 and Terrorist Travel – Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” report begins with the following paragraph:
It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11, while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed, even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe, for reasons we discuss in the following pages, that it must be made one.
Page 61 of that report contained this passage:
Exploring the Link between Human Smugglers and Terrorists In July 2001, the CIA warned of a possible link between human smugglers and terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that since 1999 human smugglers have facilitated the travel of terrorists associated with more than a dozen extremist groups. With their global reach and connections to fraudulent document vendors and corrupt government officials, human smugglers clearly have the “credentials” necessary to aid terrorist travel.
Furthermore, on May 18, 2004, I testified at a hearing conducted by the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security ad Claims on the topic, “Pushing the Border Out on Alien Smuggling: New Tools And Intelligence Initiatives.”
The title of that hearing was a reference to how an effectively administered visa program can push U.S. borders out to the consulates and embassies where visas are issued, thereby enhancing national security.
Nevertheless, for unfathomable reasons, the Biden administration has inexplicably worked to undermine border security and immigration law enforcement from within the interior of the U.S. during an especially perilous era.
America faces multiple threats posed by adversarial nations that seek the demise of our nation. America is also threatened by many transnational gangs, narcotics trafficking organizations, and terrorist organizations.
Now we come to the DOJ press release that begins with this excerpt:
A Florida man who serves as a Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves appeared today on criminal charges related to an alleged bribery scheme involving special visas for Afghan nationals.
According to court documents, Jeromy Pittmann, 53, of Pensacola, Florida, currently residing in Naples, Italy, was paid to draft, submit, or falsely verify false letters of recommendation for citizens of Afghanistan who applied to the U.S. Department of State for Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs).
There is a limited supply of SIVs each year for Afghan nationals employed as translators for U.S. military personnel. Pittmann is alleged to have signed over 20 false letters in which he represented, among other things, that he had supervised the applicants while they worked as translators in support of the U.S. Army and NATO; that the applicants’ lives were in jeopardy because the Taliban considered them to be traitors; and that he did not think the applicants posed a threat to the national security of the United States. In exchange, Pittmann is alleged to have received thousands of dollars in bribes
Pittmann made his initial appearance today. He is charged with accepting bribes and conspiring to commit visa fraud. If convicted of both counts, he faces up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney John J. Farley for the District of New Hampshire; Inspector General John F. Sopko of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR); Special Agent in Charge Eric Maddox of the Economic Crimes Field Office of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS); and Special Agent in Charge Stanley A. Newell of the Transnational Operations Field Office of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) made the announcement.
SIGAR, NCIS, and DCIS are investigating the case.
Let’s begin by noting that the defendant in this case is charged with providing false statements in conjunction with at least 20 applications for visas for aliens who are seeking entry into the U.S. from Afghanistan, a country that has an established nexus with international terrorists groups.
Consider that Biden’s catastrophic policies have created a national security nightmare for America and Americans.
As a rule, such investigations of visa fraud are conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and may also involve agents of the U.S. Department of State.
In this case, however, there is no mention of any ICE agents or State Department agents being involved in the investigation or prosecution. This is significant because in pursuing such investigations, it is of great importance to have agents on board who have expertise in the subject matter to facilitate the investigation or prosecution of violations of the laws involved.
The apparent lack of ICE agents in this case may explain why other criminal charges are not being sought in this case that may well have serious national security implications.
While it is true that the defendant is being charged with accepting a bribe and visa fraud, under the provisions of 18 U.S. Code § 1546 the defendant may face up to 25 years in prison for each of the approximately 20 applications that were filed if the fraud was committed to facilitate terrorism.
This brings us to fact that the press release made no mention as to whether or not any of the aliens actually entered the U.S. or if any were charged with committing fraud or conspiring to commit fraud.
The defendant is alleged to have accepted bribes in exchange for his false statements. However, there is no mention of who provided the money to him. Was an alien smuggling ring involved in this scheme? If so, what is being done to identify all of the participants in such a ring? This sort of investigation is routine for ICE agents but not for those who are involved in this specific case.
I hate to speculate, but given comments made by the DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas indicating he would not pursue most fraud investigations, we cannot ignore the very real possibility that DHS, of which ICE is a component agency, simply refuses to provide assistance in this case or other cases like it.
©Michael Cutler. All rights reserved.