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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Misuse of Passport Federal Defense Lawyers

By Spodek Law Group | February 13, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 28, 2023)

Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:22 pm

Passports and Passport Fraud: A Thrilling Tale of Misrepresentation and Misuse

The Dark Side of Travel Documents

When it comes to passport fraud, the stakes are high. From submitting false information on a passport application to forging and counterfeiting, these crimes are considered serious violations of federal law and can result in harsh consequences.

False Statements and Forgery

It’s a tale as old as time – a person seeking a passport makes a false statement in order to obtain it. This act of deception can lead to a criminal charge of passport fraud. But it doesn’t stop there. Obtaining a passport for another person with false information about their identity, location, or criminal history is just as illegal and can lead to federal charges.

The Motivations Behind Passport Fraud

The reasons behind passport fraud are often shrouded in mystery, but they typically boil down to two things: concealing one’s true identity and avoiding detection. Whether it’s due to a criminal history or a restriction on travel, a person may resort to passport fraud in order to escape scrutiny and ensure passage to another country.

Altering Passports: A Risky Business

When it comes to traditional book-style passports, the rule is simple: don’t alter it in any way. This includes removing stamps that have been placed inside. Doing so could result in an investigation, detention, and preventing travel. These stamps are considered part of the official record and must be left untouched.

The Black Market of Passports

Illegally trafficking passports is a lucrative business, as people seek to create false documents for themselves or others who want to travel or change their identity. Those who engage in this criminal activity do so for the sole purpose of making money.

The Consequences of Trafficking

The consequences of trafficking in passports are severe. From charges of Misuse of a Passport to Conspiracy, the penalties for this crime are steep. If the U.S. postal system or a common carrier is involved, a person could even be charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. And if wire signals, such as emails or wire transfers, are used in the trafficking, the charge could be elevated to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud.

Ties to Drug Trafficking and Terrorism

In some cases, passport fraud may be tied to illegal drug trafficking or smuggling, or even terrorism. In these cases, a federal prosecutor may seek to enhance the charges and impose a greater punishment, given the Alternate Imprisonment Maximum to facilitate drug trafficking or terrorism.

The Hunt for Passport Fraudsters

The U.S. Department of State is responsible for issuing and administering passports, so it’s no surprise that its agents are the ones investigating passport and visa fraud. Working closely with federal prosecutors, these agents aim to bring formal charges against those who violate federal law.

18 U.S. Code Chapter 75: Federal Penal Code for Passport and Visa Offenses

The 18 U.S. Code Chapter 75 outlines the various conduct related to passports and visas that can result in federal criminal charges. This chapter holds seven different statutes, each one with its own set of consequences and penalties for those who are convicted of violating them. Explore each of these statutes in detail:

18 U.S. Code section 1541: Issuance without Authority

Under this statute, a person convicted of acting or claiming to act in an official capacity under the United States and granting or issuing a passport without lawful authority could face severe consequences, including up to 25 years of imprisonment. This penalty only applies if the offense was committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism. For drug trafficking crimes, the maximum penalty is 20 years. Repeat offenders face 15 years of imprisonment, while first-time offenders face 10 years of imprisonment for all other offenses.

18 U.S. Code section 1542: False Statement in Application and Use of Passport

This statute holds individuals accountable for knowingly and willfully making false statements in a passport application with the intent to secure the passport for their own use or someone else’s use, contrary to the laws regulating the issuance of the passport. Violating this statute could result in 25 years of imprisonment if the violation was committed to facilitate international terrorism, 20 years if it was to facilitate a drug crime, and 10 or 15 years in other situations, depending on whether the offense was a first or repeat offense.

18 U.S. Code section 1543: Forgery or False Use of Passport

Falsely making, counterfeiting, forging, mutilating, or altering a passport, or knowingly using a forged or altered passport, is a crime under this statute. The penalties for violating this statute are severe, with consequences ranging from 25 years, 20 years, 15 years, or 10 years imprisonment, depending on the purpose of the forgery or false use of the passport.

18 U.S. Code section 1544: Misuse of Passport

Using or attempting to use someone else’s passport, giving your passport to someone else to use, or attempting to use a passport in a way that violates restrictions is illegal under this statute. Penalties for violating this statute include 25 years, 20 years, 15 years, or 10 years imprisonment if the crime was committed to facilitate terrorism, facilitate drug crimes, or is a first or second offense.

18 U.S. Code section 1545: Safe Conduct Violation

Breaking the safe conduct requirements of U.S. passports could result in a fine and up to 10 years imprisonment under this statute.

18 U.S. Code section 1546: Fraud and Misuse of Visas, Permits, and Other Documents

Counterfeiting, forging, altering, or falsely making visas, permits, or other related documents, or possessing or attempting to use such documents, is unlawful under this statute. Attempting to obtain visas, permits, or other documents using false names, or swearing false statements under oath in connection with such documents, can also result in conviction. The penalties for violating this statute are the same as for other statutes in this chapter.

18 U.S. Code section 1547: Alternative Imprisonment Maximum for Certain Offenses

Under this statute, the maximum term of imprisonment that could be imposed for committing other offenses involving passports not specified elsewhere in order to facilitate a drug crime is 15 years, and for committing offenses in order to facilitate an act of terrorism is 20 years.

What to Do if You’re Detained or Investigated

The laws and regulations surrounding passports and visas in the United States are complex and serious, and the consequences for violating them can be devastating. If you find yourself facing federal criminal charges for a passport or visa offense, it is crucial to seek the help of a knowledgeable and experienced federal criminal defense lawyer who can help you build a strong defense and protect your rights.

We have extensive experience representing clients and have developed a deep understanding of how to best defend clients against federal offenses, including crimes related to passports and visas. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you navigate the complex and serious world of federal criminal charges for passport and visa offenses.

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