“Ex-Armenian consular employee pleads to charges in immigration fraud scheme”

Hi Gang:
Yesterday I wrote a commentary about how employees of the Serbian consulate in the United States improperly provided a passport  a citizen of Serbia who had been charged with the brutal assault and battery against an American college student who weighed approximately half of what his assailant weighed.

That passport enabled the assailant to flee from the United States to evade law enforcement and the judicial process.
Today I am providing you with a press release that was published by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on September 21st, that reports on how a former employee of the Armenian Consulate was charged with his involvement in an immigration fraud scheme.  Four others who apparently (allegedly) engaged in similar criminal conspiracies are awaiting trial for their alleged crimes.

There is a rhetorical question that asks, "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there, does it make a sound?"
Where the criminal activities noted in this press release are concerned, you could ask a variation of that question:

"If an alien who is deportable is arrested by ICE does it matter if, ultimately, the country of citizenship of the alien in question refuses to issue an travel document hence preventing his (her) removal (deportation) from our country, does it matter if that alien was arrested in the first place?"

There are countries who fail to cooperate with our nation on so many levels and the issuance of travel documents to their citizens who violate our laws is a significant example of such a failure of cooperation.  Many countries also refuse to allow their citizens to be extradited to the United States and/or other countries to stand trial for crimes.  Some countries will impose strict limits on the penalties that their citizens might face in our country.  For example, there are countries that will refuse applications for extradition if their citizen might be subjected to the death penalty.

When a country refuses to issue a passport to one if its citizens facing deportation, the government of that nation issues our government a "Letter of Refusal."  That letter, in effect, states that they will not issue a passport to enable their citizen to be removed from our country.  Without a valid travel document, our nation cannot place an alien on an airliner just as no passenger can board an international flight without a valid passport.

In the case reported on in the press release I have attached below, the former employee of the Armenian consulate, Hakop Hovanesyan, sold such a "letter of refusal" to a citizen of Armenia who had been convicted of a felony and had been ordered removed (deported) from the United States.  However, because of the letter of refusal, efforts to remove that criminal alien from our country was stymied.

According to the press release, the five defendants in this case worked more or less independently of each other and in one case, the fee charged for a bogus letter of refusal was $37,000!
There are questions, however that were not addressed in the press release, so I will provide you with those questions for your consideration:
How many aliens availed themselves of the "services" offered by all of the defendants in this case?

How many of these aliens had serious criminal convictions?
How many of these aliens have subsequently been arrested and removed from the United States?

How many of these aliens have not been located and remain at large?

Have any of these aliens been determined to have committed additional crimes, presuming that they were at large as a result of purchasing letters of refusal?

If there are, indeed, a number of such aliens at large, what resources and what efforts are being made to locate these aliens to finally deport them from the United States?
While it is entirely possible that no such criminal aliens were actually released and all were immediately deported, knowing how DHS operates, frankly I am not optimistic about this possibility!  (I would also imagine that if this was the case, some mention would have been made about it in the press release.)

The fact is that while the arrest and prosecution of these individuals provides evidence that at least some efforts are being made to address one of ever so many loopholes in the system at ICE, there is such a dearth of resources at that beleaguered agency, I also have to wonder how many other such schemes are playing out across our country involving consular officials of other countries.  I also have to wonder what efforts are being made to uncover such schemes.  In fact, you have to wonder how these individuals who were arrested and charged with these crimes came to the attention of ICE and the U.S. Attorney's office in the first place.

As I try to point out at every opportunity, there is far more to immigration than the borders of the United States and fraud, in all of its forms, presents a real problem for our nation that all too often impacts national security and the safety of our citizens.

All of these components of the immigration system must be made to possess real integrity and deter efforts of those who would violate our borders and violate our laws.

If our country is to survive and if our children and their children are to get their share of the "American Dream" the citizens of this nation must take their citizenship seriously!

We the People must be the best citizens we can be, citizens who are worthy of the gallantry demonstrated by our valiant men and women in the military, law enforcement and firefighters, who routinely go in harm's way in defense of this nation and our citizens.  

My goal in writing this and other commentaries is to point out our nations many failings before more victims pay the ultimate price for the incompetence and ineptitude of our government.

The first step in problem-solving is to first identify the problems and vulnerabilities and then devise strategies to overcome them.

If you find yourself to be in agreement with this commentary, I ask that you forward it to as many of your friends and family members as possible and encourage them to do the same.  We need to create a "Bucket Brigade of Truth!"

In just 5 weeks each and every member of the House of Representatives is up for reelection and more than one third of the members of the United States Senate will have to face their constituents. They need to be reminded that they work for us, We the People!

However, the practice of good citizenship does not end in the voting booth, it only begins there.

The large scale apathy demonstrated by citizens of this nation has emboldened elected representatives to all but ignore the needs of the average American citizen in a quest for massive campaign funds and the promises of votes to be ostensibly delivered by special interest groups. There is much that we cannot do but there is one thing that We the People absolutely must do- we must stop sitting on the sidelines!

The collective failure of We the People to get involved in make our concerns known to our politicians have nearly made the concerns of the great majority of the citizens of this nation all but irrelevant to the politicians.I implore you to get involved!

If this situation concerns you or especially if it angers you, I ask you to call your Senators and Congressional "Representative. This is not only your right- it is your obligation! 

All I ask is that you make it clear to our politicians that we are not as dumb as they hope we are!

We live in a perilous world and in a perilous era. The survival of our nation and the lives of our citizens hang in the balance.

This is neither a Conservative issue, nor is it a Liberal issue- simply stated, this is most certainly an AMERICAN issue!

You are either part of the solution or you are a part of the problem!

Democracy is not a spectator sport!

Lead, follow or get out of the way!

-michael cutler- 

Please check out my website:

Click on the links below to RePatriot Radio and listen to the internet radio show I host on Friday evenings from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time:

"Bordering on Insanity!"


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September 21, 2010

Ex-Armenian consular employee pleads to charges in immigration fraud scheme

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A former employee of the Armenian consulate in Los Angeles pleaded guilty Monday to one count of obstructing federal proceedings related to his role in a scheme to sell an illegal alien a document called a "letter of refusal," which allowed that illegal alien to avoid deportation from the United States to Armenia.

Hakop Hovanesyan, 54, faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 24, 2011. Hovanesyan, who worked at the Armenian Consulate in Los Angeles until May 2007, was one of five defendants charged in July 2009 as a result of a two-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The other defendants included a former Armenian Consul in Los Angeles and a Beverly Hills, Calif., immigration attorney.

The ICE HSI investigation focused on the sale of "letters of refusal." The letters, which are issued by embassies and consulates, state that a country will not issue a travel document for a particular individual, essentially blocking that person's deportation to that nation. According to the charges in the criminal complaints, the five defendants sold official letters of refusal from the Armenian consulate for as much as $37,000. Those letters prevented the removal of Armenian nationals to Armenia. The investigation revealed that some of those who purchased the letters were Armenian nationals facing deportation after being convicted in the United States of felony offenses.

"The defendants in this case exploited their ties to the community and knowledge of the immigration system to help dangerous criminals, among others, avoid deportation," said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Los Angeles. "We will move aggressively to prevent unscrupulous opportunists from profiting from schemes that undermine  public safety and compromise the integrity of our nation's immigration system."

In addition to Hovanesyan, the remaining four defendants, who are all awaiting trial, include:

  • Norair Ghalumian, 52, of Burbank, Calif., the Armenian Consul in Los Angeles from 1999 through 2003;
  • Margarita Mkrtchyan, 42, of Glendale, Calif., an immigration attorney;
  • Oganes Nardos, 37, of Valencia, Calif., a substance abuse counselor; and
  • Elvis Madatyan, 47, of Glendale, Calif.

The ICE HSI investigation showed that the five defendants, working essentially independently, obtained clients via word of mouth in the Armenian community.

 According to the criminal complaints, the defendants used contacts in the Armenian government to procure official refusal letters on behalf of their clients. The letters of refusal were sent to ICE officials, thus preventing the aliens' deportation.

For the most up-to-date ICE information, sign up for ICE e-mail alerts. You may also visit us on Twitter and YouTube.

— ICE —

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. 

ICE is a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities. For more information, visit www.ICE.gov. To report suspicious activity, call 1-866-347-2423.

  Last Modified: Wednesday, September 22, 2010 


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