A Iraqi national has pleaded guilty to defrauding U.S. refugee programs, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
The suspect, identified as Aws Muwafaq Abduljabbar, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, according to a department news release.
Abduljabbar is accused of leading the conspiracy, which involved two other foreign nationals and used “sensitive, non-public information” to help applicants get admission into the U.S. fraudulently, according to the Justice Department.
Abduljabbar and the two other individuals – identified as Haitham Isa Saado Sad, 43, and Olesya Leonidovna Krasilova, 44 – were charged with conspiracy to steal U.S. government records and to defraud the United States, theft of U.S. government records, and conspiracy to launder money, according to an indictment unsealed Saturday.
The individuals worked to steal U.S. government records related to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, according to the release. Sad worked in Amman, Jordan, and was employed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Krasilova worked at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
According to Justice officials, the individuals had access to the State Department’s Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System, which contained “sensitive, non-public” information about refugee applicants as well as their family members.
The database also includes security checks and internal assessments of the refugee applications by U.S. officials.
Abduljabbar is accused of paying Sad and Krasilova to steal records in order to help applicants in fraudulently gaining entry into the U.S.
Justice officials said the alleged conspiracy “creates a number of risks to public safety and national security while imposing significant costs on the U.S. government, its taxpayers, and otherwise legitimate refugee applicants negatively impacted by the scheme.”
Michael R. Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, said in a news release that the charges demonstrate a commitment to protect government programs such as the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
“It is important to hold accountable those who would seek to defraud such programs, particularly when the crimes compromise our national security and public safety, when they impose such high costs on taxpayers, and when they negatively impact the prospects of qualified refugee applicants,” Sherwin said.
The maximum prison penalty for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. is five years, according to the Justice release.