FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, December 7, 2012
For Information Contact:
Former U.S. Embassy Employee Sentenced
To Nine-Month Prison Term in Scheme Involving Visa Applications
- Defendant Worked at Embassy in Venezuela -
WASHINGTON - A former visa assistant for the United States Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela, was sentenced today to nine months in prison for accepting payments to aid people in facilitating visa applications, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Scott Bultrowicz, Director of the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service, announced.
Christian Adolfo Paredes Uzcategui, 44, of Caracas, pled guilty in November 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of receiving an illegal gratuity by a public official. The Honorable James E. Boasberg sentenced him today.
Paredes was arrested in May 2012 following an investigation by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service.
According to a statement of facts, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Paredes worked for the State Department at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas as a visa assistant for non-immigrant visa applications. His duties included screening incoming documentation and information from a variety of sources to organize and track non-immigrant visa requests and ensuring that the legal requirements of non-immigrant visa applications were met.
As a visa assistant, he had access to Embassy databases, but only for official business and on a need-to-know basis. He was not to share this information without official permission.
In the middle of 2011, Paredes began receiving money from a private individual who acted as a “facilitator” for Venezuelan applicants seeking non-immigrant U.S. visas. In exchange, Paredes provided information about the facilitator’s clients. Between March 2011 and February 2012, the facilitator wire-transferred more than $5,000 to bank accounts controlled by Paredes in exchange for information about clients.
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen and Director Bultrowicz commended the efforts of those who investigated the case for the Diplomatic Security Service. They also praised those who worked on the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia, including Special Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Mudd.