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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Stateless National of the Palestinian Authority Charged with Visa Fraud

Defendant lied about involvement with violence along Gaza-Israel border

BOSTON – A stateless national was charged today in federal court in Boston with fraudulent procurement of a U.S. visa and making false statements regarding acts of violence he committed against the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) along the Gaza-Israel border.  

Waad Alzerei, 19, a stateless national of the Palestinian Authority, was charged with visa fraud and making materially false statements.  He is currently in ICE custody and will appear U.S. District Court in Boston this afternoon.

According to the charging documents, on Feb. 27, 2019, Alzerei arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport on flight from Paris, France, which originated in Cairo, Egypt. Shortly thereafter, two Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers interviewed Alzerei to determine whether he met the admissibility requirements to enter the United States.  Alzerei identified himself as a Palestinian citizen and presented a tourist visa. 

He claimed that he was coming to the United States in order to receive medical treatment, but was unable to produce any medical documentation to verify the claim and, instead, presented medical paperwork from 2018.  The CBP officers determined that Alzerei had traveled to the United States in 2017 for a six-month stay.  Alzerei, who had his leg amputated above the knee, was fitted for and provided with a prosthetic leg at the time.    

During a subsequent interview, Alzerei allegedly told CBP officers that he lost his leg on Oct. 23, 2015, when he was shot by a stray bullet from the IDF while picking olives in a field near the Gaza-Israel border. Alzerei stated that, at the time he was shot, there were no protests going on and he was not involved in any type of riot, rally, or demonstration. The CBP officers asked Alzerei if he had ever been “involved in any border riots, rallies, or demonstrations” in his life, and Alzerei responded, “No.” 

The CBP officers then conducted a search of Alzerei’s cell phone and found numerous images and videos demonstrating that Alzerei had a possible affiliation with members of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Hamas, both of which have been designated by the U.S. Government as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) since 1997. CBP officers allegedly found photographs that were taken of Alzerei hurling large rocks at the IDF on Oct. 23, 2015, the day he was shot in the leg near the Gaza-Israel border. 

After reviewing the images and videos on Alzerei’s phone, CBP officers conducted another interview with Alzerei, where he admitted that the images depicted him on Oct. 23, 2015—hours before he was shot—slinging rocks at Israeli troops near the Gaza-Israel border. Alzerei allegedly said that he lied on his visa application and to the U.S. Consulate about the circumstances surrounding his injured leg in order to obtain a tourist visa. Alzerei told the CBP officers that he lied because he did not want to get arrested by the Israelis, and also because he knew he would not get a U.S. visa if he told the truth about his activities on Oct. 23, 2015.    

The charge of visa fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The charge of making false statements provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew Lelling; William Ferrara, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, Boston Field Office made the announcement today.  The investigation was conducted by the FBI Boston’s Joint Terrorism Task Force with assistance from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys B. Stephanie Siegmann and Jason Casey of Lelling’s National Security Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging document are allegations.  The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

Topic(s): 
National Security
Component(s): 
Updated March 20, 2019