Stateless National of the Palestinian Authority Indicted for Visa Fraud and Making False Statements to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officials
BOSTON – A stateless national was indicted today in federal court in Boston for visa fraud 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 indicted on one count of presenting a fraudulent visa and one count of making false statements. On March 20, 2019, Alzerei was arrested and charged by criminal complaint. On April 8, 2019, a federal magistrate judge denied the government’s motion for detention and released Alzerei from federal custody. Alzerei was subsequently taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
According to the indictment, on Feb. 27, 2019, Alzerei arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport on a flight from Cairo, Egypt via Paris, France. Shortly thereafter, two Customs and Border Protectioin (CBP) officers interviewed Alzerei to determine whether he met the admissibility requirements to enter the United States. Alzerei, who had his leg amputated above the knee in 2015, identified himself as a Palestinian citizen and presented a non-expired tourist visa. Alzerei allegedly told CBP officers that he lost his leg on Oct. 23, 2015, after 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 a possible affiliation between Alzerei and the 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 since 1997. According to the indictment, the CBP officers also found date-stamped photographs 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 interviewed Alzerei again. During this interview, Alzerei admitted that the images found on his phone depicted him on Oct. 23, 2015—hours before he was shot—slinging rocks at Israeli troops near the Gaza-Israel border along with members of Hamas. 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 admitted that 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 indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.