Federal investigators are probing the issuance of more than 200 visas and permanent residence permits to Iranians who allegedly obtained them after they posed as foreign businessmen or relatives of Iranians living here.
The majority of the Iranians, who were fleeing the regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, allegedly obtained the documents after employing a Washington-area visa consultant, Shams Javid, 47, of Falls Church, sources close to the case said yesterday.They alleged that Javid charged $5,000 or more per case.
Javid, who said yesterday that at least 50 of his clients had been interviewed by federal investigators so far, told a reporter that he had provided guidance and assistance to Iranians who were seeking to obtain permission to live in the United States. But he said that he had done nothing illegal or improper.
The sources allege that in most cases the visas and residence permissions were granted after Iranian applicants filed false birth or marriage certificates as proof of kinship to Iranians living here. In other instances, they allege that bogus corporations were created for Iranians who then posed as businessmen coming to the United States.
Information obtained from records in the Immigration and Naturalization Service's (INS) Washington District Office is expected to be presented to a grand jury later this summer, the sources said. An INS spokesman declined to comment yesterday.
Immigration regulations make it easy for some foreigners to obtain permission to live in the United States. Those regulations permit foreigners quicker entry if they are relatives of either naturalized Americans or foreigners living here as permanent residents, or if they are executives of foreign businesses seeking to do business here, according to officials.
During the two-year period since the Iranian revolution began, according to government sources, it has been virtually impossible for either the INS or the State Department to perform routine checks of such documents as birth records and marriage licenses, and investigations of businesses in Iran -- checks that are vital to confirmation of information submitted for the visas or residency permits.
There are internal safeguards to help INS officials detect false information when it crosses their desks in the United States. But apparently these safeguards broke down, possibly because of negligence or the huge backlog of paperwork confronting the INS here, sources said.
The sources said that, as a result, many documents in Farsi attesting to a blood relationship with an American citizen or resident and the English translations of them were apparently never verified, as is required by INS case reviewers.
Subsequent review of the documents and translations showed many to be totally inaccurate or misleading. In one case, for instance, an Iranian submitted a copy of what purported to be an Iranian marriage license along with a translation. When investigators translated the document later, it turned out to be no more than a copy of a page of Islamic law dealing with marriage.
Business documents in Farsi were likewise never checked properly, the sources said.
Sources said that Javid, an Iranian-American, provided a visa consulting service in Fairfax County. Javid said yesterday that in the last two years, he has been employed by "over 50" Iranians to assist them in filing for visas and permanent residence as relatives and businessmen. He said his fee was about $5,000 a case, but only for perfectly legal assistance.
According to the sources, Javid, as a consultant, allegedly assisted some of the Iranians whose cases have subsequently come under close scrutiny of investigators. In addition, they said, his name appears on the charters of several companies that law enforcement sources suspect served as dummy corporations providing shelter to Iranians posing as foreign business executives.
Javid, who said he became an American citizen in 1970 and runs an American car-exporting business to the Persian gulf, denied assisting Iranians who submitted false or misleading information to immigration officials. He also denied that any of the companies his Iranian clients operate here are bogus.
"There is nothing illegal about it," said Javid. "There is nothing to do with false documents. It's not true. The Immigration Service has . . . a couple of prejudiced guys there. It reminds me of the ministeries in Iran. It's terrible. It's worse."
Overall, the 15-month investigation has identified between 50 and 60 cases in which Iranians apparently have misrepresented themselves as business executives operating foreign businesses here, the sources said. Another 150 cases involving suspect claims of kinship with Iranians living here have been identified, they said.