Jordanian citizen pleads guilty to US fraud charges over Iraqi refugee scam

Scandal prompted US to suspend Iraqi refugee applications for 90 days

A general view of the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, one of 19 American diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa ordered closed following terror threats. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
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A Jordanian man pleaded guilty this week to  money laundering and stealing documents from the American government

The charges relate to a scheme that enabled some Iraqis to cheat in refugee applications to the US.

US authorities allege that Haitham Sad, 42, with an Iraqi man and Russian woman committed fraud to help the applicants pass a visa review procedure, the indictment said.

After finding out about the syndicate this month, the US stopped processing applications from Iraqis seeking refugee status for a period of 90 days.

The Justice Department said the US Citizenship and Immigration Service employed Mr Sad in Amman from 2007 to 2016.

He pleaded guilty before a District of Columbia court on Tuesday to several charges related to his role "in a scheme to defraud US refugee programmes", the Justice Department said.

"Sad pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal records and defraud the United States, conspiracy to launder money, and computer fraud and abuse before US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras of the District of Columbia," the department said.

Last week the Justice Department charged Iraqi citizen Aws Abduljabbar – considered the mastermind of the operation – and Russian citizen Olesya Krasilova, as well as Mr Sad, with conspiracy to steal US government records.

They were also accused of defrauding the US, stealing US government records, and conspiracy to launder money.

Mr Abduljabbar had lived in Jordan since 2010 and once applied for refugee settlement in the US but was denied. Ms Krasilova held a similar position to Mr Sad at the US embassy in Moscow.

Mr Abduljabbar and Ms Krasilova are in their 40s.

“Abduljabbar was previously arrested and remains held without bond. Krasilova remains at large,” the statement said.

The Justice Department said that between 2016 and 2019 the three “conspired to steal US government records related to hundreds of US Refugee Admissions Programme applications”.

“Abduljabbar organised and led the conspiracy, and he relied on and paid Sad and Krasilova,” the statement said.

The indictment prompted the State Department to stop the Direct Access Programme for US-Affiliated Iraqis, which the applicants were using for refugee status. The freeze is valid for 90 days.

The US government set up the programme in 2008. It is designed to let Iraqis friendly to the US to apply for refugee status, without going through the United Nations.