Former Immigration Officer Charged with Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud
JACKSONVILLE, FL—United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III announces the unsealing of an indictment charging Orange Park residents Paul Reynolds Friel, Jr. (47) and Marisol Del Carmen Rodriguez Chavarria (39) with conspiracy to commit visa fraud. Additionally, Friel has been charged with four separate counts of making a materially false statement. If convicted on all counts, Friel faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in federal prison. Rodriguez faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
According to the indictment, Friel was an officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security. The indictment alleges that beginning in September 2007, he conspired with Rodriguez, a citizen of Nicaragua, for her to enter into a sham marriage with another man. That individual, Luis Aguilar, has been charged separately in another case. Friel allegedly conspired with Rodriguez and Aguilar to make false representations in applying for a visa that would enable Rodriguez to travel to the United States as Aguilar’s spouse. Friel paid for air travel for Aguilar and himself for the wedding of Aguilar to Rodriguez, which occurred in Nicaragua in January 2008. He also paid for Aguilar’s air travel to attend a visa interview in Nicaragua in November 2010, and for Rodriguez’s air travel to Florida in December 2010, after she was issued a visa. The indictment alleges that Friel assisted Rodriguez and Aguilar in filling out immigration forms, and that he loaned $3,500 to Aguilar in order to falsely portray Aguilar’s financial condition in an affidavit submitted to the State Department. Additionally, Friel coached Aguilar on what questions might be asked of him at the visa interview in order to detect relationship fraud. In December 2010, Rodriguez was issued a visa that enabled her to travel to the United States as Aguilar’s spouse. However, the indictment alleges that in or around March 2011, she moved in with Friel and that they had a romantic relationship. Subsequently, Rodriguez and Friel were married.
Friel is also charged with making materially false statements, including during a background investigation for a national security clearance. It is alleged that in December 2011, he failed to disclose his relationship with Rodriguez as his cohabitant, and failed to disclose his contact with her during the preceding seven years, as a foreign national, in connection with a background investigation done by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Office of Personnel Management. Rodriguez is a resident alien, not a U.S. citizen.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.
On March 12, 2015, Friel and Rodriguez made their initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Patricia D. Barksdale. They were released on bond. An arraignment for Friel and Rodriguez has been scheduled for March 16 and 17, 2015, respectively.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, and the Jacksonville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dale Campion.