Two government employees have been arrested for their roles in a passport fraud conspiracy, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service announced in a release this week.
Nyle Churchwell, a passport office adjudications manager, and Temi Russell, an Internal Revenue Service tax examiner, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit passport fraud and three counts of making false statements in the application and use of a passport.
“Honesty and integrity are core values of officials placed in the public’s trust,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson said. “This office will continue to work with DSS, the Department of Treasury and our law enforcement partners to vigorously pursue those [who] are suspected of violating that trust and who potentially place the United States at risk by allowing unqualified persons to obtain legitimate government documents.”
According to the indictment, Churchwell allegedly used his position to approve passport applications with substandard documentation and falsely document parental identification and acknowledgment in a minor’s passport application, leading to the issuance of passports to individuals using false identities as well as noncitizens of the United States.
The indictment also alleges that Russell would pick up the falsely-issued passport books from will call and would deliver them to co-conspirators, knowing that the individuals were unable to rightfully receive the U.S. passports.
“The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our other law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of crime related to passport and visa fraud and to bring those who commit these crimes to justice,” George Nutwell, special agent in charge of DSS’s Houston Field Office, said. “When a public servant in a position of trust is alleged to have committed a federal felony such as passport fraud, we vigorously investigate claims of corruption.”
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge and up to 10 years for each count of making a false statement in the application and use of a passport, DSS said.
The case was investigated by DSS and the Department of Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration.