Passport Scammer Exposed in Secret Video

Passport Scammer Exposed in Secret Video

By Mark Nestmann • September 1, 2015

When I was a teenager, I was a fan of the Rolling Stones. I bought their 1971 album, Sticky Fingers, immediately after its release.

Unfortunately, the record was unplayable. The slider of a working zipper on the cover had pressed into the vinyl – making the third track, “Wild Horses,” skip. As a result, when Mick Jagger sang, “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away,” the record went no further. “Wild horses couldn’t drag me away” played over and over again until I physically picked up the tonearm and moved the needle beyond the indentation in the vinyl.

I thought of this episode in my life when preparing today’s article, because it may sound like a broken record. That’s because the topic I’m writing about – passport scams – is not a new one for me. Indeed, I just did a Web search with my name on this topic and found that I’ve written at least three warnings on the subject in the last few years.

But the message I’ve been trying to convey – to avoid second-passport schemes that aren’t authorized by law – doesn’t seem to have made much difference. Sure, a lot of the promoters of these programs are now out of business. Some are in jail. At least one of them that I know of was murdered, perhaps by a disgruntled client.

In any event, here we go again. The scam du jour is in Mexico, and despite my issuing a warning about it nearly two years ago, it’s still going strong, albeit in a somewhat more expensive (and supposedly faster) configuration.

The original Mexico “program,” as the company offering this scheme calls it, could be completed in four months and with only two visits to the country. The cost was only $30,000 – a true bargain for a travel document that provides visa-free travel privileges to 133 countries, including all 28 members of the EU.

The new program is even “better,” according to emails I’ve seen exchanged between the promoter and a possible client, along with a video sent to me, secretly recorded by someone who had sent the promoter a number of clients and paid him $300,000 in fees. According to the promoter’s claims, it’s now possible to acquire Mexican citizenship and passport in as little as eight days.

If only it were true. Mexican law provides no support at all for this claim. In most cases, the law requires that you must have legal residence status in Mexico for at least five years before applying for citizenship. You must also speak Spanish fluently and demonstrate substantial integration into Mexican culture.

I have long suspected that the promoter found a corrupt official working in the passport office willing to certify a bogus history of long-term residence in Mexico along with a false certification that the applicant meets all the other requirements for citizenship. The video confirms that this, indeed, is the promoter’s modus operandi. The promoter states on camera that “everything in Mexico is for sale,” and speculates the way his insider obtains the passport is to approach an official and pay a bribe. But unfortunately, again according to the video, completing the process can take months. Indeed, at the end of the video, the truth emerges: It’s not clear that this promoter has ever succeeded in getting his clients a Mexican passport.

The existence of this video makes it likely that this promoter will be indicted for immigration fraud in Mexico, or Canada as he is a Canadian citizen with substantial business operations in Canada. But there are many others engaged in similar conduct. And the risks to those who buy a passport in an “unofficial” program like the Mexican one are very real.

First, the passport might be recalled and your citizenship withdrawn. After all, no government stays in power forever. What happens if the new administration decides to “clean house” and fire the corrupt officials who issued bogus passports?

That’s more than a theoretical risk. In 2012, Canada revoked the citizenship of more than 3,000 naturalized citizens after a fraud investigation.

If you’re a US citizen or resident, you could also be subject to prosecution and imprisonment for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. If you bribe, or pay someone to bribe, a foreign official in exchange for some benefit, you could be imprisoned for violating this law. And that’s precisely how this Mexican “program” works.

In addition, every time you use the passport to cross an international border, you’re taking a chance. If border officials somehow learn you got the passport under false pretenses, you could face years in prison. That’s especially true if you use the passport to enter or leave the country that issued it. A few years ago, the same promoter running the Mexican “program” warned that the fake Bulgarian passports he was selling at the time shouldn’t be used to enter or leave Bulgaria.

Another practical consideration is renewing the passport. Most passports are valid for a 10-year period. If you weren’t legally naturalized in the country that issued your passport, it might not be renewable.

Is buying a shady second passport worth the risk? I don’t think so, but the companies dealing in these documents continue to flourish, so they’re obviously finding a ready market.

Like it or not, if you’re looking for a second passport, there are only a few legitimate options. The best way to qualify for one is through your ancestry. If your parents (sometimes grandparents) were born in another country, there’s a good chance you qualify for citizenship there. Ireland is the best known example, but there are many others. To find out, do some research on the Internet or contact the nearest consulate of that country to see if you qualify.

Another route to a second passport is your spouse. If he or she has a citizenship other than the one you have, there’s likely a procedure in place where you can acquire it as well. Again, do some research to find out.

The best option is ordinary naturalization in another country. In most cases, that requires that you first qualify for residence. You must then live in that country for at least two years (more commonly, 5-10 years) until you qualify for citizenship. Once you do, you can then apply for a passport. Argentina, Peru, and the Dominican Republic are probably the easiest countries to qualify for citizenship after a relatively short period of legal residence.

Finally, there are a handful of officially recognized programs that provide a 100% legal path to citizenship and passports in a reasonably short time. The most affordable of these programs are in the Caribbean: the Commonwealth of Dominica, St. Kitts & Nevis, and most recently, Antigua & Barbuda and Grenada. In the EU, both Cyprus and Malta have much more expensive citizenship-by-investment programs.

Depending on your family situation (and whom you want to join you), these programs range in price from under $150,000 to well over $1 million.

Like it or not, in the world of second passports, there’s really no such thing as a “free lunch.” Anyone who says anything to the contrary is either a fool or just trying to take your money.

Protecting your assets (and yourself) against any threat - from the government, the IRS or a frivolous lawsuit - is something The Nestmann Group has helped more than 15,000 Americans do over the last 30 years.

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About The Author

Since 1990, Mark Nestmann has helped thousands of clients seeking wealth preservation and international tax planning solutions. He is the author of highly acclaimed Lifeboat Strategy and other books & reports dealing with these subjects.

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