The Los Angeles office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the arrest Monday of Eamon Daniel Higgins for conspiring to commit visa fraud. Higgins was initially charged in a one count criminal information in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana. The information charges that Higgins and other co-conspirators took exams for more than 100 alien students enrolled in southern California colleges. The tests were needed for the students to meet immigration law requirements to remain in the U.S. Per the ICE report, Higgins charged more than $1,000 per examination and did this for students from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey, and Qatar.
Sixteen of the foreign students linked to the investigation also have been arrested - six on felony immigration fraud complaints and the other 10 for deportation proceedings. Affidavits submitted in support of the criminal complaints detail how this investigation developed and how there may be more significance to the case than the seemingly routine immigration fraud.
The ICE case agent, Daniel Rocha, wrote that in October of 2007 the Daly City, California Police Department retrieved a "dropped" wallet containing various items, including seven fictitious California driver licenses all bearing the photo of a person later determined to be a nephew of Eamon Higgins. The names on the fictitious driver licenses were determined to be all foreign students who had entered the United States on student visas destined to study at schools within the Central District of California.
The investigation led to a search of Higgins' home by federal agents on December 9, 2009. There, agents seized 60 fraudulent California driver licenses bearing the photographs of Higgins and his associates, college examinations completed by Higgins, college exam notebooks and notes relating to the testing scam linked to Higgins, payment information relating to foreign students and computer evidence relating to the visa scam.
The complaint affidavit notes that Higgins, interviewed during the search warrant, admitted his involvement in the visa fraud scheme and provided details. The affidavit indicates Higgins and his co-conspirators were involved in purchasing approximately 500 counterfeit documents to further the fraud and that Higgins had communication with 150 foreign students in conjunction with the scheme. Additionally, the visa fraud allowed many of the foreign students to travel in and out of the United States on their student visas, allowing them to return to their home countries and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The FBI, Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department are jointly working on the ongoing investigation. While there is no reported connection to terrorism at this time, all the countries identified as countries of citizenship for the suspect aliens in this case are known special interest source countries from where radical Islamic terrorists have come.
As the 9/11 Commission so aptly described, immigration documents and visas are the lifeblood of foreign terrorists, as important to them as their weapons and training. Those who provide terrorists fraudulent access to visas and immigration status put the nation's security in dire jeopardy. Pursuing this kind of investigation and prosecution is exactly the kind of preemptive security related casework ICE should be doing.