NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities are investigating a potential security breach involving a corrupt U.S. embassy worker in Yemen who processed fraudulent visas that allowed several applicants to enter the United States, according to court papers filed in New York City.
A criminal complaint in federal court in Brooklyn cites a State Department probe that found that an employee — identified only as a Yemeni national — took bribes to submit at least 50 visa applications that falsely claimed the Yemeni applicants wanted to travel to Houston for an oil industry conference. The case was first reported Monday by the New York Daily News.
A State Department investigation found that "in most instances, the Yemeni oil companies listed as employers of the visa applications were fictitious and, further, the visa applicants did not, in fact, attend the 'Offshore Technology Conference' after traveling to the United States," the complaint says.
The complaint adds that "numerous" visas were issued at the embassy in the capital city of Sanaa before the fraud was uncovered. It names a single defendant who was discovered working in a grocery store in the Bronx before he was arrested last week on fraud charges and ordered held without bail.
Yemen is home to al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, seen as the United States as one of the most dangerous offshoots of the global terrorist organization because it has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. homeland. Washington has frequently launched drone strikes against the group, which captured large parts of Yemen in the security vacuum following the country's 2011 uprising.
A State Department spokesman in Washington declined to comment Monday on the whereabouts of other Yemenis who may have entered the United State the same way and whether they pose a security risk.
"We are working with our law enforcement colleagues," said the spokesman, Jeff Rathke. "I don't have any further information to share publicly but naturally we take these cases seriously."
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.