Ship and crew managers should be vigilant against becoming unwittingly involved in a visa fraud to gain entry into the United States. A crew agency in the Ukraine, and others elsewhere, have been approached by seamen using headed notepaper purported to be from a ship management office in the USA, addressed to a US Embassy, asking for visas to be issued so that they can join a ship at a port somewhere in the United States.

The crew agency company was quick to spot this fraud and having checked with the US ship management company no application was made to the US Embassy. The obligations of the ship managers did not end when they confirmed the letter was a forgery. Although it is tempting to keep quiet about an attempted fraud, the manager had an obligation to advise all parties, including US Immigration, of the facts of the matter. Such advice should be made in writing and the notified parties should include the US Embassy in the country where the fraud was initiated. If the US immigration authorities subsequently found out that the management company had knowledge that their letterhead was being used without authorisation their silence might be viewed as implied authorisation of the use of the letterhead or complicity in the fraud.

Bogus Crew Update

The September 1999 issue of ‘The Intermediary’ reported on the use of a Piraeus telex number 211698 USTC GR in connection with bogus instructions to ship agents. Appointment messages referred to members of crew joining what proved to be non-existent ships. Agents made arrangements for the crew members who, once delivered to their hotel, disappeared leaving the agent to pay the bills and facing the risk of being fined by the immigration authorities. The publication of the details of this fraud clearly prevented other Members from being caught out by the same trick. Members are however, reminded that the perpetrators and others are unlikely to cease to run this type of operation and that they should therefore continue to be vigilant when receiving instructions from previously unknown sources.

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