National and International Awards Recognize Excellence by DS Investigators
By Stanley Dambroski, DS Public Affairs
Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) investigators have garnered several recent recognitions for excellence in investigative work involving crimes ranging from document fraud to torture.
Ferrari Awarded Case of the Year for Operation Coffee Country
DS Special Agent William Ferrari and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Juan Ibarguren received ICE’s Case of the Year Award in June 2009 for their work and success with Operation Coffee Country. The award was presented by Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement John Morton during a recent visit to the U.S. embassy in Bogotá.
Operation Coffee Country was a coordinated international investigation that centered on document fraud and human trafficking. Three Colombian nationals were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit alien smuggling for profit, alien smuggling for profit, and conspiracy to commit visa fraud.
|Kuznia Awarded Investigator of the Year for Identify Theft Apprehension|
DS Special Agent Patrick Kuznia received a 2009 Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Investigator of the Year Award from the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation (FLEF) for his work out of the New York Field Office investigating and apprehending a major identity theft vendor in New York City. Kuznia was honored with other award recipients during a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on November 13, 2009. Kuznia departed the New York Field Office in August 2009 and is currently serving at DS headquarters in the counterintelligence program.
The FLEF nomination commended Kuznia’s dedication and diligence in linking a dozen different passport fraud cases within the office to the same individual. Over two years, Kuznia collected documentation and testimony that led to the arrest of the suspect, who had been assisting illegal aliens in assuming the identities of U.S. citizens for 20 years. Many of those assuming the identities were found to be involved in drug trafficking. Though the identity theft vendor’s actions had come to the attention of several law enforcement agencies, they were unable to identify him. Kuznia arrested the suspect in April 2009; four search warrants located documents for almost 500 stolen identities.
Parker, Cestaro, Lozenko Decorated by Ukrainian Government
At the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, Deputy Regional Security Officer Andrew Parker, Assistant Regional Security Officer Michael Cestaro, and Chief Foreign Service National Investigator Alexander Lozenko were decorated by the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs on December 23, 2009, for their efforts to support the Ukrainian government’s criminal investigation of Embassy Foreign Service Nationals, non-U.S. citizens working at the embassy. Also receiving an award was Assistant Legal Attaché Brent Smith.
The Award for International Cooperation medals were approved by Minister of Internal Affairs Yuri Lutsenko and presented by a Deputy Minister at the awards ceremony.
“To the best of our knowledge,” said Regional Security Officer Ronnie Catipon, “this is the first time that Regional Security Office staff have been formally recognized by the Ukrainian government in this manner. This is a great honor and achievement. This criminal investigation was the first time that we worked hand in hand with the Interior Ministry’s Organized Crime Department on an international case. Andrew, Mike, and Alexander’s efforts greatly expanded and strengthened our working relationship with an important department, which will pay dividends well into the future.”
U.S. Attorney’s Office Recognizes Diaz, Dougherty, and Nguyen
In a ceremony on February 3, 2010, the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office presented Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Awards to DS Special Agents Adrian Diaz, Kevin Dougherty, and Vinh Nguyen.
Diaz Recognized for Work in Torture Apprehension
Special Agent Diaz “did substantial and key work,” said DS Miami Field Office Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Mike Foster, on an investigation that led to the arrest and conviction of Roy M. Belfast, Jr. Belfast, who also used numerous aliases, is the son of former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor. He was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 97 years in prison on five counts of torture, one count of conspiracy to torture, one count of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, and one count of conspiracy to use a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The crimes were committed in Liberia between 1999 and 2003. This was the first case in which U.S. law was used to prosecute a U.S. national for torture abroad.
The investigation was led by ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Diaz provided assistance and was the only investigating officer on site in Liberia. Belfast was initially arrested in the United States on charges of passport fraud.
Dougherty and Nguyen Recognized for Passport Investigation
Special Agents Kevin Dougherty and Vinh Nguyen received Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Awards for unearthing a scheme by two brothers who were offering for sale stolen U.S. passports.
The investigation led to a passport-expediting company in Atlanta, Georgia, where one of the suspects worked as a document specialist. In all, law enforcement purchased five stolen passports; upon the arrest of one suspect, investigators found four additional stolen U.S. passports and a notebook with 800 names and personal information.
“The success of the investigation resulted from the collaborative efforts of the FBI and DS and the dedication of all of the agents involved,” said SAC Foster. He added that key support came from the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the U.S. Postal Service OIG, ICE, the Miami-Dade Police Department, and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Both defendants pled guilty and were sentenced to 78 and 75 months in prison.