August 6, 2007 / 4:25 PM / 12 years ago

U.N. employee arrested in NY over visa fraud scheme

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. authorities arrested a U.N. translator on suspicion of visa fraud on Monday, accusing him of using U.N. letterhead to bring foreigners into the United States for nonexistent conferences.

Vyacheslav Manokhin, a Russian translator of documents at the New York headquarters, was arrested on Monday along with Vladimir Derevianko, who is accused of scheming with Manokhin to prepare false documents submitted to U.S. immigration officials, federal prosecutors said.

A third man, Kamiljan Tursunov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, is accused of paying $15,000 for a fraudulent visa. He also faces conspiracy and fraud charges, the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan said in a statement.

Tursunov already had been in custody for failing to appear at an immigration proceeding.

The scheme began in 2005 and was able to bring in nine out of 14 people who had falsified letters written on their behalf, authorities allege in a 32-page criminal complaint.

The letters were signed by fictitious U.N. officials “Leonardo Brackett” and “Greg Smith,” the complaint said.

Manokhin used his position at the United Nations to make it appear as though the world body supported visa applications for certain foreigners so they could attend U.N. meetings in New York. But the meetings either did not exist or those invited had no intention attending, the statement said.

The United Nations informed U.S. authorities on July 27 that it had waived Manokhin’s diplomatic immunity, associate spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Haq said the U.N. office for Internal Oversight Services, the investigative arm of the world body, and U.N. legal affairs worked with U.S. authorities “at their request and helped to provide any information that was needed.”

Robert Sikorski, a lawyer for Manokhin, declined to comment.

The case follows a couple of larger corruption scandals that have tarnished the reputation of the United Nations, such as mismanagement in the $64 billion oil-for-food program and in the U.N. procurement office which buys $1.9 billion in goods annually.

Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations

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