Combatting immigration document and benefit fraud is one of the missions of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the largest investigative body within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In 2010, HSI launched Operation Genesius, a programme which focuses on identifying suspicious purchases of printing equipment, secure identification components, stamps and embossers that could be used to manufacture identity documents. By identifying questionable purchase orders, printing and marking device companies help develop investigative leads and intelligence that can expose the practices of organised document fraud rings and individuals who are attempting to perpetrate fraud or harm
the United States.
Operation Genesius is based on Project Genesius, which was launched in 2007 by the London Metropolitan Police Service. Operation Genesius is centred on an ongoing partnership with the printing equipment industry in order to prevent specialised machinery from getting into the hands of criminals involved in making false identity documents. HSI expanded its programme to include outreach to the stamp making industry, which had been part of a programme administered by ICE’s Forensic Laboratory since 1988.
Suspected fraudulent orders
Since the inception of Operation Genesius, suspected fraudulent requests referred to HSI have included orders to produce:
• driving licence overlays for two US states;
• US and foreign admissions stamps;
• high‑tech printing equipment;
• Cuban government stamps;
• Indonesian police stamps;
• an Iraqi medical stamp;
• Israeli immigration stamps.
The importance of cooperation with the printing, stamp making and secure document industries cannot be overstated. Had employees in these companies not recognised the potential use of these items and stopped them from being produced, the impact could have been far-reaching. The use of fraudulently obtained or altered passports, visas and entry and exit stamps by members of terrorist organisations has been well documented as a means of legitimising their travel and avoiding detection as they move across borders.
Employees in the printing and stamp industries are uniquely positioned to assist in the prevention and investigation of document fraud. Industry employees are experts who can recognise orders of items that may be used to perpetrate fraud and see that those orders are brought to the attention of DHS. Some examples of ‘red flags’ that may indicate that an order may be suspicious are: an order for a stamp or embosser bearing a US government seal when that stamp or embosser is being shipped to a non‑governmental address, or an expensive, high‑tech printer being shipped to a private residence. Requests for the production of foreign government stamps being shipped to residences may also be indicators of fraud.
Other suspicious indicators are:
• cash purchases or payment from a non‑business account;
• no company name/lack of business stationery associated with the order;
• a customer’s address and phone number do not correspond;
• no contract for repairs/service;
• suspicious behaviour displayed by the customer.
Contact in case of questionable orders
Industry employees who encounter orders of concern may contact HSI’s Identity and Benefit Fraud Unit (IBFU) for assistance directly by email at ibfu‑ice‑firstname.lastname@example.org. All leads sent to HSI are carefully reviewed to determine the potential purpose of questionable orders and whether a formal investigation is warranted. HSI has the capability to translate foreign stamps where needed.
Signing up as an industry partner
In 2012, HSI streamlined the process for signing up as an industry partner with Operation Genesius. Partners agree to carefully review orders based on criteria provided by HSI. Companies are asked to refer questionable orders to HSI and retain records of transactions with all domestic and international customers. In addition, partners attend a one‑time presentation on the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE). IMAGE is a partnership initiative between the federal government and private sector employers designed to foster cooperative relationships and strengthen overall hiring practices. Partner companies are authorised to display an ICE banner indicating cooperation with law enforcement as a means to promote their involvement in combatting fraud and deterring orders which may be fraudulent. To request a partnership with HSI or for more information on Operation Genesius, please contact the IBFU at ibfu‑ice‑email@example.com.